July 2012: Exceptional Drought and Tornado Drought

By Samantha Kramer, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
August 02, 2012; 4:18 AM
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From a historically low number of tornadoes to exceptional drought and heat across much of the nation, July was a month of extremes.

(Photo courtesy of Photos.com)

The Tornado Drought

In the United States, July 2012 saw one of the lowest numbers of tornadoes on record since 1951.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 12 "preliminary" tornadoes in the month of July, a number which usually drops after the administration investigates the actual counts. Last July, however, a total of 103 tornadoes were counted, which is even lower than the three-year average between 2009-2011 of 122 tornadoes.

"It's hard to compare this July to other Julys for tornadoes because it's so far below what we've seen historically," Research Meteorologist at NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory Harold Brooks said.

RELATED: Record Low July Tornadoes, but Not Winds

The jet stream responsible for tornado-producing wind shear moved farther north into Canada. The result was a burst in tornado activity in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, which borders Montana and North Dakota.

Canada's official weather office Environment Canada reported between 26 and 31 tornadoes in Saskatchewan, more than double the province is used to seeing in July. On July 24, five tornadoes hit Saskatchewan in one day.

The Haboob Hubbub

A haboob is defined as a dust storm with strong winds created by a thunderstorm downburst.

Phoenix, Ariz., has been hit by seven of these dirt storms in the 2012 summer, with five of them occurring in July. According to NOAA, the city experiences an average of three haboobs per year from June to September.

The most recent haboob occurring just yesterday in Sun Lakes, Ariz., these storms can reduce visibility to near-zero.

Because this summer is transiting into an El Nino, AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said the United States should experience a particularly "robust" monsoon season.

More thunderstorm activity from an active monsoon season could be the fuel behind the fire of Phoenix's haboobs.

The Heat

This July, 171 all-time high-temperature records were broken or tied throughout the country, according to NOAA.

Additionally, a total of 4,313 daily highs and 299 monthly highs were matched or broken in July. Adding to June's total of 4,100 records (daily, monthly and all-time combined) this summer is in the running to be the hottest ever recorded.

RELATED: July is Over: Horrid Heat Numbers are In

Along with the heat, much of the Great Plains struggled with drought conditions. In the "High Plains," which the U.S. Drought Monitor denotes as Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, 76 percent of the region was experiencing severe drought.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 56 percent of the contiguous United States are experiencing drought conditions, the most widely spread drought in the Monitor's 12-year history.

The Northwest was an exception: Alaska actually broke 43 daily-high precipitation records in July. Nome, Alaska, received almost triple the amount of normal rainfall for July and was 0.73 inches away from getting a month's worth of rain in just one day. The state of Washington also broke or matched 73 daily-high precipitation records and 2 all-time high records.

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