It may not have been as bad as summers past, but this summer was still one for the record books in much of the U.S.
Whereas last year, two-thirds of the Southeast was abnormally dry or in a drought, the region was drenched with heavy rainfall this season, with Florida experiencing its wettest summer ever — a record it had just set last year. Several Southeast cities had their wettest Julys on record, with rainfall levels in just a few months rivaling what they typically see in a year — as of August 19, Atlanta had recorded 50.43 inches of rain, already surpassing the city’s average of 49.68 inches per year. The rains seriously hurt crops in some parts of the Southeast, with some watermelon farmers losing half their crops.
While the Southeast got soaked, the West struggled with an extended drought that at one point encompassed nearly 87 percent of the region. In New Mexico, the severe drought led to the shortest irrigation period along the lower Rio Grand on record — just one and a half months — prompting one local paper to dub the river the Rio Sand. The state’s Elephant Butte Reservoir reached its lowest point in four decades, holding just 3 percent of the water it held in the 1990s. And dry conditions in California helped fuel the massive Rim Fire, the third-largest in the state’s history and that burned an area larger than has been burned in centuries.
Though heat wasn’t the main headline of the summer, heatwaves baked some parts of the country. Salt Lake City and Boise experienced their hottest summers on record this season, and Alaska recorded its second-hottest summer — warm weather that was tied to king salmon die-offs in the state. A July heat wave in New York was the longest the city has seen in more than a decade, and led to the city breaking its energy use record.
Summer records weren’t just broken in the U.S. — Greenland hit nearly 80 degrees F in July, the highest temperature ever recorded in the regularly icy country. And China experienced its hottest summer in half a century this year, with temperatures so high that witnesses reporting seeing a willow tree spontaneously burst into flames. And as the recent flooding in Colorado and Mexico has shown, extreme weather isn’t likely to let up as summer ends.