Climate of 2008
October in Historical Perspective

National Climatic Data Center
18 November 2008

Contents of this Report:

Selected Global Significant Events for October 2008

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Major Highlights

NOAA: Near Average Temperature and Precipitation in U.S. for October;
West North Central U.S Much Wetter than Average
Second Warmest October for Global Temperatures

October 2008 temperature and precipitation were near the long-term average for the contiguous United States, according to an analysis by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., based on records dating back to 1895.

The average October temperature of 54.5 degrees F was 0.3 degree F below the 20th Century average, based on preliminary data. Precipitation across the contiguous United States in October averaged 2.10 inches, which is 0.10 inch below the 1901-2000 average.

The combined global land and ocean surface average temperature for October 2008 was the second warmest since records began in 1880, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

U.S. Temperature Highlights

October temperatures were cooler than average across the southern Plains, Southeast, and Northeast U.S., and warmer than average in the Southwest and western U.S.

The western United States had its ninth warmest August-October period on record. This contrasted with the South which had its seventh coolest August-October.

Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand was 4.3 percent above average in October.

U.S. Precipitation Highlights

The United States measured above-average precipitation across much of the Great Plains from the Texas panhandle to the Dakotas and Minnesota. However, October was drier than average across much of the West, the western Gulf Coast States, and the mid-Atlantic States.

It was the seventh wettest October in the 1895-2008 record for the region which includes Montana, Nebraska, the Dakotas and Wyoming. Last month also was among the top 10 wettest Octobers for Kansas and North and South Dakota. Nebraska had its wettest October on record, with a statewide average of 4.43 inches of precipitation.

Persistent dryness during the last three months resulted in the third driest August-October on record for Nevada, fifth driest for Kentucky, sixth driest for Idaho, seventh driest for Ohio, ninth driest for West Virginia, and tenth driest for Wisconsin.

Drought conditions across the United States showed little change during October. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, only slight improvements were seen in the northern Plains and parts of the Southeast, while minor worsening occurred in parts of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys, southern Texas, the Pacific Northwest, and Wisconsin.

At the end of October, 22 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate-to-exceptional drought, a slight decrease compared to last month. Meanwhile, extreme-to-exceptional drought conditions persisted in the western Carolinas, northeast Georgia, eastern Tennessee, southern Texas, and Hawai'i.

About 29 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in moderately-to-extremely wet conditions as of the end of October, according to the Palmer Index, an increase of about three percent compared to last month.

Other U.S. Highlights

A significant winter storm brought heavy snowfall to areas of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho on October 10-12. The storm brought record snowfall. As much as 33 inches of snow was measured in several Wyoming counties, with Red Lodge, Mont., reporting 42 inches of new snow.

At the end of October, large wildfires were active in California, Utah, Arizona and Oklahoma. From January 1 through October 31st, nearly 74,000 fires had burned 5,052,109 acres across the country. October saw 6,392 new fires, which is third highest in the 1999-2008 period.

Global Temperature Highlights

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for October was 58.23 degrees F — 1.13 degrees F above the 20th century mean of 57.1 degrees F.

Separately, the global land surface temperature was 50.72 degrees F — 2.02 degrees F above the 20th century mean of 48.7 degrees F, ranking as the warmest October on record. Much of the unusual warmth occurred over Asia, Australia, and Eastern Europe.

The global ocean surface temperature of 61.41 degrees F tied October 2005 as sixth warmest on record and was 0.81 degree F above the 20th century mean of 60.6 degrees F.

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for January-October was 58.25 degrees F — 0.85 degree above the 20th century mean of 57.4 degrees F and ranking as the 9th warmest January-October on record.

Other Global Highlights

Arctic sea ice coverage during October was at its third lowest extent since satellite records began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Average ice extent during October was 3.24 million square miles, which is 9.5 percent below the 1979-2000 average. The record lowest extent for October, set in 2007, was 2.55 million square miles. Arctic sea ice extent has been declining by an average of 5.4 percent per decade over the past 30 years.

Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during October 2008 was 6.48 million square miles, which is below the 1967-2008 average and ranks as the ninth lowest October extent.

In early October, Hurricane Norbert became the most powerful 2008 hurricane in the eastern Pacific when it reached Category 4 strength. The storm weakened when it struck Mexico's southern Baja California on October 11, but still brought heavy rain, strong winds, and widespread flooding to the islands of Santa Margarita and Magdelena. Norbert tracked across the Gulf of California and made a second landfall on October 12 on the Mexican mainland Sonora Coast.

Hurricane Omar developed in the Caribbean Sea on October 13. Omar reached Category 3 strength and was the first hurricane to strike the Leeward Islands from the west since Hurricane Lenny in 1999.

In the western Pacific, slow-moving Tropical Storm 22W brought torrential rains to parts of Southeast Asia. On October 11-14, the South China island province of Hainan suffered flash floods in low-lying areas which forced thousands of people to flee more than 150 villages. The storm's rains affected northern Vietnam during October 15-20, triggering flash floods that damaged more than 11,000 hectares of crops. Daily rainfall amounts of 12 to18 inches were reported from the storm.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, October 2008 was an exceptionally dry month in central and southeastern Australia, ranking as the driest October on record for South Australia, second driest for Tasmania, and third driest for Victoria. This was the second successive very dry month in these areas. Parts of Australia have been experiencing drought conditions for over a decade.

Report Index

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to the top United States Drought


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