US H1: nine separate billion-dollar disasters

The year so far has brought nine separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters to the United States, including tornado outbreaks, damaging hail and extreme drought.

In its latest climate report, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) says that June kicked off a very warm and dry start to meteorological summer for the US, according to experts from its National Centers for Environmental Information.

The nine individual billion-dollar events of 2022 include: three general severe weather events, two tornado outbreaks, two hail storms, a derecho event and a broad-area drought event. For this year-to-date period, the 2022 disaster count ranks fifth-highest behind 2017, 2020, 2011 and 2021.

Despite the above-average number of disasters during the first half of 2022, only a small number of fatalities has been reported associated with these events.

With an estimated cost of $2.2 billion, the costliest event to-date was the Southern Severe Weather event that occurred April 11-13.

Since these billion-dollar disaster records began in 1980, the NOAA says US has sustained 332 separate weather and climate disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (based on the CPI adjustment to 2022) per event. The total cost of these 332 events exceeds $2.275 trillion.

Drought conditions

According to the 28 June, U.S. Drought Monitor report, 47.7% of the contiguous US was in drought, down about 1.5 percentage points from the end of May, but up 2.4% in the last week of June. 

Drought intensified and/or expanded across the Deep South, Southeast and New England and erupted across portions of the mid-Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. Monsoon rains helped to lessen the drought intensity across parts of the Southwest. Several atmospheric river events aided drought reduction and/or elimination in portions of the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies. Drought expanded across Alaska and Puerto Rico and contracted across the Big Island of Hawaii during June.

Climate by numbers:

June 2022

The average June temperature across the contiguous US was 70.7 degrees F (2.2 degrees above average), making it the 15th-warmest June in 128 years.

Above-average warmth dominated much of the nation last month. Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi each had one of their top-10 warmest Junes on record, while Texas saw its fifth warmest on record. Alaska had its ninth-warmest June in the 98-year period of record for the state.

June precipitation across the US was 2.33 inches — 0.60 of an inch below average — tying with 1930 as the 12th-driest June in the historical record.

Despite the below-average precipitation, some states saw a rather wet month. New Mexico had its fifth-wettest June on record, with Washington State and Oregon ranking seventh and eighth wettest, respectively.

Year to date

The YTD average temperature for the contiguous US was 48.7 degrees F, (1.2 degrees above the 20th-century average) ranking in the warmest third of the record. California and Florida both saw their seventh-warmest YTD on record, while South Carolina had its eighth warmest.

The precipitation total was 13.84 inches, 1.47 inches below average, which ranked in the driest third in the January-through-June record. California saw its driest such YTD on record, while Nevada and Utah ranked second and third driest for this six-month period, respectively. 

Other notable climate events

An intense wildfire season continued: June saw large wildfires burning across portions of the South and Southwest, as many others grew rapidly in Alaska. One million acres burned in Alaska by 18 June  — the earliest such occurrence in the calendar year in the last 32 years. By 1 July, 1.85 million acres had been consumed, the second-highest June total on record and the seventh-highest acreage burned for any calendar month on record for Alaska. Across all 50 states, more than 3.9 million acres have burned from 1 January through to 30 June — nearly 2.3 times the average for this time of year.

Lake Mead hit a record low: In late June the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, located outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, saw its water level drop close to the dead pool stage — the elevation that prevents water from flowing downstream from the lake’s dam. On 30 June the water elevation was 1,043.02 feet — the lowest elevation since the 1930s when the lake was first filled.

Record dry conditions

Alaska precipitation was near average across the North Slope and portions of the Panhandle, but was generally dry to record dry across much of the state in June, according to the NOAA.

Talkeetna had its lowest June precipitation total since at least 1932. Over the most recent three-month period (April-June), Alaska was also record dry as precipitation averaged across the state was 0.68 inch lower than what was received during the same period in 1954 — shattering that record.

Despite the record-dry conditions of the last three months across Alaska, precipitation averaged across the state for the January-June period ranked in the wettest third of the record and was generally above average across much of south-eastern Alaska and near or below average for much of the rest of the state.

To access the full NOAA climate report, click here.

Above-average warmth dominated much of the nation last month. Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi each had one of their top-10 warmest Junes on record, while Texas saw its fifth warmest on record. Alaska had its ninth-warmest June in the 98-year period of record for the state.

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