Mid-Summer Report Card: Where Heat Is Setting Records and Where Has It Been Abnormally Wet or Dry

Linda Lam
Published: July 14, 2017

We're almost half way through meteorological summer, June through August, and depending on where you live you may be ready for cooler temperatures or a break in the rain.

(MORE: July Is the Warmest Time of Year for Much of the U.S.)

Below we take a closer look at how this summer is ranking in terms of temperature and precipitation across the U.S, relative to an average summer.

Where's the Heat?

The worst of the heat has been experienced in the West this summer. Numerous cities across the West and into portions of the Plains have experienced a top-10 warmest summer so far, based on data from the Southeast Regional Climate Center.

Several locations are seeing their hottest summer to date, from June 1-July 12. This includes Phoenix, which has seen an average temperature of 95.8 degrees during this period, and Las Vegas, which tied its all-time record high of 117 degrees June 20.

Salt Lake City isexperiencing its hottest summer on record and interestingly, 2015 and 2016 hold the second and third hottest spots to date. Other cities currently on pace to set a new record for hottest summer are Reno, Nevada, Tucson, Arizona, and Bakersfield, California. 

Orange dots indicate locations that have experienced a top-10 warmest summer through July 12, 2017.

This is no surprise given the intense heat wave that gripped the Southwest in June, courtesy of a large dome of high pressure in the upper atmosphere that persisted over the region. This stretch of extreme heat resulted in more than 10 deaths in the Phoenix area.

(MORE: Extreme Heat Seared the Southwest Recap)

The Northwest has not been immune from the above-average temperatures. Medford, Oregon, has seen its second warmest summer-to-date on record and Yakima, Washingto,  has seen its third warmest. Even Seattle has seen the switch from cooler-than-average temperatures this winter to warmer-than-average conditions this summer. Through July 12, Seattle has experienced its eighth hottest summer on record.

Parts of the East Coast have also seen warmer-than-average temperatures with Norfolk, Virginia, coming in at fourth warmest so far, and Atlantic City has seen its fifth warmest first half of the summer on record. Washington D.C. is on track for its seventh warmest, with an average temperature of 78.6 degrees.

Meanwhile, some areas of the South have escaped some of the hottest temperatures. Several cities have yet to see the mercury climb to 95 degrees, which usually occurs by late June: Atlanta, Charlotte, Birmingham, MemphisLittle Rock and Jackson, Mississippi.

The South has experienced a wet pattern most of this summer and the increase in cloud cover and precipitation has helped to keep temperatures slightly cooler. However, high dew points have have been persistent and combined with temperatures in the 80s and lower 90s, it has certainly felt hotter than 95 degrees at times.

Rankings are relative to average.

Drought or Deluge?

Wetter-than-average conditions have plagued the South so far this summer and several cities have experienced a top-10 wettest summer, based on data from June 1-July 12.

Pensacola, Florida, has experienced the second wettest summer to date, with 22.83 inches of rainfall. The upper-level pattern has allowed ample moisture to stream into the South this summer. Tropical Storm Cindy, which made landfall in Louisiana on June 22, also brought tropical moisture into the region and enhanced rainfall, especially in areas toward the Gulf Coast.

(MORE: Tropical Storm Cindy Recap)

In Alabama, Birmingham is also seeing its second wettest summer so far, with 14.55 inches measured through July 12. Montgomery is experiencing its fourth wettest summer, while New Orleans is seeing its sixth wettest.

All this rain has brought an end to the drought that was in place across much of the Southeast since last summer. As of July 11, 2017 there is no area of the Southeast in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, compared to 21 percent on May 30.

However, while areas on the Southeast have seen drought improvement, portions of eastern Montana and the Dakotas have seen drought conditions develop. As of July 11, 2017 almost 73 percent of both North Dakota and South Dakota are experiencing drought conditions.

Areas in yellow indicate where conditions have been abnormally dry, with areas in dark red experiencing the worst drought conditions.
(U.S. Drought Monitor)

In addition, about 22 percent of Montana is categorized in extreme drought, the second highest category. Glasgow, Montana, is experiencing its fourth driest summer on record, with only 0.62 inches measured through July 12. Valentine, Nebraska, is seeing its driest summer to date on record and both Denver and Sioux City, Iowa, are experiencing the fifth driest summer so far.

The drought in the northern Plains and northern Rockies has been exacerbated by a prolonged period of intense heat that has dominated the region in early July.

Meanwhile, just to the east a persistent southward dip in the jet stream has brought a parade of disturbances into the Midwest. This relentless pattern has resulted in heavy rainfall and flooding in parts of the region. 

(MORE: Flooding Impacts in Midwest, Northeast Mid-July)

Through July 12, Dayton, Ohio, has seen its second wettest summer on record with almost 11 inches of rain measured, while Fort Wayne, Indiana, has seen its fourth wettest with just over 10.5 inches of rainfall. Both Indianapolis and Charleston, West Virginia, have experienced the seventh wettest summer so far.

MORE: California, Canada Wildfires July 2017 (PHOTOS)

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