Issued 13 January 2022: Unless otherwise noted, temperature and precipitation rankings refer to a 127-year period of record (1895-2021), and long-term average refers to the 20th-century (1901-2000) value. Data for 2021 should be considered preliminary. The most up-to-date temperature and precipitation data is available through Climate at a Glance.
Temperature and Precipitation Analysis
Based on preliminary analysis, the average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 54.5°F, 2.5°F above the 20th-century average and ranked as the fourth-warmest year in the 127-year record. The six warmest years on record have all occurred since 2012.
Most of the contiguous U.S. experienced above-average temperatures during 2021. Maine and New Hampshire both had their second-warmest year on record with 19 additional states across the Northeast, Great Lakes, Plains and West experiencing a top-five year. Temperatures were near average for the year in pockets across the South and Gulf Coast states.
- A cold-air outbreak across the central U.S. from February 10-19 brought frigid temperatures, snow and ice from the Plains to southern Texas and into the Mississippi River Valley. It was the coldest event observed across the contiguous U.S. in more than 30 years and caused power outages for nearly 10 million people as well as other costly impacts across 15 states.
- A record-warm June across the contiguous U.S. ended with an unprecedented heat wave across the Pacific Northwest. Approximately 14.6 percent of the contiguous U.S. observed its warmest June on record. This is the largest extent of record warm temperatures on record for the U.S. during June. Summer of 2021 tied with 1936 for the warmest summer on record.
- A record-warm December across the contiguous U.S. was punctuated by record-warm temperatures across 10 states from the central Plains to the Gulf Coast. An additional 21 states from the Rockies to the East Coast ranked among their top-five Decembers.
The nationally averaged maximum temperature (daytime highs) for 2021 was 66.4°F, 2.4°F above average, ranking as fifth warmest in the 127-year record. Temperatures were above average across most of the contiguous U.S. Near to below average temperatures were present in pockets from the southern Plains to the Southeast. Maine ranked second warmest for daytime high temperatures with 13 additional states across the West, Great Lakes and Northeast experiencing a top-five year.
The nationally averaged minimum temperature (overnight lows) during 2021 was 42.6°F, 2.6°F above average and ranked sixth warmest in the 127-year record. Temperatures were above average across the vast majority of the Lower 48. New Hampshire and Rhode Island ranked warmest on record with minimum temperatures for Utah and Massachussets ranking second warmest on record.
Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand for 2021 was 31 percent of average and the 7th-lowest value in the 127-year period of record.
For the year, warm daily records outpaced cold records by a margin of more than two to one. There were nearly 106,000 daily temperature records tied or broken during 2021.
The contiguous U.S. average annual precipitation was 30.48 inches, which is 0.54 inches above the long-term average, ranking in the middle third of the historical record.
Despite near-normal precipitation at the national scale, 2021 witnessed several significant events at the regional scale, including an above-average monsoon season across the Southwest and several atmospheric river events along the Pacific Coast. Drought remained extensive across much of the western U.S. throughout 2021.
For the year as a whole, precipitation was above average in pockets from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and into portions of the Northeast. Precipitation was below average across parts of the West, northern Rockies, Plains, western Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic coast and parts of the Northeast and Florida.
- A strong winter storm brought heavy snowfall to the central Rockies and High Plains March 13-14. Denver had its fourth-largest snowstorm on record while Cheyenne reported its heaviest multi-day storm on record. Blizzard conditions and heavy snowfall rates disrupted transportation throughout the region.
- The Southwest monsoon season returned in July following two relatively inactive seasons. Tucson reported its wettest July and month on record followed by its wettest August on record. Consequently, flash flooding and fatalities resulting from the heavy rain were juxtaposed with the beneficial rainfall received from these events in the drought-stricken locations across the West and Southwest.
- Several strong atmospheric river events from October to December along the West Coast brought ample rainfall and snow to several western states and mountain ranges. Drought intensity and coverage were reduced across some western states and end-of-year snowpack in the Sierra Nevada range broke December records, in excess of 200 percent of average at the end of the calendar year.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), drought coverage for the contiguous U.S. remained fairly significant and steady throughout much of 2021 with a minimum extent of 43.4% occurring on May 25 and maximum coverage of 55.5% on Dec 7. Drought conditions remained intact for much of the western U.S. and northern to central High Plains throughout 2021 and blossomed along portions of the Lower Mississippi Valley and the Carolinas near the end of the year. Extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4) drought covered about 26.8 percent of the CONUS on August 17 — the largest extent of D3 and D4 drought in USDM history. Hawaii’s moderate (D1) to exceptional drought extent grew rapidly during the summer months, peaking at 59 percent in July and was most intense in November and early December with extreme and exceptional drought at nearly 11 percent coverage. Mid-December precipitation nearly eliminated drought across the islands by the end of the year. Drought across Puerto Rico ebbed and flowed throughout the year, peaking in November with 29 percent coverage; Alaska was nearly drought free during most of 2021.
Alaska Annual Summary
The Alaskan statewide average annual temperature was 26.4°F, 0.4°F above the long-term average and was the coldest year since 2012. It was also the second year in a row with near-average annual statewide temperatures in contrast to the pronounced warmth across the state during 2014-2019. Despite the relatively mild year, Kodiak Harbor reported a temperature of 67°F on December 26. This is the highest December temperature value on record for the entire state of Alaska, eclipsing the previous record of 65°F reported at Sitka Airport on December 12, 1944.
It was the wettest year since 2015 for the state of Alaska. Percentage of average precipitation received during 2021 varied by region with the West Coast region ranking wettest on record and the North Slope and interior regions receiving above-average precipitation. Meanwhile, parts of south-central Alaska and the Gulf regions received below-average precipitation for the year. Fairbanks had its wettest year on record with 18.74 inches of precipitation. This exceeded the previous record of 18.52 inches set in 1990.
Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters
There were 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in 2021, just two events shy of the record set in 2020. These events caused at least 688 fatalities and scores more injured.
- The 20 events include: eight severe weather events, four tropical cyclone events, three tornado outbreaks, two flooding events, one drought/heat wave event, one winter storm/cold wave event and one wildfire event, that includes the December 30 Marshall Fire in Boulder County, Colorado.
- The U.S. disaster costs for 2021 exceeded $145 billion, which is the third-highest cost on record.
- Hurricane Ida was the most costly event of the year ($75 billion) and ranks among the top-five most costly hurricanes on record (since 1980).
- The historic mid-February winter storm/cold wave was the costliest winter storm on record ($24 billion) — in inflation-adjusted terms, twice as costly as the Storm of the Century in March 1993.
- Disasters in 2021 have caused more than twice the number of fatalities than all the events that occurred in 2020 (688 versus 262) and were the highest in a decade for the contiguous U.S.
- 2021 marks the seventh consecutive year (2015-2021) in which 10 or more separate billion-dollar disaster events have impacted the U.S.
- Since records began in 1980, the U.S. has sustained 310 separate weather and climate disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (based on the CPI adjustment to 2021) per event. The total cost of these 310 events exceeds $2.16 trillion. Disaster costs over the last five years (2017-2021) exceeded a record $742 billion, reflecting the increased exposure and vulnerability of the U.S. to extreme weather and climate events.
Other Notable Extremes
- During 2021, 21 named storms formed in the North Atlantic Basin. This was the third most-active Atlantic hurricane season on record. Above-average tropical activity across the Atlantic Basin occurred for the sixth year in a row.
- Category 4 Hurricane Sam formed during September and was the most intense Atlantic hurricane of the season. Sam maintained Category 4 strength for several days and remained far from land in the central Atlantic Ocean.
- On August 29, Category 4 Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana and was the fifth-strongest landfalling hurricane to hit the contiguous U.S., and the second year in a row that a Category 4 hurricane hit Louisiana. More than 1 million residents, including all of New Orleans, were without power. Remnants of Ida merged with a frontal system and brought unprecedented rainfall, strong tornadoes and many fatalities to parts of the Northeast on September 1. Hurricane Ida was the strongest landfalling and most destructive hurricane of the season.
- It was an active wildfire year across the western U.S. with more than 7.1 million acres consumed, 96 percent of the 10-year average.
- The second-largest fire in California history, the Dixie Fire, consumed nearly 964,000 acres in 2021.
- Smoke from several large fires created air quality and health concerns across the West and contiguous U.S. throughout much of the season.
- Wildfire activity across Alaska was below average and consumed approximately 253,000 acres in 2021 — only 22 percent of the 2011-2020 average.
- Snowfall during the 2020-2021 snow season was consistently below average across the Sierra Nevada range and parts of the northern Rockies. Several storm systems in January and the cold-air outbreak in February brought significant snowfall to the Lower 48. By February 16, snow covered 73.2 percent of the contiguous U.S — the highest daily value in the historical record. Additional late-season snowfall occurred in March, bringing record snowfall to portions of the central Rockies and High Plains and in April across the Ohio Valley and Northeast.
- The 2021 preliminary tornado count was above average across the contiguous U.S. with 1,376 tornadoes reported. 193 December tornadoes were confirmed by early January 2022 — the greatest number of tornadoes for any December on record and nearly double the previous record of 97 in 2002.
- The most notable events during the year include two March outbreaks, with a combined total of about 100 tornadoes, including an EF-4 tornado, on March 17 and March 25 across Dixie Alley, an outbreak in Iowa on July 14, the December 10-11 Mid-Mississippi River Valley Tornado event that spawned two EF-4 tornadoes, and the December 15 Midwest derecho event that produced more than 90 tornadoes from Nebraska to Wisconsin — the most tornadoes confirmed on any day during 2021. No EF-5 tornadoes were reported during 2021. The most recent tornado classified as an EF-5 occurred in 2013.
- Portions of the Northeast, including Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York, experienced a very active tornado season in 2021 with seven days of severe weather producing more than 30 tornadoes across the region.
- The Mid-Mississippi River Valley experienced an historic severe weather event on December 10-11 — the Quad State Tornadoes — that produced two long-tracked EF-4 tornadoes across Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky. The longest tornado track was nearly 166 miles across Kentucky and a small portion of Tennessee. This is a record length for the month of December, the longest-tracked tornado on record in Kentucky and the ninth-longest tornado track on record for the country. Damage estimates are ongoing and are in excess of $3.9 billion.
- The December 15 Midwest derecho event produced extensive wind damage and at least 94 confirmed tornadoes across portions of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, with Minnesota experiencing its first December tornadoes on record (17 confirmed). December tornado statistics are still being reconciled in mid-January 2022. For the latest official tornado statistics, please refer to NOAA's Storm Events Database.
- The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for 2021 was 115 percent above average and ranked third highest in the 112-year record, second highest when taking the tropical cyclone indicator into consideration. Warm extremes in both maximum and minimum temperature across much of the U.S., in addition to dry Palmer Drought Severity Index values and extremes in 1-day precipitation across the U.S., contributed to this elevated USCEI value. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record) in temperature, precipitation, drought and landfalling tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S.
For additional details regarding these highlights, please see the following pages:
*Temperature and precipitation values and ranks are based on preliminary data. Additional data received and processed after the release of this summary may result in small differences for annual values and ranks.
These regional summaries were provided by the six Regional Climate Centers and reflect conditions in their respective regions. These six regions differ spatially from the nine climatic regions of the National Centers for Environmental Information.
Northeast Region (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)
- 2021 was the Northeast’s third warmest year since recordkeeping began in 1895. The region’s annual average temperature of 49.5 degrees F (9.7 degrees C) was 1.8 degrees F (1.0 degree C) warmer than normal. Annual average temperatures for the 12 Northeast states ranged from 1.0 degree F (0.6 degrees C) above normal in West Virginia to 2.4 degrees F (1.3 degrees C) above normal in Maine. 2021 ranked as the second warmest year on record for Maine and New Hampshire and as the third warmest for Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. Five states – Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont – recorded their fourth warmest year, while Connecticut had its sixth warmest and West Virginia had its 11th warmest. 2021 was the warmest year on record for five major climate sites: Erie and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Boston, Massachusetts; Newark, New Jersey; and Providence, Rhode Island. This June was the hottest on record for Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In addition, Boston, Massachusetts, and Caribou and Portland, Maine, experienced their warmest June on record. Maximum temperatures were unusually warm. For instance, Newark, New Jersey, recorded its all-time hottest June temperature on record with a high of 103 degrees F (39.4 degrees C) on June 30, beating the previous record of 102 degrees F (38.9 degrees C) recorded on June 29, as well as a few other times. Meanwhile, Boston, Massachusetts, tied its hottest June temperature of 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C) on June 30. It was the first time on record that Portland, Maine, recorded three consecutive days with a high of at least 95 degrees F (35.0 degrees C) during the month of June, tying the site’s all-time streak. Burlington, Vermont; Newark, New Jersey; Boston, Massachusetts; and Concord, New Hampshire, set/tied their records for greatest number of June days with a high of at least 95 degrees F (35.0 degrees C). Concord also set its record for the greatest number of June days with a high of at least 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C), recording nine such days this June. Low temperatures were also unusually warm, with Syracuse and Rochester, New York; Caribou and Portland, Maine; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Concord, New Hampshire; and Dulles Airport, Virginia, setting or tying their warmest minimum temperatures on record for June. Conversely, on July 3, the high temperature of 60 degrees F (15.6 degrees C) in Boston, Massachusetts, tied several other years as the site’s coolest July high temperature on record. This August was record hot for New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as sites such as Caribou, Maine; and Buffalo and Syracuse, New York. Caribou, Maine, also tied its warmest minimum temperature on record for August with a low of 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) on August 12 and 13. Boston, Massachusetts, had its hottest summer on record with an average temperature of 74.6 degrees F (23.7 degrees C), beating the old record of 74.1 degrees F (23.4 degrees C) from 1983. This October was the warmest on record for Maryland, as well as sites such as Syracuse, New York; Dulles Airport, Virginia: Newark, New Jersey; and Harrisburg, Williamsport, and Scranton, Pennsylvania. Mild October temperatures contributed to Caribou, Maine, having its first fall frost on October 25, the latest date on record, with the previous record being October 17, 1970. In addition, the first fall occurrence of a temperature of less than 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) was the latest on record for sites such as Providence, Rhode Island; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Boston, Massachusetts; Newark, New Jersey; and Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports in New York. This autumn was the warmest on record for Maine, as well as Newark, New Jersey.
- During 2021, the Northeast received 44.68 inches (113.49 cm) of precipitation, which was 98 percent of normal. Six of the Northeast states were drier than normal while the other six were wetter than normal. Overall, annual precipitation for the states ranged from 86 percent of normal in Maine to 113 percent of normal in Massachusetts, its ninth wettest year on record. In addition, New York recorded its 15th wettest year. On January 18, Erie, Pennsylvania, had its wettest January day on record with 1.60 inches (40.64 mm) of precipitation, beating the old record of 1.51 inches (38.35 mm) from January 7, 1998. This July was the wettest on record for Massachusetts and New York, as well as sites such as Concord, New Hampshire; Worcester, Massachusetts; Binghamton, New York; and Huntington, West Virginia. In addition, several major climate sites saw their greatest number of July days with measurable precipitation, with Albany, New York, tying its record for all months (21 days). Furthermore, a few sites set or tied their record for greatest number of July days with at least one inch (25.4 mm) of precipitation, including Binghamton, New York, which tied its record for all months (four days). A few sites also sites set/tied their record for greatest number of July days with at least two inches (50.8 mm) of precipitation. Huntington, West Virginia, had its wettest summer on record with 22.05 inches (560.07 mm) of precipitation, surpassing the old record of 20.67 inches (525.02 mm) in 1983. Newark, New Jersey, recorded its wettest September on record with 10.50 inches (266.70 mm) of rain, beating the old record of 10.28 inches (261.11 mm) from 1944. In addition, September 1 was the all-time wettest day on record for Newark, as well as LaGuardia Airport, New York, and the wettest September day on record for Bridgeport, Connecticut.
- The U.S. Drought Monitor from January 5 showed 4 percent of the Northeast in a moderate drought and 17 percent of the region as abnormally dry. These areas included portions of northern New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. There were only minor changes in conditions during January and February, with slight expansion in some locations but improvement in other locations. The U.S. Drought Monitor from March 2 showed 4 percent of the Northeast in a moderate drought and 14 percent of the region as abnormally dry. During March, below-normal precipitation, lower-than-normal streamflow, and low soil moisture caused conditions to deteriorate. Moderate drought expanded/was introduced in parts of Vermont, New York, and Pennsylvania. In addition, abnormal dryness expanded or was introduced in part of every Northeast state except Delaware and New Jersey. The U.S. Drought Monitor from March 30 showed 9 percent of the Northeast in a moderate drought and 28 percent of the region as abnormally dry. During April, moderate drought and abnormal dryness continued to expand in the region due to below-normal precipitation, low soil moisture, and reduced streamflow and groundwater levels. The U.S. Drought Monitor from April 27 showed 14 percent of the Northeast in a moderate drought and 41 percent as abnormally dry. Precipitation varied in May, with dryness persisting/expanding in areas that saw below-normal rainfall but easing in areas that were wetter than normal. Overall, drought and abnormal dryness coverage shrank during May. The U.S. Drought Monitor from June 1 showed 3 percent of the Northeast in a moderate drought and 37 percent as abnormally dry. During June, above-normal temperatures, below-normal precipitation, low streamflow and groundwater levels, and little soil moisture led to the introduction of severe drought and the expansion of moderate drought and abnormal dryness in parts of northern New England, Cape Cod, and New York. However, southern parts of the Northeast were wetter, easing abnormal dryness. The U.S. Drought Monitor from June 29 showed 4 percent of the Northeast in severe drought, 17 percent in moderate drought, and 21 percent as abnormally dry. During July, drought and abnormal dryness contracted but persisted in northern New England, Cape Cod, and northern New York. The U.S. Drought Monitor from July 27 showed 1 percent of the Northeast in severe drought, 7 percent in moderate drought, and 14 percent as abnormally dry. Drought and abnormal dryness persisted in northern locations and Cape Cod and worsened in parts of West Virginia during August. The U.S. Drought Monitor from August 31 showed 2 percent of the Northeast in severe drought, 11 percent in moderate drought, and 11 percent as abnormally dry. Much of the Northeast saw above-normal precipitation during September, easing dry conditions in several locations and allowing overall coverage of drought and abnormal dryness to shrink in far northern New England and northern New York. The U.S. Drought Monitor from September 28 showed 1 percent of the Northeast in severe drought, 2 percent in moderate drought, and 7 percent as abnormally dry. There were minimal changes during October, with dryness persisting in parts of northern New England and West Virginia. The U.S. Drought Monitor from November 2 showed 1 percent of the Northeast in severe drought, 1 percent in moderate drought, and 5 percent as abnormally dry. During November, below-normal precipitation and declining soil moisture led to the expansion of abnormal dryness in West Virginia and parts of Maryland, while drought and abnormal dryness persisted in far northern New England. The U.S. Drought Monitor from November 30 showed 1 percent of the Northeast in severe drought, 1 percent in moderate drought, and 8 percent as abnormally dry. Below-normal precipitation in December caused moderate drought to be introduced in eastern West Virginia and eastern Maryland while abnormal dryness expanded in West Virginia, southern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and southern New Jersey. In addition, drought and abnormal dryness persisted in northern New England. The U.S. Drought Monitor from December 28 showed 1 percent of the Northeast in severe drought, 3 percent in moderate drought, and 19 percent as abnormally dry. There were numerous impacts from the dry conditions across the region, particularly in New England and New York. Dry conditions during spring and early summer enhanced fire danger and allowed fires to start easily, spread rapidly, and burn deeply. In fact, there were more fires than usual this spring. Some fire wardens in Vermont temporarily stopped issuing burn permits, while two fire chiefs in Vermont delayed some training sessions in order to save water in case it was needed to fight fires. Fire restrictions were implemented in several counties in New Jersey. Dry conditions over the past year in New Hampshire contributed to an abundance of leaf litter and other fuels for wildfires so officials performed controlled burns along the White Mountain National Forest as a preventative measure. A New Hampshire fire chief purchased a water tank that allowed the department to bring their own water supply when fighting fires in rural locations instead of relying on waterways that were running low. The spring fire season started earlier than usual in Maine, and one section of the state had seen as many fires through early July as it typically sees in an entire year. There were also impacts to the agriculture industry. Dry conditions during spring affected cranberry operations in Massachusetts and led some Vermont farmers to purchase feed for their livestock. Dry weather during May was good for planting and reduced diseases in crops such as strawberries and apples; however, some growers had to irrigate more frequently. Farmers in New Hampshire were unable to meet the water demands of livestock due to low groundwater levels. During June, farmers in New Hampshire and Maine noted the need to irrigate and experienced some water shortages and slow crop growth. Meanwhile, some New York growers reported stressed corn, reduced productivity of second cutting of hay, and having to replant soybeans. A Maine blueberry farm did not open for the season because their blueberry bushes did not produce blooms or fruit due to dry conditions. Rainfall during late July in northern New England helped revive some crops and reduced the need for irrigation in some locations; however, some New Hampshire farmers went from dealing with drought conditions to overly wet conditions. According to the Maine Drought Task Force, during August some trees were experiencing drought stress and “severe drought in northwestern Maine continues to affect the growth of hay and corn.” During October, drought stress caused some pine trees in Maine to drop more needles than usual. A lingering impact from the dry conditions was on water resources. Extra water was removed from Lake Ontario in January and February due to spring flooding concerns but below-normal precipitation and reduced snowpack resulted in even lower water levels. Because of this, outflows on Lake Ontario were reduced in April, with the goal of allowing water levels to increase. From spring through fall, portions of New England and northern New York recorded below-normal streamflow and groundwater levels, with daily low streamflow and/or groundwater levels set on several waterways during summer. Interestingly, daily record low streamflow was measured in drought areas of northern New Hampshire on the same day that daily record high flows were measured in southern New Hampshire, which saw record-setting July rainfall. Water restrictions were implemented in parts of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, peaking in July with 90 community water systems having water restrictions, 80 of which had mandatory restrictions. During spring and summer, reduced streamflow affected recreational activities in Vermont and Maine and water levels were below average on waterways such as Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain. Some wells in northern New England ran dry or experienced water shortages during summer and fall. In Maine, the town of Stonington trucked in water at a cost of around $20,000 and 20 wells had ran dry as of October.
- The Northeast saw several notable storms during February, with the month having many days with snow. From February 1 to 3, a slow-moving nor’easter dropped snow on the entire Northeast. Storm snowfall totals ranged from less than 6 inches (15 cm) to more than 24 inches (61 cm), with several locations in eastern Pennsylvania seeing over 30 inches (76 cm). Some sites, including Central Park, New York; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Allentown, Pennsylvania, had one of their 10 all-time snowiest days on record. Snow fell at a rate of at least 3 inches (8 cm) per hour on New York’s Long Island, where some sites experienced blizzard conditions. In fact, areas closer to the coast reported wind gusts of 25 mph (11 m/s) to 64 mph (29 m/s). Minor to moderate coastal flooding occurred from Delaware to Massachusetts, eroding beaches and inundating roads and low-lying locations. Power outages and vehicle crashes were also reported. At the end of the month, from February 26 to March 1, as much as 4.75 inches (120.65 mm) of rain fell in portions of West Virginia. In fact, Huntington tied its wettest February day (and second wettest winter day) on record on the 28th with 2.83 inches (71.88 mm) of rain, while Charleston had its fourth wettest February day (and fifth wettest winter day) on record with 2.23 inches (56.64 mm) of rain. Widespread flooding led to closed roads, flooded buildings, evacuations and water rescues, and rockslides. A few waterways reached one of their 10 highest water levels on record. With frequent storms during the month, several major climate sites, particularly southern and coastal locations, saw an unusually high number of days with measurable snow, ranking among the ten greatest for February or on record. For instance, Baltimore, Maryland, had nine days with measurable snow during February, tying as the second greatest number for any month on record. February 2003 holds the record with 10 days. Similarly, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had 16 days with measurable snow, which tied as the second greatest number for any February on record. In addition, Binghamton, New York, had its snowiest winter (December through February) on record with 94.3 inches (239.5 cm) of snow, beating the old record of 90.3 inches (229.4 cm) set in the winter of 1977-78. However, after a snowy February, March and spring were notably lacking snow. This March was the least snowy on record (in many cases, tying several years) at 13 major climate sites. In addition, it was the first time on record that Bridgeport, Connecticut, received no snow during March. This spring was the least snowy spring on record (in most cases tying several other years) for eight major climate sites that received no measurable snowfall: Concord, New Hampshire; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Providence, Rhode Island; Allentown and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Dulles Airport, Virginia; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Washington, D.C. However, it was the first time on record that Bridgeport recorded no spring snowfall.
- Several significant severe weather events occurred in 2021. On March 26, an EF-1 tornado, with winds of up to 110 mph (49 m/s), damaged buildings and downed trees in Addison County, Vermont. The state has recorded only one other tornado in March since recordkeeping began in 1950. On July 29, at least 18 tornadoes touched down in the region: 13 in Pennsylvania, five in New Jersey (including one that traveled into New Jersey from Pennsylvania), and one in Maryland. The strongest tornado, an EF-3 in Bucks and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania, caused substantial structural damage to homes and buildings, destroyed cars, and left five people with minor injuries. It was the first F3/EF-3 tornado in those counties since recordkeeping began in 1950. Another tornado, an EF-2 that traveled from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to Mercer County, New Jersey, led the Philadelphia/Mount Holly National Weather Service office to issues its first-ever “particularly dangerous situation” tornado warning. An EF-2 tornado in Ocean County, New Jersey, damaged at least a dozen homes and resulted in a few minor injuries. During October, in western Pennsylvania, three tornadoes touched down on October 16 and nine tornadoes touched down on October 21. With 12 tornadoes, this October and 2021 were one of the most active Octobers/years for tornadoes in the Pennsylvania counties in the Pittsburgh National Weather Service office’s service area. A rare tornado outbreak occurred on November 13 in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York’s Long Island, with 11 weak (EF-0 or EF-1) tornadoes touching down. For these locations, these were the first tornadoes in November and the latest tornadoes in the calendar year since recordkeeping began in 1950. The tornadoes snapped/uprooted trees, some of which fell on and damaged houses and vehicles. Minor damage to roofs and siding occurred in most instances; however, a few buildings had walls blown out or roofs lifted off. A few small planes and outbuildings were also flipped or shifted. A waterspout was spotted off the New Jersey coast, as well. In addition, an EF-1 tornado touched down in southeastern New York on November 12.
- There were numerous days during July with heavy rain and flash flooding. On July 8, the New York City metro area experienced significant flash flooding, with several subway stations inundated with water, impassable roads, and multiple water rescues, including over a dozen people rescued on the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx. Tropical Storm Elsa produced heavy rain, strong winds, and tornadoes in the Northeast from July 8 to 10. The greatest rainfall totals generally ranged from 3 to 6 inches (76 to 152 mm), with the highest totals in Connecticut and Maine. Southern New England and New York’s Long Island experienced flash flooding, leading to impassable roads, stranded vehicles, and waterlogged yards. Wind gusts of up to 67 mph (30 m/s) brought down tree limbs and wires, particularly in coastal areas. Two tornadoes, as well as straight-line winds of up to 100 mph (45 m/s), downed trees, snapped power poles, and caused structural damage in coastal New Jersey. In addition, a waterspout was spotted off the coast of New Jersey and rough surf was reported along the Mid-Atlantic and New England coastlines. A few days later, on July 12, a Flash Flood Emergency was declared for eastern Bucks and northeastern Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania and western Burlington County in New Jersey when as much as 10 inches (254 mm) of rain fell within a few hours, causing significant flash flooding. Roads were inundated by as much as six feet (1.8 m) of water, stranding vehicles. Floodwaters swamped buildings, including an apartment complex where residents were trapped and rescued and that was later deemed uninhabitable. Numerous water rescues were performed across the three-county area. On July 17, several areas from Maryland to southern New England experienced flash flooding. After an NJ Transit bus got trapped in floodwaters in Essex County, New Jersey, its 22 occupants climbed onto the roof and were rescued by boat. The Mount Hope River near Warrenville, Connecticut, rose seven feet (2.1 m) in just over two hours, reaching major flood stage and, based on preliminary data, reaching its second highest crest on record. Several sites set multiple precipitation records such as wettest July and greatest number of July days with measurable precipitation (see precipitation paragraph above for more details). The wet conditions in July would set these areas up to experience more significant flooding during August and September.
- The remnants of Tropical Storm Fred moved through the Northeast from August 18 to 20. The storm spawned 10 weak (EF-0 or EF-1) tornadoes in the region, seven of which touched down in Pennsylvania. Tornado damage included snapped and uprooted trees, some of which fell on homes and cars, as well as siding and roof damage and flattened corn and wheat fields. Fred's remnants, as well as a frontal system, produced heavy rain in several locations, including parts of central/western New York, northern Connecticut, and central Pennsylvania which saw between 4 and 8 inches (102 to 203 mm) of rain. Flash flooding led to impassable roads, flooded basements, stranded vehicles, and water rescues. In addition, a rare Flash Flood Emergency was declared for part of Steuben County, New York, where as many as 100 people were evacuated. A few days later on August 22, Henri made landfall as a tropical storm near Westerly, Rhode Island, the first tropical storm or hurricane to make landfall in the state since Hurricane Bob in August 1991. Henri dropped excessive rainfall amounts of 5 to 9 inches (127 to 229 mm) in portions of southeastern New York, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania. In fact, Central Park recorded its wettest two-day period on record for August, picking up 7.12 inches (180.85 mm) of rain from August 21 to 22. Multiple locations from eastern Pennsylvania through New Jersey and southeastern New York and into southern New England experienced flash flooding, with storm reports noting flooded basements, closed roads, stranded vehicles, and water rescues. Significant flash flooding occurred in Middlesex and Mercer counties and Newark in New Jersey, with at least 150 residents rescued or evacuated. Henri's highest wind gusts reached 70 mph (31 m/s), bringing down trees and power lines and resulting in numerous power outages, particularly in southern New England. In addition, Henri's remnants spawned three short-lived EF-0 tornadoes in Massachusetts, with damage consisting of a few downed trees and branches.
- Tropical Depression Ida trekked across the Northeast from September 1 to 3. The storm interacted with a stationary front, dropping 6 to 11 inches (152 to 279 mm) of rain on an area stretching from eastern Pennsylvania and northern/central New Jersey through the New York City metro area and into southern New England. Newark, New Jersey, saw 8.41 inches (213.61 mm) of rain on September 1, making it the site’s all-time wettest day on record and on the first day of the month already making September 2021 the site’s fourth wettest September on record. LaGuardia Airport, New York, also recorded its all-time wettest day with 6.80 inches (172.72 mm) of rain, while Bridgeport, Connecticut, which saw 5.77 inches (146.56 mm) of rain, experienced its wettest September day. Rain fell at a rate of 3 to 5 inches (76 to 127 mm) per hour in some locations, with the bulk of the daily rainfall accumulating within a six-hour period in most areas. At Central Park, New York, the 3.15 inches (80.01 mm) of rain that fell between 9 and 10 pm on September 1 was the greatest hourly amount recorded in the 132-year history of the weather station. The 2-hour and 6-hour rainfall amounts of 4.65 inches (118.11 mm) and 6.63 inches (168.40 mm), respectively, were also record setting. Newark also received record rainfall over 1-, 2-, and 6-hour durations with 3.24 inches (82.30 mm), 5.06 inches (128.52 mm), and 7.88 inches (200.15 mm), respectively. The rainfall that occurred with Ida exceeded the rainfall amounts that would be considered the 100-yr storm, having a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year, at many locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. In fact, both Central Park and Newark saw two-hour rainfall amounts that exceeded the 500-year storm, having only a 0.2 percent chance of occurring during a given year. With saturated soils, waterways already running high, and the deluge from Ida, dozens of streamgages reached major flood stage. In fact, water levels reached historic levels at several long-term sites. For example, Brandywine Creek at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, which has records to the early 1900s, reached 21.04 feet (6.41 m), approaching the operational limit of the gage and beating the previous record of 17.15 feet (5.23 m) from September 17, 1999. Similarly, the Raritan River at Manville, New Jersey, which also has records back to the early 1900s, reached a new record high water level of 27.66 feet (8.43 m). Several other long-term sites reached near-record water levels. The Schuylkill River at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, reached 16.35 feet (4.98 m), its second highest crest on record and just below the all-time highest water level of 17.0 feet (5.18 m) set on October 4, 1869. Devastating flooding occurred in multiple locations. A rare Flash Flood Emergency was declared in portions of southeastern Pennsylvania, northern/central New Jersey, and New York City. In fact, the New York National Weather Service office issued a Flash Flood Emergency for the first time ever, in northern New Jersey, then declared another one for New York City, the first time the city has been under such a warning. Numerous roads were impassable, including portions of major highways such as the Vine Street Expressway through downtown Philadelphia and FDR Drive, a major thoroughfare along the east side of New York City. Countless vehicles were stranded, including at least three school buses, and people were swept away in rising waters across the region. Public transportation around the New York City metro area ground to a halt, stranding thousands. Floodwaters poured into New York City’s subway system, with more than 800 passengers rescued, buses and above-ground trains were stranded, and lower levels of Newark International Airport took on water. Some residents were advised to shelter in place. However, in a few areas, there were concerns that dams would be overtopped, resulting in thousands of people being evacuated. Numerous structures, including homes and apartments, were inundated by floodwaters. Between flooded roads and buildings, hundreds of water rescues were performed, with the Philadelphia National Weather Service office noting that “crews are running out of resources to rescue people stuck in flood waters.” Ida also produced at least 11 tornadoes, with the most in Pennsylvania. The strongest tornado, a rare EF-3 with winds of up to 150 mph (67 m/s), carved a 12.6-mile (20.3 km) path of destruction through southern New Jersey. The tornado tossed vehicles and caused significant structural damage to dozens of homes, leaving some uninhabitable. It also destroyed barns and toppled silos at the state's largest dairy farm. Three EF-2 tornadoes, two in southeastern Pennsylvania and one in Annapolis, Maryland, caused considerable tree damage and damaged buildings and homes, tearing off roofs, blowing out exterior walls, and ripping off siding. All three tornadoes were on the ground for more than 6 miles (10 km). In addition, straight-line winds of up to 80 mph (36 m/s) caused damage in southeastern Massachusetts. Early estimates indicated the storm caused $117 million in damage in Pennsylvania and more than $50 million in damage in New York. There were at least 50 deaths due to Ida in the Northeast, including at least 13 in New York City and at least 30 in New Jersey, making it one of the state's deadliest weather events.
- Late October featured two impactful storms in the Northeast. From October 25 to 27, a storm system moving through the Ohio Valley and a low moving up the East Coast merged, forming a rapidly intensifying nor’easter along the New England coast. Preliminary data indicated Nantucket, Massachusetts, recorded its lowest October pressure on record. The strongest wind gusts reached 70 to 90 mph (31 to 40 m/s) in parts of southern New England, with a peak gust of 94 mph (42 m/s) in Edgartown, Massachusetts. Downed trees and wires blocked roads and damaged buildings and vehicles. More than 485,000 customers lost power in Massachusetts, and some schools were closed. The storm system dropped 4 to 7 inches (101 to 178 mm) of rain on parts of central/southeastern New York, southwestern Connecticut, and northern/central New Jersey. Flash flooding led to road closures, water rescues, some evacuations, and water entering homes and basements. A Flash Flood Emergency was issued for part of Cayuga County, New York, where water levels reached major flood stage. A few days later, from October 29 to 31, another storm system moved through the region. Persistent onshore winds, with peak gusts between 40 and 70 mph (18 to 31 m/s), led to water levels not seen in 10 to 20 years along the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay and their tidal tributaries such as the Potomac River and Delaware River. In fact, at some gauges, water levels were record or near-record high. For example, the Patuxent River at Solomons Island, Maryland, reached 4.82 feet (1.47 m), beating the old record of 4.80 feet (1.46 m) set by Hurricane Isabel on September 19, 2003. Storm reports noted many road closures and that some structures such as houses and garages took on water, leading to some evacuations. The strong wind gusts also downed trees and wires. The storm system also dropped heavy rain on parts of New York and New England, with the greatest storm totals of 4 to 7 inches (101 to 178 mm) in Maine. Localized flooding led to road closures in portions of central New York and coastal Maine.
- For more information, please visit the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
Midwest Region (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
- Average temperature for the Midwest during 2021 was 50.6 degrees F (10.3 degrees C), which was 1.5 degrees F (0.8 degrees C) above the 1991-2020 average. Based on preliminary data, 2021 ranked the 8th warmest dating back to 1895. All nine Midwestern states were warmer than normal in 2021, ranging from 0.5 degrees F (0.3 degrees C) above normal in Kentucky to 2.4 degrees F (1.3 degrees C) above normal in Minnesota. The upper Midwest had the greatest temperature departures, with Michigan having the 4th warmest year on record and both Minnesota and Wisconsin having the 7th warmest year on record. March (8th), June (6th, tie), October (4th), and December (8th) all ranked among the top-10 warmest for the Midwest. February had the largest temperature departures of any month in 2021 at 8.4 degrees F (4.2 degrees C) below normal. Based on preliminary data, February ranked the 16th coldest on record.
- Annual precipitation for the Midwest was 36.7 inches (932.2 mm), which was 1.25 inches (31.8 mm) below the 1991-2020 average. This is the lowest annual precipitation in the Midwest since 2012. Based on preliminary data, 2021 ranked as the 46th wettest since 1895. Annual statewide precipitation totals varied across the region with a clear north-south divide. Precipitation totals were 0.45 inches (11.4 mm) to 3.09 inches (78.5 mm) above normal in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio. Below normal annual precipitation ranging from -1 inch (-25.4 mm) to -4.6 inches (-116.8 mm) was measured in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Minnesota and Wisconsin had their first year since 2012 with below average annual precipitation. Regionwide, October was the 7th wettest on record and November was the 16th driest on record dating back to 1895.
- Drought conditions touched every state across the Midwest, except Kentucky, at some point during 2021. The most widespread, severe, and long-lasting drought conditions were seen across the northern and western portions of the region. Drought intensity peaked, primarily affecting Minnesota and Iowa, in August 2021. Exceptional (D4) drought was denoted in Minnesota for the first time since the U.S Drought Monitor began in 2000. On August 24th, 97 percent of Minnesota was in drought with 58 percent of the state classified as D3 (extreme) or D4 (exceptional). Dry conditions throughout the northwest portion of the region stressed crops, threatened livestock, and reduced water availability. The St. Cloud dam (in Minnesota) had to turn off its generators for the first time since the drought of 1988 after water levels dropped to just 4 feet (121.9 cm) deep on the Mississippi River. Conditions gradually began to improve in Minnesota and Iowa throughout the fall, closing the year with limited areas of D1 (moderate) drought in Iowa and D2 (severe) drought in northern Minnesota. Extreme northern Illinois and much of Wisconsin ended 2021 with D1 (moderate) drought conditions as well.
- The Midwest had an unusually quiet severe weather season during spring and early summer. Activity increased during the second half of the year with notable severe weather outbreaks on July 14 (Iowa) and October 24 (Missouri and Illinois). The year’s most impactful and widespread severe weather came in two separate events during December. The December 10th severe weather outbreak moved across Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio producing 59 preliminary tornado reports and 234 high wind reports. The Midwest had at least 65 confirmed fatalities and about 100 injuries. Among the dozens of confirmed tornadoes that day included one long-track EF-4 tornado affecting Kentucky that was on the ground for 165.7 miles (266.7 km), had peak winds of 190 mph (305.8 kph), and resulted in 55+ fatalities. Five EF-3 tornadoes were confirmed, including one that killed six people inside a heavily damaged Amazon facility in Illinois. A derecho on December 15th spawned over 70 tornadoes and destructive thunderstorms in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin killing at least two people.
- Heavy rains in southern and eastern Kentucky in late February caused record flooding on a portion of the Kentucky River. Thirteen counties declared flood emergencies as numerous highways were closed and water rescues ensued. Flooding due to heavy rainfall stretched from Missouri northeastward to Michigan on June 25th and 26th. Significant flooding closed dozens of roads across northwest Missouri. One fatality was reported in Clinton County, Missouri after a vehicle became stranded in flood waters. This same storm system led to flash flooding over the Chicago metropolitan area as 2 inches (50.8 mm) of rain fell in just a few hours. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency due to excessive flooding on June 26th. On August 12th, Gibson City, Illinois received a remarkable 10 inches of rain in just 6 hours leading to widespread flooding throughout the community. An intense storm system on October 24th and 25th brought 2 inches (50.8 mm) to 4 inches (101.6 mm) of rainfall through an area from Iowa to southern Michigan and northwest Ohio. These storms pushed numerous streams in Illinois, Indiana, and southern Michigan, to near flood stage or minor flood stage. Flooding along these river systems continued through the rest of October.
- The last spring freeze was 2-3 weeks later than normal in the Midwest, with some locations across the upper Midwest seeing freezing temperatures into the last week of May. Poplar Bluff, Missouri, had its fourth-latest subfreezing temperature since 1897. The first fall freeze was 2-4 weeks later than normal across the Midwest, with several record late first fall freezes. International Falls, Minnesota had the latest first freeze since 1897.
- An early spring warm-up paired with drier-than-normal conditions allowed farmers to begin fieldwork and crop planting earlier-than-normal. However, a late spring cold-snap along with continued dry conditions led to delayed and uneven crop development. Growing conditions turned more favorable throughout the season, allowing corn and soybeans to recover from early season damage. Corn and soybeans matured rapidly in late summer and early fall, prompting an early start to harvest. Crops dried quickly in fields, catching farmers by surprise and reducing the demand for drying and propane costs. Normal-to-dry conditions kept corn and soybean harvest ahead of schedule in the northwest whereas harvest slowed in the southeast due to excessive October wetness.
- For further details on the weather and climate events in the Midwest, see the weekly and monthly reports at the Midwest Climate Watch page.
Southeast Region (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)
- Temperatures were near average across much of the Southeast during the year, relative to the new 30-year normals released in May, which reflect an overall trend of a warming climate for the region. However, there were three long-term stations (i.e., period of record equaling or exceeding 50 years) that observed or tied their warmest annual mean temperature on record, including Abingdon, VA (1969-2021), Laurinburg, NC (1946-2021), and Winterville, GA (1944-2021). And forty-five of the long-term stations observed annual mean temperatures that were within their five warmest values on record, including Athens, GA (1857-2021; tied 3rd warmest), Tampa, FL (1890-2021; 4th warmest) and Muscle Shoals, AL (1893-2021; 5th warmest). There were thirty-one long-term stations observed average daily maximum temperatures that were ranked within their five warmest values on record, and forty-seven that observed daily minimum temperatures that were ranked within their five warmest values. Although January temperatures were near average, the first week of the year was exceptionally warm, with much of the region recording mean temperatures more than 15 degrees F (8.3 degrees C) above normal. A few stations experienced their warmest winter (DJF) day on record in February, including Augusta, GA (1873-2019) at 88 degrees F (31 degrees C), and Columbia, SC (1887-2019) at 86 degrees F (30 degrees C). Several notable maximum and minimum temperature records occurred across the region during the rest of the year, as well. A late season freeze occurred on April 22nd - 23rd, with numerous stations in all states but Florida reporting daily minimum temperatures below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C). Rome, GA (1893-2021) and Raleigh, NC (1887-2021) both had a daily minimum temperature of 31 degrees F (-0.6 degrees C), setting a daily minimum temperature record. As an upper-level ridge and surface high pressure system persisted across the region from May 24th - 28th, the University of South Carolina (1930-2021) reported its first daily maximum of 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) on May 24th, which usually isn’t typically seen until the middle of June. High rates of evaporation and a persistent influx of tropical moisture suppressed nighttime cooling during the month of August, and this resulted in a few stations remaining at or above 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) for the entire month including, Wilmington, NC (1870-2021) and Gainesville, FL (1890-2021). A few stations observed their highest count of October days with a maximum temperature at or above 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C), including Fort Myers, FL (1892-2021; 17 days) and Plant City, FL (1892-2021; 17 days), whereas San Juan, PR (1898-2021; 25 days) tied the record. December was another warm month with several stations observing their highest counts of days reaching 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) or above, including Raleigh, NC (1887-2021; 12 days), and Florence, SC (1948-2021; 17 days). Hickory, NC (1949-2021) had a daily maximum temperature of 78 degrees F (26 degrees C) on December 3rd, and Morganton, NC (1893-2021) reached 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) on the 4th, making these their warmest December days on record. Christmas Day was also warm across much of the region, with Asheville, NC (1869-2021) reporting its warmest Christmas Day on record at 71 degrees F (22 degrees C) and Richmond, VA (1871-2021) observing the 3rd warmest at 73 degrees F (23 degrees C).
- Annual precipitation was much below average across much of the Southeast for 2021, with only the Florida Panhandle and the Gulf Coast region of Alabama receiving above normal amounts of precipitation. The driest locations were found in Virginia, the Carolinas and Puerto Rico. Annual precipitation totals ranged from 9 to more than 20 inches (229 to 508 mm) below average in some of these areas. The lowest annual precipitation for any station (excluding CoCoRaHS) across the region was recorded in Key West, FL (1871-2021), which observed its 26th driest year on record with only 30.4 inches (772 mm) of precipitation. Juncos, PR (1931-2021) had its 4th driest year on record with 45.76 inches (1162 mm) of precipitation, more than 21 inches (533 mm) below normal. In contrast, the wettest locations were found across southern Alabama, southern Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. Annual precipitation totals ranged from 9 to more than 20 inches (229 to 508 mm) above average in these areas. The highest precipitation total for any station (excluding CoCoRaHS) was recorded in Pensacola, FL (1879-2019), which observed its 6th wettest year on record with 88.43 inches (2246 mm) of precipitation. Numerous precipitation extremes were recorded across the region throughout the year. From February 18th – 19th, a low-pressure system tracked northward along the coasts of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, producing moderate rainfall across the eastern portions of the region. As a result, Florence, SC (1948-2021) received 2.39 inches (61 mm) of precipitation in 1-day, making it the 4th wettest February day on record. On April 24th, a line of thunderstorms produced heavy rainfall across Georgia, with 24-hour precipitation totals exceeding 6 inches (152 mm) and numerous reports of localized flooding. Alma, GA (1948-2021) reported 7.66 inches (195 mm) of rain, making this the wettest 24-hour day ever on record. On June 7th- 8th, a slow-moving upper-level low ushered in a deep southeasterly stream of moisture across Georgia, with 2-day precipitation totals exceeding 5 inches (127 mm) and numerous reports of localized flooding. Augusta, GA (1873-2021) received 4.89 inches (124 mm) of rain on the 7th, making this the wettest June day on record, and 2.63 inches (67 mm) was observed in one hour, the 4th highest hourly total ever. On July 26th- 28th, tropical moisture from the Atlantic interacting with a stationary front produced heavy rainfall across the Carolinas, with 2-day precipitation totals exceeding 5 inches (127 mm) and numerous reports of localized flooding. Greenville/Spartanburg, SC (1884-2021) received 3.68 inches (93 mm) of rain on the 26th, making this the 4th wettest July day on record. Thunderstorms on September 20th produced 6.66 inches (169 mm) of rainfall in Savannah, GA (1871-2021), making this the 4th wettest September day on record. Likewise, on the 22nd, thunderstorms dropped 4.44 inches (113 mm) in Blacksburg, VA (1893-2021), making this its 2nd wettest day on record. Columbus, GA (1891-2021) observed its wettest October with 8.58 inches (218 mm), and 5.24 inches (133 mm) fell on October 4th, making it the wettest October day on record. Pensacola, FL (1879-2021) also observed heavy rain on October 4th with 8.23 inches (209 mm) recorded, making this the 4th wettest October day on record. A slow-moving frontal boundary on October 6th – 8th produced 12.13 inches (308 mm) of rainfall in Highlands, NC, contributing to its 4th wettest October. As the frontal boundary progressed eastward, 4.96 inches (126 mm) of rain fell in Raleigh, NC (1887-2021) on October 9th, making this the 4th wettest October day on record and tied for 8th wettest day overall. A few notable snowstorms also occurred during the year. From January 7th – 8th a low-pressure system tracking across the deep South brought light snowfall from northern Georgia to Virginia. Charlotte, NC (1878-2021) measured 0.1 inches (2.5 mm) of snowfall and continued its record of reporting at least a trace of snow in every winter season since 1878. On January 28th another low-pressure system on a similar track brought 7.3 inches (183 mm) of snow to Lynchburg, VA (1893-2021) and 5.3 inches (135 mm) of snowfall to Roanoke, VA (1912-2021). The instability with this extremely dynamic system contributed to the rare occurrence of thundersnow in Wake County, NC. Washington, D.C. (1871-2021) measured 2.3 inches (58 mm) of snow on January 31st, ending its second longest streak of no snowfall over 1 inch (25 mm). A strong low-pressure system tracked eastward across the region and brought over 3 inches (76 mm) of snow to parts of Alabama and freezing rain to parts of Virginia and North Carolina from February 17th – 19th. Muscle Shoals, AL (1893-2021) measured 4.5 inches (114 mm) of snow and Huntsville, AL (1894-2021) 3.1 inches (79 mm). Richmond, VA (1871-2021) observed .25 inches (6 mm) of ice and parts of Hanover County, VA reported .40 inches (10 mm) of ice. There were over ten thousand customers without power, and Virginia State Police responded to 385 traffic crashes and 255 disabled vehicles due to the storm. This was the second year on record that Mt. Mitchell (1925-2021) observed no snow for the entire month of December.
- Seven tropical systems (Tropical Storm Claudette, Tropical Storm Danny, Hurricane Elsa, Tropical Storm Fred, Hurricane Ida, Tropical Storm Mindy and Tropical Storm Peter) brought high winds, inland flooding, storm surge, and tornadoes to portions of the Southeast region, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This year was the third most active year on record in terms of named storms; it also marks the sixth consecutive above-normal Atlantic hurricane season; and it was the first time on record that two consecutive hurricane seasons exhausted the list of 21 named storms. From June 19th through the 23rd, Tropical Storm Claudette impacted the region, causing heavy rainfall and strong thunderstorms across Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Tuscaloosa Airport, AL (1948-2021) observed 8.16 inches (207 mm) of rain on the 19th, making this the wettest day ever on record. Flooding in the city damaged or destroyed 45 homes. Search and rescue teams were deployed to search for those who were lost in flash floods. A private dam failed near Tuscaloosa due to the rain, and subsequent flooding washed out a water and sewer main at a steel plant. This damaged the city’s sewage system, prompting officials to issue water restrictions for over 100,000 people. A total of 14 people died in various incidents related to the storm: 10 from car accidents, 2 from fallen trees, and 2 from flooding. Tropical Storm Danny impacted Georgia and South Carolina on June 28th – 29th with rainfall reports of 3-5 inches (76-127 mm) in some areas, causing localized flooding. Hurricane Elsa, the earliest 5th named storm on record, impacted the region from July 6th – 9th, causing heavy rainfall and strong thunderstorms. Brunswick, GA (1948-2021) observed 4.43 inches (113 mm) of rain on the 7th making this the 3rd wettest July day on record. The North Port, FL CoCoRaHS station measured 10.08 inches (256 mm) of rain on July 7th and 19.72 inches (501 mm) for the month, making this the wettest station in the region for the month of July. Flooding in North Port, FL continued for days after Elsa passed the city due to rainwater that soaked more rural northern areas draining down south towards the city. Search and rescue teams were deployed to rescue several people from floodwaters, after they drove their vehicles into flooded streets. The only fatality in the Southeast from Elsa was due to a tree falling on cars in Jacksonville, FL, killing a 26-year-old man. From August 16th through the 19th, Tropical Storm Fred produced heavy rainfall and strong thunderstorms in the Southeast. Mt. Mitchell, NC (1925-2021) observed 9.20 inches (229 mm) of rain on the 18th, making this the 2nd wettest August day on record and 5th wettest day overall on record. Heavy rainfall in the high elevations of the Balsam Range caused significant flash flooding in the headwaters of the Pigeon River in southern Haywood County, NC and the headwaters of the French Broad River in Transylvania County, NC. A station just north of Lake Toxaway in Transylvania County, NC, measured a total of 23.41 inches (595 mm) of rain for the event. The flooding, along with many landslides, swept multiple recreational vehicles downstream and damaged many homes. As a result, $300 million dollars in damage was estimated in Haywood County and another $11 million dollars in damage was calculated in Transylvania County. There were 7 fatalities in the Southeast from Tropical Storm Fred, 6 due to the flooding in western NC and 1 from a hydroplaning incident in Bay County, FL. August 29th – 30th tropical moisture from Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana, produced heavy rainfall across southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, with 2-day precipitation totals exceeding 5 inches (127 mm) and numerous reports of localized flooding. Mobile, AL (1871-2021) received 4.65 inches (93 mm) of rain on the 30th, making this the 7th wettest August day on record. Tropical Storm Mindy made landfall in St. Vincent Island, FL on September 8th, dropping between 2 to 4 inches (51 to 102 mm) of precipitation across northern Florida and southern Georgia before quickly tracking to the northeast. The storm, however, caused minimal damage. Tropical Storm Peter brought heavy rain to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on September 21st, as it tracked to their north. Parts of Puerto Rico observed up to 3.76 inches (96 mm) of rainfall, with reports of localized flooding.
- There were 3,040 severe weather reports across the Southeast region during the year, which is about 104 percent of the median annual frequency of 2,936 reports during 2000-2019. The fewest number of reports occurred in South Carolina (279; 9 percent of total), while the greatest number was recorded in Virginia (857; 28 percent of total). Strong thunderstorm winds accounted for nearly 81 percent (2,448 of 3,040) of the severe weather reports. Strong winds were observed with a severe weather outbreak on April 10th, including 75 mph (34 m/s) gusts in Dauphin Island, AL with reports of roof and tree damage. Strong winds were also observed across the region on April 30th, with winds gusting over 50 mph (22 m/s) in NC and VA. A Virginia public works employee was killed when a falling tree limb struck them while on the job in Harrisonburg. May 3rd, strong winds brought a tree down on top of a vehicle and killing the occupant in Douglasville, GA. A microburst occurred in Chapin, SC on May 4th, with straight line wind speeds of 80-90 mph (36-40 m/s). Strong winds were also observed across the region on May 27th, with winds gusting to 83 mph (37 m/s) in Woodbridge, VA and reports of several trees and powerlines down. Another microburst with winds of 75-80 mph (31-36 m/s) was reported in Jones County, NC on June 15th. No injuries or fatalities were reported. A gustnado associated with thunderstorms was observed in Grandy, NC on August 4th. Peak winds of 70 mph (31 m/s) caused broken windows and roof damage to a convenience store. Another gustnado that developed on the leading edge of a thunderstorm cluster, was reported on August 18th in Athens, AL, with peak winds of 60 mph (27 m/s), resulting in minor damage. Strong gusty thunderstorm winds caused a fatality to a kite surfer at Ft. Lauderdale Beach, FL on August 25th. Thunderstorms produced wind gusts of 58 mph (26 m/s) in Brevard County, FL at the NASA shuttle landing facility on September 2nd. No damage was reported. Strong winds associated with a coastal storm damaged a pier in Rodanthe, NC on November 7th. However, no injuries were reported. There were 363 reports of hail for the year, which is about 73 percent of the median annual frequency of 495 reports during 2000-2019. On June 15th, golf-ball sized (1.75 inches) in Orangeburg, SC caused significant damage to the A.C. units and windows of Lake Marion High School. Thunderstorms on July 29th produced billiard-ball sized (2.25 inches) hail in Stafford County, VA, which significantly damaged many vehicles. The largest sized hail being softball sized (4.00 inches), occurred on April 9th in Orange Beach, AL, where significant hail damage was reported to numerous vehicles in the area. A total of 172 tornadoes were confirmed across the Southeast for the year (75 EF-0, 75 EF-1, 13 EF-2, 6 EF-3, 1 EF-4, and 2 EF-U), which is 114 percent of the average value of 151 from 2000-2019. The strongest of these tornadoes occurred during a severe weather outbreak on March 25th – 26th and was ranked an EF-4 with winds reaching 170 mph (76 m/s) through Georgia in the counties of Heard, Coweta, and Fayette. This tornado caused widespread damage in several neighborhoods as well as one fatality. It was the first EF-4 tornado to occur in Georgia since 2011. An EF-3 tornado with winds of 150 mph (67 m/s) occurred in Jefferson County, AL, on January 25th. It caused substantial damage in a subdivision, with a home swept off its foundation and debris thrown a considerable distance. A teenager was killed and several of his family members were critically injured when their home collapsed, trapping them in the basement. In total, 30 injuries and 1 fatality were reported. This was the first EF-3 or stronger tornado in January for Alabama since 2012. Another EF-3 tornado associated with a line of thunderstorms occurred in Brunswick County, NC on February 15th. This tornado reached peak winds of 160 mph (72 m/s). The tornado first touched down near Sunset Beach, damaging several trees and moved northeastward then increased in strength and destroyed a large number of well-built brick homes in the Ocean Ridge Plantation subdivision. There were three fatalities and ten injuries associated with this tornado. It was the strongest tornado on record and the only tornado to cause fatalities within Brunswick County. Fifteen tornadoes occurred with Hurricane Elsa from July 7th – 8th, including an EF-2 tornado in Camden County, GA. Maximum wind speed was estimated at 128 mph (57 m/s). This tornado produced significant damage to an RV park near Kings Bay Base. There were multiple RVs flipped over, and one was blown about 200 feet into the lake just north of the RV park. Fortunately, no injuries or fatalities were reported. Twenty-one tornadoes occurred with Tropical Storm Fred from August 16th – 18th, including an EF-1 tornado in Sumter County, GA, which had a maximum wind speed estimated at 95 mph (42 m/s). This tornado produced significant damage to a residential area. There were numerous trees uprooted or snapped and damage reported to multiple one-story homes. Fortunately, no injuries or fatalities were reported. Four lightning fatalities were reported across the Southeast for the year. One lightning fatality was reported in June when a young woman was struck and killed while swimming at a beach on Tybee Island, GA. Two lighting fatalities were reported in July (in FL), and one in September (in FL). Unfortunately, there were 6 rip current deaths in September; 2 in Destin, FL, 2 people in Sunnyside, FL, and 2 in Daytona Beach, FL.
- At the beginning of the year, drought was largely absent across the Southeast region due to passage several storm systems, but moderate-to-severe (D1-D2) drought did impact Virginia, the Carolinas, and Puerto Rico from the prior autumn and early winter. The only areas of the Southeast that experienced dry conditions in January were the southern half of Alabama and parts of Puerto Rico. Drought conditions remained consistent from February through April due to adequate precipitation events. Drier conditions during May caused drought conditions to expand across the region in coverage. Abnormally dry (D0) conditions covered 44 percent of the Southeast in an area stretching from Virginia through the Carolinas, the southern Florida Peninsula and Puerto Rico. Moderate drought (D1) conditions covered about 20 percent of the region from central Virginia down through the Carolinas and southeastern Puerto Rico, and severe drought (D2) covered around 3 percent of the region mostly in eastern South Carolina. Drought conditions improved across the region through September, due to the precipitation associated with the extraordinary number of tropical cyclones that passed through the area. A warmer and drier October slightly intensified drought conditions across the Southeast, as abnormally dry conditions (D0) increased in coverage across portions of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. By the end of the month, a small pocket of moderate drought (D1) developed in eastern North Carolina. This drought intensified during November and December, with 61 percent of the region under abnormally dry conditions (D0), 28 percent of the region in moderate drought (D1), including most of Virginia and North Carolina and over 10 percent of the region in severe drought (D2), in eastern North Carolina stretching down into South Carolina. Puerto Rico ended the year under drought conditions as well, with much of the island in moderate drought (D1), ringed by abnormally dry conditions (D0), and pockets of severe drought (D2) and extreme drought (D3) across the Virgin Islands. Wet soil was a problem for agriculture in January and February. Farmers had to clean up debris and make repairs to structures damaged by the March tornadoes. Many growers reported total losses of blackberries, apples, and peaches due to the late season freeze that occurred on April 22nd – 23rd. The lack of precipitation and higher temperatures at the end of May increased water usage of plants, and halted the planting of soybean, cotton and peanuts. Leaf curl was reported in tomato plants in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina due to the higher temperatures. Agricultural and livestock production was satisfactory across much of the Southeast in June, and July, due to the adequate rainfall and relative absence of extreme weather. However, rains from Tropical Storm Fred caused disease pressure on field crops and increased pod rot in peanuts, during August. The drier conditions in September and October allowed many farmers to complete cotton and peanut harvesting. Multiple counties experienced freezing conditions and their first frost of the season in November; however, no significant damage was reported. The warm weather toward the end of December allowed vegetable growers to prepare the fields for spring plantings.
- For more information, please visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
High Plains Region (Information provided by the High Plains Regional Climate Center)
- Bismarck, North Dakota: Also observed the warmest year on record. Average temperatures were 47.2 degrees F (8.4 degrees C), which broke the previous record of 46.5 degrees F (8.1 degrees C) from 2016 (period of record 1886-2021)
- Omaha, Nebraska: Warmest December temperature on record at 74.0 degrees F (23.3 degrees C), December 15 (period of record 1871-2021)
- Bottineau, North Dakota: Lowest temperature on record at -51.0 degrees F (-46.1 degrees C), February 13 (period of record 1893-2021)
- Grand Junction, Colorado: Warmest temperature on record at 107 degrees F (41.7 degrees C), July 9 (period of record 1893-2021)
- Bismarck, North Dakota: Most number of 100.0 degree F (37.8 degrees C) in a single year, 15 days
Temperatures across the region were above normal for the year, with the northern part of the region being well above normal. The majority of the region experienced departures of 2.0 degrees F (1.1 degrees C) with isolated parts of North Dakota observing departures of above 5.0 degrees F (2.8 degrees C). The year started with above normal temperatures but cooled off dramatically with a historic outbreak of Arctic air that affected the region during the middle of February. Multiple records were broken during the span of several weeks. Outside of cooler temperatures in March and May, the region experienced above normal temperatures throughout the year.
The following locations had notable temperature records during 2021:
- Sisseton, South Dakota: Warmest year on record. The average temperature was 48.0 degrees F (8.9 degrees C), which broke the previous record of 47.1 degrees F (8.4 degrees C), set in 2016 (period of record 1931-2021)
- Tribune, Kansas reported 5.66 inches (144 mm) of rain on May 16th, which was the highest 1-day total precipitation ever recorded at this location (period of record 1893-2021)/li>
- Denver, Colorado reported its first measurable snow of the season on December 10th surpassing the previous record of November 21st, 1934, by 19 days.
- Grand Forks, North Dakota had its driest July with 0.42 inches (11 mm) of precipitation (period of record 1893-present). This was 3.10 inches (79 mm) below normal.
2021 remained another dry year across the High Plains. The majority of the region experienced below normal precipitation for the year. While late winter and early spring started off wet in the region, that quickly changed as summer began and drought conditions started to expand and worsen throughout the remainder of the year. While only a couple of locations ranked in the top 10 wettest/driest for the year, many locations set new monthly records throughout 2021. Chadron, NE ranked the 5th driest year on record with 11.50 inches (292.1 mm) of precipitation recorded for the year. In contrast, Sisseton, SD had their 8th wettest year on record with a total of 28.98 inches (736.1 mm) of precipitation.
Snowpack for the 2020-21 season was below normal for the region resulting in portions of the upper Missouri River Basin runoff being much lower than average. Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) peaked above Fort Reservoir at the end of March with 86 percent of the normal peak, while the reach between Fort Peck and Garrison Reservoirs peaked at the end of April at 96 percent of the normal peak. Both areas ended the season below average with Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) 80 percent of average above Fort Peck Reservoir and 65 percent of average between Fort Peck and Garrison reservoirs. As a result, as summer began, Basin runoff was 69 percent of average. As this year’s snow season (2021-2022) began, early-season snowpack across the region is below normal as a result of a warmer and drier start to the winter season. While it is still early in the 2021-2022 season, this can become a concern to farmers as they look to spring planting.
The severe weather season in the region was less active for the year. In June, only four tornado warnings were issued across Kansas, which is well below the June average of 29 (based on data going back to 1986). At the end of peak severe weather season in July for the High Plains, every state aside from Colorado was 50 percent below their yearly total for tornadoes, according to the Storm Prediction Center. South Dakota and Nebraska both had their lowest number of severe weather warnings since 1995. Aside from this, there were some extreme severe weather events including an unusual December Derecho that moved across the plains causing damaging winds and tornadoes (see page 4 for details).
The following locations had notable precipitation records during 2021:
- Akron, Colorado had its wettest spring on record with 10.78 inches (274 mm) of precipitation (period of record 1937-2021).
- A Year of Extremes
2021 was a year of extremes in the High Plains. January began the year with above normal temperatures across the region. Monthly temperature departures were as high as 15.0 degrees F (8.3 degrees C) above normal. This warmth led to drought expansion in the Dakotas which is abnormal to see in winter. Historic cold gripped the region in February as bitter cold persisted for 1-2 weeks, which made this event particularly impressive due to its longevity. Avalanche danger was extremely high in the Rockies throughout the winter as early season snowfall was weakened by dry conditions. The Southern portion of the region experienced an extremely wet early spring with above normal precipitation. The heavy precipitation recharged soil moisture and built snowpack in the mountains. Despite this heavy precipitation, flooding was limited in the region due to dry soil conditions. Drought conditions intensified and expanded throughout the spring and persisted through the remainder of the year. Drought conditions were most extreme in the Northern Plains where crops and rangelands were im¬pacted by the lack of moisture and heat. Over 80 percent of pastures and rangeland in the Dakotas were in poor to very poor conditions by the end of the summer. Poor forage, low stock ponds, and pests led to increased cattle sales across the region. The dry conditions and heat impacted crops and led to early maturation and harvest. Pollinators and wildlife were also impacted as a result of drought conditions. Dwindling beehives led to a decrease in the Dakotas honey production this year. Fawn survival rates were lower than average with a lack of forage and some fish populations decreased from low river levels. As 2021 came to an end, 65 percent of the region in D1-D3 conditions, and 88 percent of the region remained in abnormally dry (D0) conditions.
- Historic February Cold: Historic cold impacted the region in February. Many areas in the region observed record-breaking temperatures and temperature departures exceeding 40 degrees F (22.2 degrees C) below normal occurred in Nebraska. The extreme cold was most notable due to its duration which lasted for 1-2 weeks. The Southwest Power Pool, which serves the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas, was most impacted with rolling blackouts and requests to residents to conserve energy until temperatures increased.
- March Precipitation: A slow-moving storm system brought heavy rain and snow over the southern High Plains. Many areas received over 200 percent of their nor¬mal precipitation for the month of March. Numerous daily and monthly records were set, and some locations received more precipitation from this storm than what they would expect for the entire month. While this system caused areas of flooding, road closures, and canceled flights, it did help to replenish soil moisture and improve drought conditions.
- Colorado Mudslides: Localized heavy rains in burn-scarred areas led to multiple mudslides along I-70 in Colorado. Starting in late June, multiple mudslides resulted in the closure of the major interstate and traffic delays. July 29th, more than 100 motorists were trapped on the interstate overnight with some taking shelter in a nearby tunnel. This July event closed I-70 for a record 15 days before debris could be removed to make way for motorists.
- December Derecho: On December 15th, a powerful derecho moved across the High Plains and traveled more than 650 miles across the country. Impacts in our region were observed across Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas. Preceding the storm, daily temperature records were being set all across the region. High winds from the derecho set new daily wind records, created dust storms, and damaged structures and powerlines. Tornadoes also occurred in areas, Nebraska exceeded their previous December tornado record of 5 after 27 tornadoes were confirmed across the state.
- Drought Across the Region: Drought conditions persisted throughout the year with impacts seen across the region. Pastures and rangeland were in poor to very poor conditions, with poor water quality and forage, resulting in increased cattle sales. Extreme heat resulted in earlier than average maturation and harvest for crops as well as pest issues as a result of grasshoppers thriving in warm conditions. Wildlife and pollinators were also impacted with lower than average pronghorn fawn survival rates and dwindling beehive sizes.
- Wildfires: Warm and dry conditions resulted in multiple wildfires across the region this year, the most severe in Wyoming and Montana. Smoke from the wildfires could be seen across the High Plains with hazy skies.
Southern Region (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)
- The year 2021 was moderately warm across the Southern Region of the United States, ranking 17th warmest overall out of 127 years of weather records. That benign statistic, however, conceals some notable weather extremes at both ends of the spectrum. In February 2021, a historic cold wave with multiple winter storms gripped the southern United States and surrounding areas, causing widespread disruption due to the cold and ice. Most of Texas endured multiple days of rolling blackouts during the coldest days, leading to hundreds of fatalities. The extreme temperatures, lack of power, or both led to requirements to boil drinking water that lasted for several days, or in the case of Jackson, MS, several weeks. Many all-time minimum temperature records were set in the Southern Region during February 15-19, including 21 in Texas, 8 in Oklahoma, 8 in Arkansas, and 2 in Louisiana. Most of those records had stood since 1989, the most recent cold air outbreak with temperatures rivalling 2021. Perhaps the coldest event on record in the Southern Region was in February 1899. Only one station broke its 1899 record: Tyler, TX, at -6 °F (-21 °C). Even more unusual were the low daily maximum temperatures during the event, with 44 all-time records in Texas, 12 in Arkansas, and 5 in Oklahoma. The lowest such record was set by Billings, OK, with a maximum temperature on February 16 of 1 °F (-17 °C).
- At the other end of the spectrum, and other end of the year, December was the warmest winter (December-February) month on record for the Southern Region as a whole and for the individual states of Arkansas and Texas, with Oklahoma tying its warmest winter month. The average temperature in the region was 56.6 °F (13.7 °C), which broke the previous December record (from 1933) by a remarkable 4.6 °F (2.6 °C). A total of 1272 individual daily maximum temperature records were broken, mostly in a band from the Texas Panhandle to eastern Tennessee. New record high temperatures for the month were set at 30 stations in Texas, 6 in Oklahoma, 6 in Arkansas, 3 in Mississippi, and 1 in Tennessee. In 137 years of continuous record-keeping, Abilene TX had never before reached 90 °F (32 °C) in December; it did so on December 26.
- The swing from unusual cold to unusual warmth typified 2021 as a whole. The cold of February was bookended by relative warmth in January and March, so that the first three months of the year collectively were near the long-term average. April, May, and July were also relatively cool, but after August, Texas and Oklahoma experienced a succession of months that were warm relative to the historical record. In addition to December, October was also warm throughout the region, leading to the final three months of the year being the warmest October-December on record for the region as a whole and among the top four for all six states.
- Total precipitation for the year ranged from 14th wettest in Mississippi (66.82", or 1697 mm) to 66th wettest in Oklahoma (33.62", or 854 mm). Eight locations had their all-time wettest calendar year, including four with more than 100 years of weather records: Biloxi MS (99.83", or 2536 mm), Gulfport MS (99.13", or 2518 mm), Plaquemine LA (88.99", or 2260), and Dickson TN (76.82", or 1951 mm). No long-term stations had their driest year on record. Across the Southern Region, January and February were slightly drier than the long-term average, March and April were slightly wetter than the long-term average, May through August were each among the wettest twenty of their respective months, and November and December were each among the driest fifteen of their respective months. September and October were a mixed bag, with Louisiana and Mississippi relatively wet in September and near-normal in October, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas relatively dry in September and relatively wet in October, and Tennessee wet in both months. The year ended on a very dry note in those parts of west Texas that received no measurable precipitation during either November or December.
- Several individual events contributed to the larger annual totals. During May 17-18, single-day totals of a foot (250 mm) or more of precipitation fell in or near Baton Rouge LA, Lake Charles LA, and Beaumont TX. According to the Louisiana Department of Health, three deaths were directly attributable to the flooding. During June 8-9, heavy rain produced major flooding in southeast Arkansas and adjoining areas of Mississippi, with the Arkansas Farm Bureau estimating more than $310 million in crop losses. Rohwer AR set its all-time single-day rainfall record with 9.25" (235 mm) on June 8, and then proceeded to break it on June 9 with 9.97" (253 mm). On August 21, extreme but localized flooding occurred in western Middle Tennessee due to a succession of thunderstorm cells forming repeatedly over the same area. Over 700 homes were damaged or destroyed by the flash flood, and there were 20 weather-related fatalities. A rain gauge McEwen TN measured 20.73" (527 mm) in a 24-hour period, establishing a new all-time record not just for the state of Tennessee but for any non-coastal state. Other notable rain events were caused by the tropical cyclones discussed next.
- Three named storms affected the Southern Region in 2021. Of them, Tropical Storm Claudette had the smallest overall impact. It made landfall in Louisiana early on June 18 and drifted northeastward across Mississippi. The greatest rainfall totals were in Alabama, but three CoCoRaHS stations reported more than 10" (254 mm) of precipitation extreme southern Mississippi and nearby portions of Louisiana.
- Hurricane Ida made landfall in a similar location on August 29, but because it was a strong Category 4 hurricane rather than a weak tropical storm, the impacts were vastly greater. Although subject to reappraisal by the National Hurricane Center, the estimated maximum sustained winds of 150 mph (240 km/h) at landfall put it on a par with Laura in 2020 and the Last Island hurricane of 1856 as the strongest hurricanes known to have made landfall in Louisiana. Most fatalities along the Gulf Coast were in Louisiana, with about a dozen killed as a direct result of the storm itself and close to two dozen more estimated to have died as a result of the coastal evacuation and the later power outages. Electrical power was knocked out across much of southeastern Louisiana, including New Orleans, and power had not yet been restored to the hard-hit communities of Port Fourchon and Grand Isle more than a month later. In addition to the storm surge along the coast and the hurricane-force winds that extended well inland, heavy rainfall contributed to flooding and damages. The largest official total was 19.30" (490 mm) at Livingston LA, but data in southeast Louisiana is incomplete due to the evacuations, storm damage, and loss of power. The largest total in Mississippi was 16.18" (411 mm) by a CoCoRaHS observer in Waveland.
- The final named storm was Hurricane Nicholas. Although the storm made landfall in Texas as a minimal hurricane, the greatest impacts were from heavy rain after landfall in Louisiana, where Bunkie recorded its wettest September day on record at 10.60" (269 mm).
- In the first week of 2021, about 31% of the Southern Region was in drought, including 10% in extreme drought and 4% in exceptional drought. During early 2021, the extreme and exceptional drought was primarily in western Texas. Through the remainder of winter and early spring, drought became more widespread in Texas and Oklahoma and was eliminated in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Drought was eliminated early enough along the Mississippi River to not pose a major problem for the establishment of spring crops, but the lingering dry conditions caused crops to get a late start across much of Texas and Oklahoma. During May, drought was increasingly confined to western Texas and Oklahoma, and by the end of July only two spots of moderate drought remained, affecting less than 1% of the Southern Region. The rainfall during the summer was beneficial in allowing crops in Texas and Oklahoma to catch up after their slow start, and the relatively cool temperatures through mid-August permitted most crops to reach maturity before being adversely affected by summer heat.
- Drought began expanding substantially in September, becoming widespread first in Oklahoma, then Texas, then Arkansas and Louisiana. By the last week of 2021 about 54% of the region was in drought, including portions of all six states. The 8% of the region that was in extreme drought was limited to Texas and Oklahoma. The primary impacts of the end-of-year drought were difficulties with winter wheat and low amounts of forage and water for range animals in western Texas and Oklahoma. The end-of-year drought was exacerbated by the record high temperatures in December, and the combination of dry weather, ample dried grasses from the summer growing season, and high winds led to December wildfires in the Texas Panhandle. Because the drought was predominantly short-range, water supply impacts were limited, although some reservoirs in western parts of the region continued declines that had begun prior to 2021.
- Across the Southern Region, there were 406 tornado reports, 1143 hail reports, and 2038 severe wind reports, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.
- On March 27, 2021, an EF-2 tornado caused one death and three injuries near Carthage, Texas.
- On April 28, 2021, there were 81 hail reports in Texas, 18 in Oklahoma, and 2 in Arkansas. Eight of the reports in Texas and Oklahoma had estimated hail diameters of 3" (7.6 cm) or greater. The largest was a hailstone measured at 6.4" (16 cm) in diameter, 19.7" (50 cm) in circumference, and 1.26 lb (0.57 kg) that fell in Hondo, TX. The hailstone was subsequently recognized by NCEI as the Texas state record for largest hailstone.
- During May 3-4, a pair of severe wind events affected much of the Southern Region. The first was a derecho that developed in northeastern Texas late on the afternoon of the 3rd and swept across southeastern Oklahoma, western, central, and northeastern Arkansas, and much of Tennessee overnight and into the morning of May 4. The second was associated with multiple thunderstorm complexes on the afternoon and evening of May 4 in eastern Texas, northern Louisiana, extreme southern Arkansas, and central Mississippi. The strongest winds reported during this event were 87 mph (39 m/s) in Sulphur Springs, Texas.
- An October 27 outbreak produced the strongest tornadoes of the month, including two EF-2 tornadoes in Texas and another in Louisiana, and an EF-1 tornado in Pascagoula MS that caused one fatality.
- The 45 confirmed tornadoes in December made it one of the most active winter months for tornadoes on record. Most of the tornadoes occurred during the tornado outbreak on December 10-11, 2021. While the greatest damage and loss of life was across the border in Kentucky, tornadoes were responsible for two fatalities in Arkansas and five fatalities in Tennessee. Both Arkansas and Tennessee received EF-4 damage from the same tornado, which also passed over Missouri on its way from Arkansas to Tennessee. Arkansas also was struck by two EF-2 tornadoes, while Tennessee had one EF-3 tornado and three EF-2 tornadoes.
- For more information, please visit the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.
Western Region (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)
- Warm and dry conditions persisted for a second year in a row across much of the west leading to drought expansion and intensification through the summer during Calendar Year 2021. A strong Southwest monsoon produced much needed rainfall helping to reduce the drought severity in the region. The 2021 wildfire season in the Western U.S. was very active with large, destructive, and high impact fires throughout the region and especially in California, Oregon, and Colorado (December, 2021).
- Annual temperature departures were above normal for nearly all of the Western U.S. Long-term weather stations reported record warmth in Nevada, Oregon, California, and New Mexico. All western states had stations reporting in the top ten warmest years on record. At the statewide average level every Western state was in the top ten warmest on record since 1895. Winnemucca, Nevada saw its warmest year on record with an annual average temperature 52 °F (11.1°C), +1.4 °F (+0.8 °C) above normal. Boca, California reported its warmest year on record (since 1937) at 46.6 °F (8.1 °C), +2.3 °F (+1.3 °C) above normal. Missoula, Montana logged its second warmest year on record dating back to 1948 at 47.5 °F (8.6 °C), +2.3 °F (+1.3 °C) above normal and Salt Lake City, Utah reported its third warmest year since records began in 1929 at 56.2 °F (13.4 °C), +1.5 °F (+0.8 °C) above normal.
- Annual precipitation totals were well below normal across Montana, eastern Washington, Oregon, southern Nevada, and southern California. At the statewide level Montana recorded its ninth driest year since 1895 with several stations reporting record dryness. Butte, Montana logged 6.49 in (164.85 mm; 51% of normal) and Lewiston, Montana received 10.91 in (277.11 mm, 64% of normal); both locations were the driest on record with data going back over 100 years. Walla Walla, Washington also saw its driest year on record since 1949 with 11.71 in (297.43 mm, 62% of normal). Central and southern Arizona was one of the only places in the West to have well above normal precipitation for the year thanks to an active Monsoon for the first time in several years. Tucson, Arizona recorded 15.19 in (385.83 mm, 143% of normal) making it the seventh wettest year on record.
- The spatial extent and severity of the drought in West peaked over the summer with some improvements later in the year due to autumn and early winter (December 2021) storms. Improvements were also made in the Southwest throughout the summer due an active monsoon season. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 75% of the West was in drought at the beginning of the year with 24% of the region in exceptional drought (D4). By the end of 2021, 89% of the West was in drought but the extent of D4 was reduced to just 6% of the area.
- In Alaska, annual temperatures were below normal across much of the state with some locations near-to-slightly above normal. The average annual temperature in Anchorage was 35.8 °F (2.1 °C), -1.8 °F (-1.0 °C) below normal and in Fairbanks was 28 °F (-2.2 °C), -0.3 °F (-0.15 °C) below normal. On the North Slope, Utqiagvik recorded its 13th warmest year on record at 13.9 °F (-10.1 °C), +0.2 °F (+0.12 °C) above normal. Precipitation for the year was well above normal in the western part of the state and parts of the interior, below normal across much of southcentral, and near-to-slightly above normal in the Panhandle. Fairbanks logged its wettest year since records began in 1930 with 18.74 in (476 mm; 161% of normal) and Nome recorded its eighth wettest year on record with 24.11 in (612.39 mm; 140% of normal).
- Much of extent of the Hawaiian Islands saw above normal annual precipitation totals which helped to improve and completely ameliorate drought conditions in some cases. Hilo recorded 137.97 in (3555.24 mm; 116% of normal), Kahului logged 23.76 in (603.5 mm; 147% of normal), and Honolulu received 21.34 in (542.04; 130% of normal). The spatial extent of drought peaked in early December when 57% of the state was in moderate drought (D1) or worse. Thanks to heavy rainfall in early December drought spatial extent was reduced to just 2% of the area, all D1, by the end of December.
- Heavy snowfall accumulations in the Sierra Nevada (January 25–29): Multiple storms dumped 4 to 6+ feet of snow to the Greater Lake Tahoe region leading to extreme avalanche danger, vehicular accidents, and road closures along Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 395 (Eastern Sierra Nevada). In the southern Sierra, Mammoth Mountain recorded more than 9 feet of snow.
- Heavy rains and snowfall on Hawaii Island (January 24–27): The summits of Mauna Kea (13,803 ft; 4,207 m) and Mauna Loa (13,679 ft; 4169 m) observed 6+ inches of snow while heavy rains soaked the lower elevations of the windward slopes with the Glenwood 54.2 station recording a daily record rainfall of 7.56 in (192 mm) on Jan 24 and 16.52 in (420 mm) from Jan 24 to 27.
- Widespread western US avalanches throughout February: The heavy snowfall in February that bolstered the Intermountain West's water resources came with a downside. Early winter drought produced a shallow snowpack in the western US that weakened due to temperature gradient metamorphism and allowed the formation of weak layers within the snowpack. When loaded with subsequent snowfall, these weak layers created widespread deep persistent slab problems, one of the most difficult to forecast avalanche hazards. Heavy snowfall and wind transport of snow created other avalanche problems. Between February 1-8, 14 avalanche fatalities occurred in the West, with three incidents involving multiple fatalities. Including an additional fatality in the northeastern US, this is the largest number of fatalities in an eight-day span since the US Forest Service began tracking avalanche deaths in 1951 (an avalanche year is akin to a water year). During February 2021, 25 people were killed in avalanches in the West, which is two fewer than the annual US average (27).
- Major winter storm impacts Colorado and Wyoming (Mar 13-15): Heavy snow and blizzard-like conditions impacted eastern portions of Colorado and Wyoming causing road closures, power outages, and numerous flight cancellations. Storm-total accumulations surpassed four feet in the northern Front Range and record-breaking single-day snowfall accumulations (Mar 14) were observed at numerous locations including Boulder (17.5 in; 444 mm), Cheyenne (18.1 in; 460 mm), Denver Intl AP (19.9 in; 505 mm), and Ft. Collins (16.8 in; 427 mm).
- Persistent drought conditions lower fuel moistures to record levels (April): Chaparral ecosystems are found throughout California. Climatologically, April is when these fire-prone shrublands indicate their highest live fuel moistures. However, following back-to-back dry winters (2020 and 2021) and a 2020 warm season characterized by multiple heat waves and extreme vapor pressure deficits, live fuel moisture samples from the chamise plant were found to be at record low levels with no new growth observed. The conditions of these indicator species highlight not only a critically stressed ecosystem, but also the extreme fire hazard that will characterize the dry season of 2021 in the lower elevations. At middle-to-upper elevations, not just in California but West-wide, the well-below average snowpack is already undergoing rapid melt. This will lead to earlier drying of soils and fuels, promoting conditions favorable for wildfire ignition and spread, with standing dead fuels favoring higher intensity wildfire.
- Lake Mead, Nevada falls below critical water shortage threshold (May): In late May the elevation of the water surface in Lake Mead fell below 1,075 feet which is the threshold for a Tier 1 federal water shortage. The lake also fell below this mark in 2015 and 2016 but recovered leading to no shortage being declared. Projections for the US Bureau of Reclamation show no recovery for 2021 and continued declines into 2022. If these projections hold true the first-ever shortage on the Colorado River would be declared in August 2021 and restrictions would go into effect January 1, 2022. Nevada and Arizona would be impacted the most by these restrictions while water deliveries to California would not be implemented in the Tier 1 phase.
- Pacific Northwest Heatwave Sets New All-Time Maximum Temperatures (June): Many locations in the Pacific Northwest broke previous all-time maximum temperatures between June 27-29. Portland, OR, where records began in 1894, set its new all-time high temperature of 110 °F (43.3 °C). The Portland Airport reached 116 °F (46.7 °C), its highest since record keeping began in 1940. In southern OR, with records since 1900, Roseburg has a new record high of 114 °F (45.5 °C). Further north in WA, The Dalles measured 118 °F (47.8 °C), its highest since records started in 1948. This value tied the all-time WA state record. Coastal communities also experienced extreme heat. With records beginning in 1968, Quillayute, WA, achieved its highest all-time temperature of 110 °F (43.3 °C). The Seattle, WA, weather forecast office, where record keeping began in 1894, reached 107 °F (41.7 °C).
- Fires in the Southern Cascades (June): Extreme drought in the southern Cascades of northern California coinciding with the exceptional heatwave of late June came to a head with a suite of wildfire ignitions. The Lava Fire (25k acres) was ignited by lightning on the northern flank of Mt. Shasta. During late afternoon periods of peak atmospheric instability, the Lava Fire underwent extreme fire behavior and formed pyrocumulus that was widely misinterpreted as a volcanic eruption. Several miles to the northeast, the Tennant Fire (10k acres; cause under investigation) was ignited. A few days later, the Salt Fire (11k acres, cause under investigation) ignited to the southwest along the northern margin of Lake Shasta near Interstate 5, burning high value private timber and recently planted timber plantations.
- Lake Powell Hits Record Low (July): On July 24 Lake Powell, the nation's second largest reservoir, dropped below 3,555.1 feet elevation bringing it to the lowest level since 1969 when it was first filled and to 33% of capacity. Due to the low water level emergency water releases from several upstream reservoirs in multiple states will take place in the coming months to maintain hydropower production at Glen Canyon Dam. Lake Powell feeds into Lake Mead downstream, the nation’s largest reservoir, which is already at a record low water level. The low water levels will for the first time trigger an official federal shortage declaration later this summer impacting primarily Nevada and Arizona.
- August 11–12 Brings Another Pacific Northwest Heatwave: The Pacific Northwest endured an additional notable multiday span of anomalously hot temperatures between August 11–12. During this event, Portland, OR, experienced two days of temperatures greater than 100 °F (37.8 °C), bringing the 2021 total to five. Normally, Portland observes an average of one day exceeding 100 °F per year. In addition to numerous impacts to public health, particularly in underprivileged communities and other vulnerable populations (e.g., older populations without access to air conditioning), the additional round of heat in August will likely further stress terrestrial and marine ecosystems already damaged by the June heatwave.
- Monsoon Rains Cause Severe Flooding in Arizona (August): The return of summer thunderstorms to southern Arizona and New Mexico brought much-needed moisture to this drought-stricken region. However, heavy rainfall caused flash flooding in small and large communities. In Gila Bend, AZ, (Maricopa County), severe flooding occurred between August 13–14. This rainfall led to a state of emergency declaration by the local government. At least two deaths were reported with dozens requiring rooftop rescues via helicopter. Urban flooding occurred in Phoenix, AZ, on August 18 with numerous impacts to roads and other infrastructure.
- Early season landfalling atmospheric river in the Pacific Northwest (September): A strong landfalling atmospheric river event on September 16-19 brought upwards of 5 in (250 mm) of precipitation to the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula and the North Cascades with 2-3 in (50-75 mm) in other mountain regions. 1-2 in (25-50 mm) was recorded in lower elevation regions. With numerous large wildfires ongoing throughout the region, this precipitation helped raise fuel moistures and decrease fire activity. These effects reduced smoke output from ongoing fires leading to improved air quality across the region and in areas downstream. The strongly orographic precipitation pattern produced notable precipitation gradients, with leeside regions receiving substantially less precipitation (0-0.5 in; 0-13 mm) than windward regions.
- Multiple atmospheric rivers (ARs) make landfall along West coast October 19-26: The first two events produced AR 4 (extreme on the AR scale) conditions in southwest Oregon. The third and strongest event produced AR 5 (exceptional; highest on scale) conditions over central California with maximum observed integrated vapor transport values greater than 1000 kg m-1 s-1. Flooding, landslides, downed trees, and power outages were observed throughout the region. Despite more than 15 in (381 mm) of precipitation for some areas, major reservoir storage in the region is still below normal due to dry conditions over the past two years. Lake Oroville, California's second largest reservoir, gained over 150,000 acre-feet of storage in just three days bringing the reservoir up to 54% of average (28% of capacity) by the end of the month. Folsom Lake, south of Oroville on the west slope of the Sierra, improved to 75% of average storage by the end of the month.
- Series of atmospheric rivers impact northern Washington residents (November): The northern Washington town of Sumas located near the Canadian border, population about 1,600, reported about 75% of homes in the town were damaged by flood waters in mid-November following a series of atmospheric rivers. The storms also knocked out power for more than 24 hours. Road closures due to mudslides were also reported in the region. Luckily, no injuries or deaths were reported.
- Sustained extreme snowfall in the southern Cascades and Sierra Nevada (December): A week-long snowstorm lasting from December 24-30 associated with a deep offshore trough, copious moisture transport, and favorable jet stream orientation brought the most December snow in over 40 years to the region. The Central Sierra Snow Laboratory, located on Donner Summit, CA, recorded 214 in. (5437 mm) of snow during December. This storm was a boon for water resources and winter recreation as it brought the southern Cascades and Sierra Nevada from essentially no snow to well-above average (many SNOTEL stations finished December at 150-250% of average) for the date. The low elevation snowfall, heavy precipitation, and strong winds caused multi-day closures of major roads and widespread multi-day power outages in rural communities. Holiday travelers and residents were stranded for days in the mountains.