Climate of the United States

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Climate zones of the Contiguous United States.

The climate of the United States varies due to large differences in latitude, and a wide range of geographic features, including mountains and deserts. West of the 100th meridian, much of the US is semi-arid to arid, even desert in the far southwestern US. East of the 100th meridian, the climate is humid continental in the northern areas (locations above 40 north latitude), to humid temperate in the central and Atlantic coast regions, to humid subtropical in the Gulf and south Atlantic regions. The southern tip of Florida is tropical. Much of the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and the Cascade Range are alpine. The climate along the coast of California is Mediterranean, while the upper West Coast areas in coastal Oregon and Washington are cool temperate oceanic. The state of Alaska, on the northwestern corner of the North American continent, is largely subarctic, but with a cool oceanic climate in the southeast (Alaska Panhandle), southwestern peninsula and Aleutian Islands, and a polar climate in the north. The archipelago state of Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is tropical, with rainfall concentrated in the cooler season (November to March).

Like most land masses located in the middle and lower middle latitudes, the primary drivers of weather in the contiguous United States are the seasonal change in the solar angle, the migration north/south of the subtropical highs, and the seasonal change in the position of the polar jet stream. In the Northern Hemisphere summer, the "Bermuda High" over the subtropical Atlantic Ocean typically sends warm, humid air over the eastern, southern and central United States - resulting in southerly airflow, warm to hot temperatures, high humidity and occasional thunderstorm activity. In summer, high pressure over the north-central Pacific typically results in northwesterly airflow, stable conditions and cool to mild conditions along most of the immediate Pacific coast, from Washington state to San Diego, CA. In the Northern Hemisphere winter, the subtropical highs retreat southward. The polar jet stream (and associated conflict zone between cold, dry air masses from Canada and warm, moist air masses from the Gulf of Mexico) drops further southward into the United States - bringing major rain and snow events, and much more variable, and sometimes dramatically colder, temperatures. Areas in the extreme southern US (Florida, the Gulf Coast, the Desert Southwest, and southern California) however, often have more stable weather, as the polar jet stream’s impact does not usually reach that far south.

Weather systems, be they high-pressure systems (anticyclones), low-pressure systems (cyclones) or fronts (boundaries between air masses of differing temperature, humidity and most commonly, both) are faster moving and more intense in the winter/colder months than in the summer/warmer months in the United States. The Gulf of Alaska is where most of the storms that enter the United States begin. These "North Pacific lows" enter the US through the Pacific Northwest, then move eastward across the northern Rocky Mountains, northern Great Plains, upper Midwest, Great Lakes and New England states. Across the central states from late fall to spring, "Panhandle hook" storms move from the central Rockies into the Oklahoma/Texas panhandle areas, then northeast toward the Great Lakes. They generate unusually large temperature contrasts, and often bring copious Gulf moisture northward, resulting sometimes in cold conditions and possibly-heavy snow or ice north and west of the storm track, and warm conditions, heavy rains and severe thunderstorms south and east of the storm track - often simultaneously. Across the northern states in winter (usually Montana/Dakotas eastward), "Alberta clipper" storms can be frequent, usually bringing light to moderate snowfalls, but often, windy and severe Arctic outbreaks behind them. When winter-season Canadian cold air masses drop unusually far southward, "Gulf lows" can develop in or near the Gulf of Mexico, then track eastward or northeastward across the Southern states. They often bring on the South's rare, but debilitating, ice and/or snow events.

Record one day precipitation by county between 1979 and 2011.

In the summer months, storms are much more localized (short-duration thunderstorms are common in many areas east of the 100th meridian). In the warm season, storm systems affecting a large area are less frequent, and weather conditions are more solar (sun) controlled, with the greatest chance for thunderstorm, and severe-weather, activity during peak-heating hours, mostly between 3 PM and 9 PM local time. From May to August especially, often-overnight mesoscale-convective-system (MCS) thunderstorm complexes, usually associated with frontal activity, can deliver significant to flooding rainfall amounts from the Dakotas/Nebraska eastward across Iowa/Minnesota to the Great Lakes states. From late summer into fall (mostly August to October), tropical cyclones sometimes approach or cross the Gulf and south Atlantic states, bringing high winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges (often topped with battering waves) to coastal areas. More rarely, tropical cyclones can affect the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, such as with the "Long Island Express" hurricane in September 1938, and Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.

Regional Overview[edit]

A map of the average annual high temperatures in the United States.

Southwest[edit]

The Southwest has a hot desert climate, at lower elevations. Cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Yuma, and Palm Springs have average highs over 100 °F (38 °C) during the summer months. In winter, daily temperatures in the southwest are cooler with highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s and 40s.

In Phoenix, Las Vegas and similar Southwestern desert areas, June is often the driest month, after Pacific-originating winter storms have concluded and before the Southwestern summer "monsoon" begins. The Southwest and the Great Basin are affected by said monsoon from the Gulf of California from July–September. This results in some increase in humidity and cloud cover, bringing higher nighttime low temperatures and localized thunderstorms to the region, which can result in flash flooding. Further eastward in the desert Southwest (Tucson, AZ eastward toward El Paso, TX), winter-season precipitation decreases, while the summer monsoon increasingly provides a summer precipitation maximum. For example, El Paso has a pronounced July to September precipitation maximum. Still, drought has been frequent in the region, often lasting for periods of years or longer. Forest fires across the Western United States (especially the southwest) occur annually.

Northern Arizona and New Mexico, central and northern Nevada and most of Utah (outside higher mountain areas) have a temperate semi-desert to desert climate, but with colder and snowier winters than in Phoenix and similar areas, and less-hot summers. Summer high temperatures often reach the 90s, but low temperatures drop into the low 60s and even 50s. As in other temperate desert climates, the dry air results in large differences (sometimes over 40 degrees) between daytime high and nighttime low temperatures. Precipitation, though scarce, often falls year-round, influenced both by summer thunderstorms brought by the Southwestern monsoon (primarily in southern areas), and by winter-season storms from the Pacific Ocean. See climate data for Salt Lake City, UT, far enough north to display a drier-summer precipitation pattern, relatively shielded from Southwestern "monsoon" influence.

The far southwest (central and southern California coast) has a Mediterranean climate. Daily high temperatures range from 70 to 80 °F (21 to 27 °C) in the summer to 50 to 60 °F (10 to 16 °C) in winter...with low temperatures from the 60 °F (16 °C) in summer to 40 °F (4 °C) in winter.[citation needed]. Like most Mediterranean climates, much of California has a wet winter and dry summer. Early summers can often bring cool, overcast weather (fog and low stratus clouds) to coastal California. As such, the warmest summer weather is delayed until August, even September in many areas of the California coast; on average, September is the warmest month in San Francisco, CA. Upwelling of cold Pacific waters also contributes to the frequent cool spring and early summer weather in coastal California. In California's inland river valleys (Bakersfield, Sacramento areas), the wet-winter, dry-summer pattern remains, but winters are cooler and more prone to occasional frost or freeze, while summers are much hotter, with blazing sunshine and daytime high temperatures not uncommonly over 100 °F (38 °C) .

Gulf Coast/Lower Mississippi Valley/South Atlantic states[edit]

The Gulf and South Atlantic states have a subtropical climate with mostly mild winters and hot, humid summers. The entire Florida peninsula, and coastal cities like Houston, New Orleans, Savannah and Charleston, have average July and August highs from 90 °F (32 °C) to the lower 90 °F (32 °C)s, and lows generally from 70 to 75 °F (21 to 24 °C); combined with moist tropical air, this creates sultry summer weather conditions. In the interior South (including Raleigh and Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Columbus, GA, Huntsville and Birmingham, AL, Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis, TN, Jackson, MS, Baton Rouge and Shreveport, LA, Little Rock, AR and Louisville, KY), humidity remains high, and July and August average high temperatures range from the upper 80 °F (27 °C)s to lower 90 °F (32 °C)s, and average low temperatures range from the upper 60 °F (16 °C)s to lower 70 °F (21 °C)s. In much of Texas, summers are hotter still, with July and August average high temperatures in the mid to upper 90 °F (32 °C)s (Dallas, Austin and San Antonio areas), even near 100 °F (38 °C) near Laredo in the far south, away from the coast. The direction of prevailing winds changes from southerly (tropical) in summer to variable, sometimes northerly (continental) from late fall to early spring (November to March), with wind shifts common, due to the frequent alternation of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico with cold, dry air from Canada. Weather systems and fronts not uncommonly bring precipitation through the winter season, but these alternate with periods of high pressure and sunshine. In winter, average daily high temperatures range from the 40 °F (4 °C)s (upper South: northern Arkansas, Kentucky and Virginia), to the 60 °F (16 °C)s along the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic coast (Charleston southward), with 70 °F (21 °C)s in central and southern Florida and far southern Texas. Average daily lows in winter range from 20 °F (−7 °C)s north to 40 °F (4 °C)s along the Gulf and far South Atlantic coasts, with 50 °F (10 °C)s in Florida and coastal south Texas.

Much of the interior South (Tennessee, Kentucky and the northern Gulf states) has a winter or spring maximum in precipitation, with March commonly the wettest month and August to October the driest months. From November to April, Tennessee, Kentucky and nearby areas commonly experience sharp conflicts between cold, dry air from Canada and warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. Fueled by abundant Gulf moisture, these air-mass clashes often produce heavy precipitation in winter and spring across the mid-South. Here, thunderstorms can occur any month, with severe weather possible, especially in November and from late February to May. Much of the mid-South lies within "Dixie Alley," an area of relatively high tornado risk, especially in November, March and April. Given the prevailing heat and humidity, summer-season thunderstorms can occur throughout the South, but they are heavier and more frequent along the Gulf coast, South Atlantic coast (Norfolk, VA area southward), and in peninsular Florida. Along most of the Gulf coast, and in South Atlantic coastal and sand hills areas (i.e. Columbia, SC, Fayetteville, Raleigh and Wilmington, NC, and Norfolk, VA), July and August are usually the wettest months, and precipitation is fairly evenly distributed the rest of the year. Primarily from August to early October, the coastal Gulf and South Atlantic states are susceptible to being struck by tropical weather systems (tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes), which can bring damaging to destructive winds, very heavy rains and damaging oceanic storm surges. In winter, snow, sleet and ice can occur, mostly in the South's middle and northern regions, when southerly-tracking storms throw Gulf or Atlantic moisture over cold Canadian air at ground level.

The South Atlantic wetter-summer pattern transitions into a sharp wet-summer, dry-winter precipitation regime in peninsular Florida. In central and southern Florida (Orlando, Tampa, Miami areas), on average 50 to 60 percent of the year's precipitation falls (in afternoon and evening showers and thunderstorms) during the four-month period from June to September, and the dry season (November through April) becomes pronounced, with brush fires and water-use restrictions frequent from January to April.

Southern Florida has a tropical savanna climate, with all months having a mean temperature of higher than 65 °F (18 °C), a wet season from May through October, and a dry season from November through April. In cities like Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Naples, and Palm Beach average daily highs range from the 70 °F (21 °C)s in winter to the lower 90 °F (32 °C)s in summer. Average overnight lows range from the upper 50 °F (10 °C)s in winter to the mid and upper 70 °F (21 °C)s in summer. The only areas of the US mainland known to never have experienced a freeze (32 °F (0 °C)) are the Florida Keys and the coastal areas of Miami.

Southern Plains/lower Midwest/Middle East Coast[edit]

The region from the southern Plains, to the lower/eastern Midwest, eastward to the central East Coast (NYC/coastal Connecticut southward to southern Virginia) has a temperate humid climate. Cities in this region include Wichita, KS, St. Louis, MO, Peoria and Springfield, IL, Indianapolis, IN, Columbus, OH, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, PA, Washington, DC, and New York City. This climate features hot summers and cool to cold winters with occasional snowfall. Precipitation is spread fairly evenly throughout the year, though as one travels from Indiana westward there is an increasingly prominent early-summer concentration, with a May maximum in northern Texas and Oklahoma, and a June maximum increasingly evident from (central/northern) Indiana westward to Kansas. As one travels from east to west across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, average annual precipitation steadily decreases. Far western Texas (El Paso area) is desert, and average annual precipitation is less than 20 inches in westernmost Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle, where the climate qualifies as semi-arid. Average high temperatures range from near 30 to the low 40s in winter to the 80s to 90s (in Oklahoma and Texas) in summer, while lows range from the 10s and 20s in winter to 60s in summer (70s in Oklahoma and Texas; see climate data for Tulsa and Oklahoma City, OK, and Dallas and Austin, TX). In the lower Midwest (and southern Plains states, especially), temperatures can rise or drop rapidly; winds can be extreme; and clashing air masses, including hot, dry air of Mexican and/or Southwestern origin, warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cold, dry air from Canada can spawn severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, particularly from April to June. The "dryline," separating hot, dry air of Mexican/Southwestern U.S. origin from warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, often causes severe, occasionally violent, thunderstorms to fire in central and eastern Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas; these sometimes contribute toward the hailstorms and tornado outbreaks the Southern Plains are well known for. Reflecting these air-mass conflicts, central Oklahoma, including the Oklahoma City and Norman areas, has the highest frequency of tornadoes per unit land area on planet Earth, with May the highest-risk month for tornadoes throughout "Tornado Alley," from northern Texas north-northeastward toward western and central Iowa.

Western Great Plains/North-Central/Great Lakes/New England[edit]

The northern half of the Great Plains (Nebraska northward), northern Midwest, Great Lakes, and New England states have a humid continental climate. Here there are four distinct seasons, with warm to hot summers, and cold and often-snowy winters. Average daily high temperatures range from 10 °F (−12 °C)s (North Dakota/central and northern Minnesota) to 30 °F (−1 °C)s in winter to 70 to 80 °F (21 to 27 °C)s in summer, while overnight lows range from below 0 °F (−18 °C) in winter (in North Dakota and much of Minnesota) to 50 to 60 °F (10 to 16 °C)s in summer. In the New England states, precipitation is evenly distributed around the year, with a slight late fall-early winter (November-December) maximum along the New England coast from Boston, MA northward due to intense early-winter storms. From late fall to spring, the New England states, especially coastal and island areas (i.e. Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard), are subject to "nor'easters" - intense storms that can bring very high winds, heavy rains, prodigious snowfalls and damaging coastal storm surges topped by battering waves. In the Great Lakes states, cold Arctic air in winter crossing the relatively warmer lake waters can result in frequent and sometimes very heavy "lake effect" snow, especially on the eastern and southern shores of the Great Lakes (for example, in western Michigan's Lower Peninsula and in the Buffalo, NY area). From northern Indiana and Michigan westward to and including Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and both Dakotas, average monthly precipitation is lowest in January or February, and highest in June, with the May-August period relatively wet on average. See climate data for Rockford and Moline, IL, Des Moines and Waterloo, IA, Madison, WI, Minneapolis, MN, Omaha, NE, Sioux Falls and Pierre, SD, and Bismarck and Fargo, ND. As one travels from east to west across Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, average annual precipitation steadily decreases, and the westernmost counties of these states have a semi-arid climate, with about or just over 15 inches of precipitation per year, on average (see climate data for Williston, ND, Rapid City, SD and Scottsbluff, NE).

In the upper Midwest and northern Plains states, temperatures may rise or fall rapidly, and winds (from warm-season thunderstorms or larger-scale low-pressure systems) can be strong to extreme. Here, air-mass conflicts primarily involve warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, clashing with cool to cold, dry air from Canada, with only occasional intrusions of hot, dry air from the southwest. The conflicts between Canadian and Gulf air commonly produce severe thunderstorms (including hailstorms, especially on the western Plains) and tornadoes, particularly in May and June. In the northern Plains and North Central states generally, June is the year's wettest month on average, owing to maximum shower and thunderstorm activity. Also, June is the highest-risk month for severe weather throughout North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and northern Illinois.[citation needed]

Pacific Northwest[edit]

The Pacific Northwest has a temperate oceanic climate. The climate is wet and cool in autumn, winter, and spring, and stable and drier in the summer months, especially July and August. On average, the wettest month is typically December; the driest, July. In the summer months, average highs in cities like Seattle and Portland are from 70 to 79 °F (21 to 26 °C) with lows from 50 to 59 °F (10 to 15 °C), while in winter daily highs are from 40 to 49 °F (4 to 9 °C) and overnight lows from 30 to 39 °F (−1 to 4 °C).[citation needed]

In winter, the Pacific Northwest (especially coastal districts and other areas west, i.e. on the prevailing windward side, of the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges), experiences a mostly overcast, wet and cool climate, but without severe cold like that found in the interior northern U.S. (i.e. Minnesota/North Dakota). At lower elevations, winter precipitation falls mostly as rain. However, snow does occur even at the lowest elevations, primarily when Pacific moisture interacts with cold air intruding into the Pacific Northwest from western Canada (i.e. Alberta and interior British Columbia). In Seattle, WA and Portland, OR, winter-season snowfall varies greatly from one winter season to the next; in Seattle, the average winter-season snowfall is about 7 inches. In January 1950 (also the coldest January and winter month in Seattle history), Seattle received an unprecedented monthly snowfall of over 57 inches (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle#Climate). Summers in the Pacific Northwest are generally cool, especially along the coastline. The Great Basin and Columbia Plateau (the Intermontane Plateaus) are arid or semiarid regions, with high summer temperatures in the 90s to occasionally over 100 at lower elevations (e.g. at Boise, ID), with annual precipitation averaging less than 15 inches (380 mm) as a result of the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades.[citation needed]. Both coastal and interior areas of Oregon and Washington, and southern Idaho, have a wet-winter, dry-summer precipitation pattern, but traveling eastward into Montana and Wyoming, this transitions progressively toward relatively drier winters and a May and eventually June precipitation maximum, the latter characteristic of the Northern Plains and much of the upper Midwest (i.e. both Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota).

Precipitation[edit]

Average precipitation.

The characteristics of rainfall across the United States differ significantly across the United States and its possessions. Late summer and fall extratropical cyclones bring a majority of the precipitation which falls across western, southern, and southeast Alaska annually. During the fall, winter, and spring, Pacific storm systems bring most of Hawaii and the western United States much of their precipitation.[1] Nor'easters moving up the East coast bring cold season precipitation to the Mid-Atlantic and New England states.[2] Lake-effect snows add to precipitation potential downwind of the Great Lakes,[3] as well as Great Salt Lake and the Finger Lakes during the cold season. The average snow to liquid ratio across the contiguous United States is 13:1, meaning 13 inches (330 mm) of snow melts down to 1 inch (25 mm) of water.[4] The El Niño-Southern Oscillation affects the precipitation distribution, by altering rainfall patterns across the West, Midwest, the Southeast, and throughout the tropics.[5][6][7][8]

During the summer, the Southwest monsoon combined with Gulf of California and Gulf of Mexico moisture moving around the subtropical ridge in the Atlantic ocean bring the promise of afternoon and evening thunderstorms to the southern tier of the country as well as the Great Plains.[9] Equatorward of the subtropical ridge, tropical cyclones enhance precipitation (mostly from August to October) across southern and eastern sections of the country, as well as Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.[10] Over the top of the ridge, the jet stream brings a summer precipitation maximum to the Great Lakes. Large thunderstorm areas known as mesoscale convective complexes move through the Plains, Midwest, and Great Lakes during the warm season, contributing up to 10% of the annual precipitation to the region.[11]

Extremes[edit]

Several different air masses affect the United States.

In northern Alaska, tundra and arctic conditions predominate, and the temperature has fallen as low as −80 °F (−62 °C).[12] On the other end of the spectrum, Death Valley, California once reached 134.78 °F (57.1 °C), officially the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.[13]

On average, the mountains of the western states receive the highest levels of snowfall on Earth. The greatest annual snowfall level is at Mount Rainier in Washington, at 692 inches (1,758 cm); the record there was 1,122 inches (2,850 cm) in the winter of 1971–72. This record was broken by the Mt. Baker Ski Area in northwestern Washington which reported 1,140 inches (2,896 cm) of snowfall for the 1998-99 snowfall season. Other places with significant snowfall outside the Cascade Range are the Wasatch Mountains, near the Great Salt Lake and the Sierra Nevada, near Lake Tahoe.

Along the coastal mountain ranges in the Pacific Northwest, rainfall is greater than anywhere else in the continental US, with Quinault Ranger Station in Washington having an average of 137 inches (3,480 mm).[14] Hawaii receives even more, with 460 inches (11,684 mm) measured annually, on average, on Mount Waialeale, in Kauai.[15] The Mojave Desert in the southwest is home to the driest locale in the US. Yuma, Arizona, has an average of 2.63 inches (67 mm) of precipitation each year.[16]

Climate data for United States
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 98
(37)
105
(41)
108
(42)
118
(48)
124
(51)
129
(54)
134
(57)
127
(53)
126
(52)
116
(47)
105
(41)
100
(38)
134
(57)
Record low °F (°C) −80
(−62)
−75
(−59)
−68
(−56)
−50
(−46)
−25
(−32)
−1
(−18)
10
(−12)
5
(−15)
−13
(−25)
−48
(−44)
−61
(−52)
−72
(−58)
−80
(−62)
Source: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0762182.html

Overall average(s)[edit]

Climate data for Contiguous US average([1])
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Daily mean °F (°C) 30.81
(−0.66)
34.65
(1.47)
42.56
(5.87)
52.02
(11.12)
61.04
(16.13)
69.25
(20.69)
74.29
(23.49)
72.77
(22.65)
65.42
(18.57)
54.77
(12.65)
42.51
(5.84)
33.38
(0.77)
52.79
(11.55)
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.2
(55.88)
2.0102
(51.06)
2.4
(60.96)
2.4402
(61.98)
2.8799
(73.15)
2.9098
(73.91)
2.7701
(70.36)
2.6098
(66.29)
2.4902
(63.25)
2.1598
(54.86)
2.1201
(53.85)
2.2598
(57.40)
29.2299
(742.44)
Source: NOAA (US)[17]

Natural disasters and effects[edit]

Total devastation in Gulfport, Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Extreme weather is not uncommon. Tornadoes regularly occur in the area of the Midwest referred to as Tornado Alley, heavy snowstorms can impact the far northern areas, and tropical cyclones can strike the southern and southeastern areas. The United States has more tornadoes than the rest of the countries of the world combined.[18]

The United States is affected by a large variety of weather-related natural disasters. Deadly and destructive hurricanes occur almost every year along the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico.[19] Hurricanes can also strike Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.[20] Particularly at risk are the central and southern Texas coasts, the area from southeastern Louisiana east to the Florida Panhandle, the east coast of Florida, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with a peak from mid-August through early October.[21] Some of the more devastating hurricanes have included the Galveston Hurricane of 1900,[22] Hurricane Andrew in 1992,[23] and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.[24] The remnants of tropical cyclones from the Eastern Pacific also occasionally impact the southwestern United States, bringing sometimes heavy rainfall.[25]

A powerful tornado in Texas.

The Great Plains, the Midwest and the southern United States - because of contrasting air masses - have frequent severe thunderstorms and tornado outbreaks during spring and summer. In central portions of the US, tornadoes are more common than anywhere else on Earth[26] and touch down most commonly in the spring and summer. The strip of land from north Texas north to Nebraska and east into Southern Michigan is known as Tornado Alley, where many houses have tornado shelters and many towns have tornado sirens. Stretching across Mississippi and Alabama, Dixie Alley has experienced tornadoes and violent thunderstorms, with peak tornado season coming on as early as February and waning by May. Florida also reports many tornadoes but these are rarely very strong. The southern US has a second tornado season during the Fall. In general, the area at greatest risk for tornadoes migrates northward from February to June, peaking in the Gulf States in February and March, the Ohio Valley and lower Midwest in April, southern and central Plains and central Midwest in May, and Northern Plains and upper Midwest (Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin) in June.

The Appalachian region and the Midwest experience the worst floods. Widespread severe flooding is rare. Some exceptions include the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the Great Flood of 1993, and widespread flooding and mudslides caused by the 1982-1983 El Niño event in the western United States. Localized flooding can, however, occur anywhere, and mudslides from heavy rain can cause problems in any mountainous area, particularly the Southwest. The narrow canyons of many mountain areas in the west and severe thunderstorm activity during the monsoon season in summer leads to sometimes devastating flash floods as well, while Nor'easter snowstorms can bring activity to a halt throughout the Northeast (although heavy snowstorms can occur almost anywhere).

In 2013, the US sustains $10 billion annually in damage from floods.[27]

The Southwest has the worst droughts; one is thought to have lasted over 500 years and to have decimated the Anasazi people.[28] Large stretches of desert shrub in the west can fuel the spread of wildfires. Although severe drought is rare, it has occasionally caused major problems, such as during the Dust Bowl (1931–1942), which coincided with the Great Depression. Farmland failed throughout the Plains, entire regions were virtually depopulated, and dust storms ravaged the land. More recently, the western US experienced widespread drought from 1999 to 2004.

In terms of deaths from heatwaves, 7,415 losses occurred from 1999 to 2010, a mean of 618 per year. A disproportionate amount of men, a full 68% of deaths, versus women have been affected. The highest yearly total of heat-related deaths in that period was 1999 while the lowest was 2004.[29] In terms of deaths from waves of cold temperatures, the same gender inequality exists (66% of hypothermia-related deaths in 2002 were of males). From 1979 2002, 16,555 deaths occurred due to exposure to excessive cold temperatures, a mean of 689 per year.[30]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Norman W. Junker. West Coast Cold Season Heavy Rainfall Events. Retrieved on 2008-03-01.
  2. ^ George J. Maglaras, Jeff S. Waldstreicher, Paul J. Kocin, Anthony F. Gigi, and Robert A. Marine. Winter Weather Forecasting throughout the Eastern United States. Part 1: An Overview. Retrieved on 2008-03-01.
  3. ^ Thomas W. Schmidlin. Climatic Summary of Snowfall and Snow Depth in the Ohio Snowbelt at Chardron. Retrieved on 2008-03-01.
  4. ^ Martin A. Baxter, Charles E. Graves, and James T. Moore. A Climatology of Snow-to-Liquid Ratio for the Contiguous United States. Retrieved on 2008-03-21.
  5. ^ John Monteverdi and Jan Null. WESTERN REGION TECHNICAL ATTACHMENT NO. 97-37 NOVEMBER 21, 1997: El Niño and California Precipitation. Retrieved on 2008-02-28.
  6. ^ Nathan Mantua. La Niña Impacts in the Pacific Northwest. Retrieved on 2008-02-29.
  7. ^ Southeast Climate Consortium. SECC Winter Climate Outlook. Retrieved on 2008-02-29.
  8. ^ Reuters. La Nina could mean dry summer in Midwest and Plains. Retrieved on 2008-02-29.
  9. ^ National Weather Service Forecast Office Flagstaff, Arizona. The Monsoon. Retrieved on 2008-02-28.
  10. ^ Roth, David M; Weather Prediction Center (January 7, 2013). "Maximum Rainfall caused by Tropical Cyclones and their Remnants Per State (1950–2012)". Tropical Cyclone Point Maxima. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved March 15, 2013. 
  11. ^ Walker S. Ashley, Thomas L. Mote, P. Grady Dixon, Sharon L. Trotter, Emily J. Powell, Joshua D. Durkee, and Andrew J. Grundstein. Distribution of Mesoscale Convective Complex Rainfall in the United States. Retrieved on 2008-03-02.
  12. ^ Williams, Jack Each state's low temperature record, USA Today, URL accessed 13 June 2006.
  13. ^ = "World: Highest Temperature". World Weather / Climate Extremes Archive. Arizona State University. 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2013. 
  14. ^ National Atlas. Average Annual Precipitation, 1961-1990. Retrieved on 2006-06-15.
  15. ^ Diana Leone. Rain supreme. Retrieved on 2008-03-19.
  16. ^ Hereford, Richard, et al., Precipitation History of the Mojave Desert Region, 1893–2001, US Geological Survey, Fact Sheet 117-03, URL accessed 13 June 2006.
  17. ^ "CONTIGUOUS UNITED STATES Climate Summary". 
  18. ^ Charles A. Doswell III. Severe Storms. Retrieved on 2008-03-22.
  19. ^ Hurricane Research Division. Chronological List of All Hurricanes which Affected the Continental United States: 1851-2005. Retrieved on 2008-03-02.
  20. ^ Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Previous Tropical Systems in the Central Pacific. Retrieved on 2008-03-02.
  21. ^ National Hurricane Center. Peak of Season Graphic. Retrieved on 2008-03-02.
  22. ^ The Galveston storm of 1900—The deadliest disaster in American history. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved on 2007-12-18.
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