National Climate Report - October 2003

Maps and Graphics:

Current Month Most Recent 3 Months Most Recent 6 Months
Most Recent 12 Months US Percent Area Very Wet/Dry/Warm/Cold

Monthly Drought Indices
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National Overview:

Temperatures were significantly above average nationally for October. Warmth that has been persistent in the West for many months also spread across much of the central states this month, with the east coast remaining near average or slightly cooler than average, especially in the Northeast.

Precipitation was less than average across much of the country in October with only the extreme Northeast and Northwest receiving significantly above average rainfall.

For additional details, see the Monthly Highlights section. For details and graphics on weather events across the U.S. and the globe go to NCDC's Global Hazards page.

The Atlantic Basin had above average activity in terms of the number of named storms in 2003. As of October 31st, 14 named storms had developed, which is well above the 1944-1996 average of 9.8, but consistent with a marked increase in the annual number of tropical systems since the mid 1990s (1995-2002 average = 13.3). Six of the named storms were classified as hurricanes and three of those were 'major' (category three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale) See the Atlantic Hurricane page for further details.

In the Eastern North Pacific, the season began slowly, though 16 named storms had developed as of the end of October. None of the storms reached hurricane strength until Hurricane Ignacio in late August, however seven storms had reached hurricane strength by October 31st, with one of those reaching 'major' status. The 1966-1996 average for the Eastern Pacific is for 16.4 storms to form. The 1995-2002 average is slightly lower than this at 12.8. See the East Pacific Hurricane page for more details.

Indices used to determine the state of ENSO suggest that the Equatorial Pacific is in a neutral ENSO phase and Sea Surface Temperatures are slightly above normal across the eastern equatorial Pacific. To see the latest NOAA advisory and typical impacts of a La Nina or El Nino episode for the U.S., go to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
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Monthly and Seasonal Highlights:


  • October 2003 ranked as the 8th warmest October in the 1895 to present record. The preliminary nationally averaged temperature was 57.0°F (13.9°C), which was 2.3°F (1.3°C) above the long-term mean.
  • October 2003 was drier than average for precipitation nationally, ranking 30th driest. The West region and center of the U.S. were mostly dry, while the Northeast and extreme Northwest were wet for October.

    For tables of national, regional, statewide and selected city data from 1895-present, for October, last 3 months or other periods, please go to the Climate At A Glance page

  • August-October temperature was above average and ranked as the 7th warmest such period in the 1895 to present record. The preliminary nationally averaged temperature for August-October was 65.8°F (18.8°C) which was 1.4°F (0.8°C) above the long-term mean.
  • August-October 2003 was near average for precipitation in 2003, ranking 51st driest in the last 109 years.

  • November 2002-October 2003 ranked as the 18th warmest such 12 months in the 1895 to present record. The preliminary nationally averaged temperature was 53.6°F (12.0°C) which was 0.8°F (0.4°C) above the long-term mean.
  • Precipitation was average to slightly above average for November-October leading to a rank of 41st wettest for the last 12 months based on a record of 108 such periods.

    Regional and Statewide:

  • October 2003 ranked much above average temperature for 12 states, with 2 of those states (CA and NV) averaging record warm out of 109 Octobers.
  • Alaska was much warmer than average for October 2003, with a positive anomaly of 6.5°F(3.6°C).
  • October was much wetter than average for 4 states, with 2 western states much drier than average. Most of the West and center of the country were drier than average.
  • For the Hard Red Winter Wheat Belt, preliminary data indicate that precipitation was less than average for October. The growing season for the Hard Red Winter Wheat is October-February.
  • The 3 month period, August-October, was record warm for 4 western states and also for the West and Northwest regions.
  • August-October 2003 was especially dry for the Upper Mississippi Valley, and also drier than average for much of the West over the 3 months. In the the northeastern region, 13 states were significantly wetter than the long term mean.
  • The last 12 months were record wet for 3 Mid-Atlantic states, as was the Southeast region as a whole. Dry conditons remained in many northern and western states.

See NCDC's Monthly Extremes web-page for weather and climate records for the month of October.
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It should be emphasized that all of the temperature and precipitation ranks and values are based on preliminary data. The ranks will change when the final data are processed.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: National Climate Report for October 2003, published online November 2003, retrieved on January 16, 2018 from