Sep 15, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Mapped: America's extreme summer weather of 2022

Data: NOAA; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

It was a relentlessly hot summer in much of the U.S., especially across the Plains, Southwest and West, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The big picture: While each month had its own quirks, there were two constants: extreme heat in Texas and Oklahoma and damaging flash flooding in multiple locations across the country as rainfall records were shattered.

  • For meteorological summer, which runs from June 1 through Aug. 31, the U.S. average temperature was 2.5°F above average for the season. This made it the third-hottest summer in 128 years, NOAA found.
  • Texas, Rhode Island and Massachusetts each had their second-warmest summers on record, while seventeen other states in the West, South and Northeast had one of their top 10 warmest summers.
  • The drought that covered 49% of the Lower 48 states at the start of the summer was less expansive by the end of the season. This was thanks in large part to showers and thunderstorms associated with the Southwest Monsoon.
  • The welcome rain fell across parts of Arizona, Nevada, Texas, California and New Mexico.

Zoom in: If you look closely at the July precipitation map, you can see a green splotch across eastern Missouri and southern Illinois, and another in large parts of eastern Kentucky. These were the locations of damaging, and in Kentucky's case, deadly, 1,000-year rainfall events.

  • More of these torrential rainstorms, which some refer to as "rain bombs," occurred during August as well, yielding 1,000-year totals that prompted flash floods in unlikely places, like Death Valley, California.
  • On Aug. 5, Death Valley National Park set its all-time 24-hour rainfall record of 1.7 inches, which caused damage to roads and cars as flash floods wiped out infrastructure across the desert landscape.
  • Another dark green area on the August precipitation map is seen across the Dallas, Texas, area, which also saw a 1,000-year rainfall event on Aug. 22.
  • Climate change is making extreme rainfall events more likely to occur and more intense, which can worsen flash flooding events.

Of note: A 1,000-year rainfall event has a 0.1% chance of occurring in any given year.

Between the lines: Heat waves are also becoming more severe, frequent and longer lasting with climate change.

The bottom line: Globally, the Northern Hemisphere saw its second-hottest meteorological summer on record, NOAA found, while the year-to-date for the world overall ranks as the sixth warmest.

Go deeper: In photos: A summer of drought and fire

Go deeper