Spring Temps broil U.S. like never before

Monday, June 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mop your brow and read all about it: Spring 2000 was the hottest on record for the United States.

The National Climatic Data Center reported Friday that meteorological spring — March through May — averaged 55.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the United States. That's 0.4 degrees warmer than the previous record, set in 1910.

The agency also noted that the United States experienced the hottest January-May in 106 years of record keeping, a report sure to stir the debate over the potential threat of global warming.

On a global basis, land and ocean surface temperature readings also were warmer than normal, tying 1990 as the second warmest spring on record. But satellite-derived readings measuring the lower atmosphere didn't produce the same result, with colder than normal waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean holding down readings so that the globally averaged temperature as measured by satellite was 0.07 degrees below normal for spring.

Climatologist Jay Lawrimore of the data center said he is reluctant to blame global warming directly for the unusual heat in the United States.

``However,'' he added, ``there is the possibility that there is some impact from global warming and it is amplifying the normal oscillations in our climate.''

It's unusual to have every state above normal for a season, he said, noting that ordinarily some states are above normal, some near normal and some below.

In addition to topping the 1910 record for spring warmth, 2000 was 3.3 degrees above average for the period, according to data compiled by the data center, located in Asheville, N.C. The center is part of the government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The agency said that every state in the continental U.S. was warmer than normal during spring, with Texas experiencing its hottest spring on record.

It was the second warmest spring in New Mexico and more than 20 additional states ranked within the top ten warmest spring seasons on record.

For the five-month January to May period the nation's average temperature was 48.5 degrees. The old record of 47.4 degrees was set in 1986.

The heat contributed to worsening drought conditions in many areas of the country, the agency noted. Parts of the Southeast, Midwest and Southwest are under severe to extreme drought, causing crop damage and creating the need for water rationing in many areas.

It was the third driest January-May period on record for Florida, eighth driest for Mississippi and tenth driest for Louisiana, the report said.

Looking ahead, Lawrimore said, ``there's really not a lot of hope this summer ... we are expecting a continuation of above normal temperatures and not enough precipitation to actually bring much relief. There might be a tropical system that could being relief to the Southeast, however, then you have the problem of flooding,'' he said.

While many areas were extremely dry during the first five months of the year, the Northeast received much above normal moisture. New York had its second wettest such period and Vermont had the third wettest January-May.

Worldwide, it was the 24th consecutive March-May period in which temperatures were warmer than average over the northern hemisphere, the report said.

But it noted that readings in the tropics were lower than average because of the La Nina phenomenon, a large area of colder than normal water in the Pacific Ocean that has impacts on the weather worldwide.

A rundown of the average spring temperature this year for each region of the United States, and the reading in a normal year.

—Northeast: 46.8 degrees this year, 44.4 degrees normal. Includes New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware).

—East North Central: 47.4, 43.3. (Includes Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan).

—Central: 55.4, 53.1. (Includes Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee).

—Southeast: 63.8, 62.0. (Includes Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida.)

—West North Central: 46.0, 42.6. (Includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming).

—South: 65.0, 62.2. (Includes Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi).

—Southwest: 54.0, 50.2. (Includes Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah).

—Northwest: 47.4, 45.3. (Includes Washington, Oregon and Idaho).

—West: 56.0, 52.6. (Includes Nevada and California).