2018 Was 14th-Warmest, Third-Wettest Year on Record for U.S., NOAA Says

Brian Donegan
Published: February 6, 2019

2018 was the United States' 14th-warmest and third-wettest year in 124 years of record keeping, with much-above-average warmth felt in a handful of states in the West and coastal Southeast, according to a just-released government report.

The annual report from NOAA's National Centers For Environmental Information (NCEI) said the average temperature for the Lower 48 in 2018 was 53.5 degrees, 1.5 degrees above the 20th-century average (1901-2000).

(MORE: The Strangest Things We Saw in 2018's Weather

The various shadings denote the statewide temperature rankings for the U.S. during 2018.
(Data: NOAA/NCEI)

Fourteen states had a top-10-warmest year in 2018, topped by Arizona (second-warmest), New Mexico (third-warmest) and California (fourth-warmest).

South Dakota (0.4 degrees) and Nebraska's (0.1 degrees) average annual temperatures in 2018 were below their 20th-century averages. This was the first time since 2014 that any state observed below-average annual temperatures, according to NOAA's analysis.

NOAA said 2018 was the 22nd-consecutive warmer-than-average year in the U.S., with the five warmest years since records began in 1895 all occurring from 2006 to 2017. The contiguous U.S. has experienced an average temperature increase of 1.5 degrees per century since 1895, NOAA also noted.

Additionally, much like the planet as a whole, the last four-year (2015-18) and five-year (2014-18) periods were the warmest four- and five-year stretches on record for the Lower 48 states.

But temperatures weren't the only anomalous impact of 2018. Precipitation in the U.S. was much above average, even more so than the warmth.

NOAA said it was the third-wettest year on record dating to 1895 and the wettest in the past 35 years.

The wetter-than-average year was largely driven by record and near-record annual precipitation across much of the eastern U.S.

(MORE: 2018 Was Wettest Year on Record in Over Two Dozen Cities

The various shadings denote the statewide precipitation rankings for the U.S. during 2018.
(Data: NOAA/NCEI)

Nine states in the East and South – Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia – observed their wettest year on record in 2018.

West Virginia’s annual precipitation total of 65.13 inches broke the previous state record (59.42 inches in 2003) by nearly 6 inches, NOAA reported. North Carolina’s statewide precipitation total of 68.36 inches was more than 5 inches greater than its previous record (63.16 inches in 2003).

Hurricane Florence in September gave several locations in coastal North Carolina, including Wilmington, and the southern Appalachians a boost, yielding annual precipitation totals of 100 inches or more for their first time on record.

NOAA said precipitation totals at several weather-observing stations in the eastern U.S. appeared to have set all-time single-station annual precipitation records for their states, according to preliminary data. Those events will be investigated and confirmed in the weeks ahead.

Conversely, it was a dry year for much of the West and Pacific Northwest. Oregon's statewide precipitation total of 25.40 inches was nearly 7 inches below average.

In addition, 2018 was the fourth-costliest year on record for weather and climate disasters in the U.S. NOAA said there were 14 such disasters with losses each exceeding $1 billion last year.

The 14 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters of 2018 in the United States are denoted on the map.
(NOAA/NCEI)

In total, the 14 billion-dollar disasters claimed at least 247 lives and had total losses estimated at $91 billion.

Three events were responsible for about $73 billion of that total: hurricanes Michael ($25 billion) and Florence ($24 billion) and the sequence of Western wildfires ($24 billion).


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