The average annual temperature of the contiguous United States was 53.4 degrees F, which is 1.4 degrees F warmer than average, ranking in the warmest third of the record.
Annual precipitation for the contiguous United States was 28.35 inches, 1.59 inches less than average, ranking in the driest third of the historical record.
There were 18 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events identified during 2022 – the third-most disaster count and the third-costliest year in the 43-year record.
Hurricane Ian devastated parts of Florida in September and was the third-costliest U.S. hurricane on record, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
The preliminary tornado count for 2022 was about average with 1,331 tornadoes reported.
The Hermits Peak Fire became the largest wildfire on record in New Mexico at more than 341,000 acres consumed between April and June. More than 66,000 fires burned about 7.5 million acres across the United States this past year, which is about average.
Drought coverage across the contiguous United States remained significant for the second year in a row, with a minimum extent of 44 percent occurring Sept. 6 and a maximum coverage of 63 percent Oct. 25 – the largest contiguous U.S. footprint since the drought of 2012.
Drought impacted much of the western half of the United States for a majority of the year, with many major reservoirs at or close to record-low levels.
Of the contiguous United States, 40 percent or more has been in drought for the past 119 weeks. That’s a record in the 22-year U.S. Drought Monitor history. The previous record was 68 consecutive weeks from June 2012 to October 2013).
For the year temperatures were warmer than average from the West Coast to the Gulf of Mexico and from Florida to New England and into the Great Lakes. Florida and Rhode Island ranked fifth-warmest while Massachusetts ranked sixth-warmest in the 128-year record. Four additional states experienced a top-10 warmest January-December on record. A heatwave across the southern Plains began in April and lasted well into the summer, giving Texas its warmest and fourth-driest April to July on record.
The Alaska January-December temperature was 28.6 degrees F, 2.6 degrees F warmer than the long-term average, ranking 16th warmest in the 98-year record for the state. Warmer than average temperatures were observed across the vast majority of the state for that annual period.
Precipitation was more than average across the lower Mississippi Valley to New England, portions of the northern Plains, Great Lakes, and parts of the Pacific Northwest, Southwest and Rockies. Precipitation was less than average across much of the West, central and southern Plains, and parts of the Great Lakes and Southeast. Nebraska ranked fourth-driest while California ranked ninth-driest on record.
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Drought expanded across the West in early 2022 and reached a peak coverage of 91.3 percent of the region as of May 3. Drought coverage across the West shrank as the summer monsoon reduced some of the coverage in the Southwest. The multi-year western-U.S. drought resulted in water stress and shortages across many locations in 2022; some major reservoirs dropped to their lowest levels on record.
Extreme short-term dryness across the Ohio and Tennessee valleys during late summer-early fall, combined with persistent dryness across the Missouri and Arkansas-White-Red River basins, resulted in reduced streamflow in the Mississippi River. It was at the lowest water levels in a decade, closing off a vital channel to barge traffic at a crucial time of the year for transport of crops from the nation’s heartland.
Snowfall during the 2021-2022 snow season began in earnest with several atmospheric river events that brought early accumulations to parts of the Sierra, Cascades and central Rockies in October and December 2021. The snow season across the West waned during the second half of winter and ended with less-than-average snowpack across much of the region. From the central Plains to the Great Lakes and into the Northeast, snowfall was less than average in December 2021. By January 2022, snow cover was more than average across portions of the northern Plains, Midwest, Great Lakes, and from the Appalachians to the Northeast. February remained well less than average from the northeastern Rockies to the central Plains and across the central Appalachians.
The 2022-2023 snow season was off to a good start during December 2022 after a powerful arctic front brought heavy snow across much of the country. More than 55 percent of the contiguous United States was covered by snow across much of the Pacific Northwest and mountainous West to the Tennessee Valley, and from the Tennessee Valley to New England on Christmas Eve. During the last week of December and first week of January 2023, a series of strong atmospheric rivers ushered in copious amounts of rain to much of California and snow to the Sierra Nevada Range, helping to reduce drought and build the winter snowpack.
The 2022 preliminary tornado count was about 9 percent more than the 1991-2020 annual average across the contiguous United States, with 1,331 tornadoes reported. March had triple the average number of tornadoes reported at 293 and the most tornadoes reported for any March in the 1950-2022 record.
Supercell thunderstorms traversed Iowa and produced multiple tornadoes March 5. The first EF4 tornado in Iowa since October 2013 was confirmed and had the second-longest tornado path in Iowa since 1980. Six fatalities were reported with that tornado.
Nov. 4-5 a tornado outbreak occurred across portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. A total of 31 tornadoes was confirmed by the National Weather Service, including two EF4 tornadoes, which brought significant damage to the region including mass power outages.
Nov. 29-30, severe storms and tornadoes swept through parts of the South, downing trees and damaging homes in parts of Alabama and Mississippi. The National Weather Service confirmed 11 tornadoes during this outbreak including two EF3 tornadoes.
Climate Extremes Index
The U.S. Climate Extremes Index for 2022 was about average and ranked in the middle third of the 113-year record. Elevated warm extremes in both maximum and minimum temperature were observed across portions of the Northeast, Southeast, South, Southwest and West. Elevated extremes in dry Palmer Drought Severity Index values were also seen across much of the western United States. The U.S. Climate Extremes Index is an index that tracks extremes – falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record – in temperature, precipitation, drought and land-falling tropical cyclones across the contiguous United States.
Billion-dollar weather, climate disasters
In 2022 the U.S. experienced 18 weather and climate disasters each incurring losses that exceeded $1 billion. Those disasters included six severe storms, three tropical cyclones, three hail events, two tornadoes, and one each for drought, flood, winter storm and wildfire events.
The U.S. disaster costs for 2022 exceeded $165 billion, which is the third-largest cost on record.
The 2022 Western/Central Drought and Heat Wave was one of the more-costly droughts on record, with a diverse array of direct impacts across different regions and industries. The drought’s $22.2 billion cost was the second-most-expensive event for 2022.
During the past seven years, 122 separate billion-dollar disasters have killed at least 5,000 people and cost greater than $1 trillion in damage.
The year 2022 is also a record eighth-consecutive year where the United States experienced 10 or more billion-dollar disasters.
Since records began in 1980, the United States has sustained 341 separate weather and climate disasters where overall damages and costs reached or exceeded $1 billion per event. The total cost of those 341 events exceeds $2.475 trillion.
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