April’s extreme weather continues in May



Top: Mississippi floodwaters inundate Memphis, Tenn., May 10 as seen by the Landsat 5 satellite (left image). The right image shows the same view from April 21, 2010. Bottom: Flooding in Arkansas as seen on May 10 by NASA’s Aqua satellite (left image). The right image shows the same view from April 29, 2011. (Credit: Top: NASA Earth Observatory/United States Geological Survey; Bottom: NASA Goddard/MODIS Rapid Response Team)

WASHINGTON — The Mississippi River reached nearly 48 feet in Memphis, Tenn., May 10, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It was the highest water level for Memphis since 1937.

And so April’s chaotic, extreme weather continues. Here’s what happened, U.S. weatherwise, in April 2011, just in case you’re blocking it from your memory:

What? No locusts?

Historic flooding, a record-breaking tornado outbreak and devastating wildfire activity made April 2011 a month of historic climate extremes across much of the United States, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

The average U.S. temperature in April was 52.9 degrees F, which is 0.9 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average.

April precipitation was 0.7 inches above the long-term average, the 10th wettest April on record.

Historic flooding

Fueled by record-setting precipitation totals, historic and near-historic flooding occurred throughout the Midwest and Ohio Valley, from the smallest streams to the largest rivers.

The Ohio Valley region had its wettest April on record and it was the second wettest for the Northeast.

Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania each had their wettest April since 1895.

An average of 11.88 inches of precipitation fell across Kentucky, nearly three times its long-term average, breaking the previous record (7.61 inches in 1972) by more than four inches.

Regional droughts

Nationally, the overall drought footprint across the contiguous U.S. remained above average, but decreased slightly from the beginning of the month to approximately 22 percent.

Much of this very intense drought is focused in the Southern Plains and Southern Rockies.

In Texas, the drought intensified, making it the fifth driest April on record. The U.S. Drought Monitor classified 94 percent of the state as “Severe” (the D2 category) to “Exceptional” (D4, the most intense designation) drought.


A record-breaking 1.79 million acres burned across the country in April. Texas, where over 2.2 million acres have burned since January, again bore the brunt of the wildfire activity.


According to data from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, the number of confirmed tornadoes for the month may approach the previous all-time monthly record of 542 tornadoes which struck the U.S. in May 2003.

Abnormal temps

Much of the southern and eastern U.S. experienced above-normal warmth in April.

Based on preliminary data, Delaware had its warmest such month on record. It was the fourth warmest April for Virginia and the fifth warmest for Texas.

On the flip side, the Northwest was much cooler than normal during April. Washington State (second coolest, five degrees F below their long-term average), Oregon (fifth coolest) and Idaho (10th coolest) were all much cooler than normal.


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