Persistent, scorching heat in the central and eastern regions of the United States shattered long-standing daily and monthly temperature records last month, making it the fourth-warmest July on record nationally, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.
The heat exacerbated drought conditions, resulting in the largest “exceptional” drought footprint in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. “Exceptional” is the most severe category of drought on the scale. Drought conditions at several locations in the South region are not as long-lived, but are as dry, or drier, than the historic droughts of the 1930s and 1950s, according to NOAA.
The average U.S. temperature in July was 77 degrees, 2.7 degrees above the long-term average. Precipitation, averaged across the nation, was 2.46 inches. This was 0.32 inch below the long-term average, with large variability between regions.
Oklahoma and Texas had their warmest months on record, with average temperatures of 88.9 degrees and 87.1 degrees, respectively. Oklahoma's statewide average temperature was the warmest monthly statewide average temperature on record for any state during any month.
Only seven of the lower 48 states — all west of the Rockies — experienced a July average temperature near or below the 20th century average.
The South climate region — Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas — had its warmest single calendar month for any climate region on record.
Exceptional drought, as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor, covers more than 75 percent of Texas. Drought conditions are so harsh in some locations that it would take as much as 20 inches of precipitation in one month to end the drought.
All of Oklahoma is suffering from a moderate-exceptional drought, compared with the beginning of the water year, when drought conditions covered only 4 percent of the state.