October has been dramatically warm and dry in much of the United States — and relief is not yet in sight

By Tom Yulsman | October 29, 2016 2:36 pm
This animation shows how temperatures are forecast to vary from average for the period starting Monday, October 31 and ending Saturday, Nov. 5. (Images: Climate Reanalyzer. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

This animation shows how temperatures are forecast to vary from average for the period starting Monday, October 31 and ending Saturday, Nov. 5. (Images: Climate Reanalyzer. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

October has continued a streak of remarkably warm and dry weather across large portions the United States. And as the animation above suggests, the heat, at least, is not likely to relent during the next week.

October warmth

Source: Climate Reanalyzer

Halloween will see very warm temperatures across the south and bulging far northward through the nation’s midsection — with temperatures as high as 80 degrees F perhaps reaching as far north as South Dakota. (Click on the thumbnail at right for the temperature forecast.)

And as my colleague Bob Henson points out in Weather Underground’s Category 6 blog, the issue isn’t just extraordinarily high temperatures for this time of year. There has also been a lack of autumnal chill at night.

For example, as of Friday, October 28, Minneapolis had not yet dipped below 36°F. “In records going back to 1873, the latest Minneapolis has ever gone before seeing its first 35°F of the autumn is November 1, way back in 1931,” Henson reports. “The city’s latest first freeze was on Nov. 7, 1900.”

In fact, a pattern of numerous record-high temperatures, and a dearth of record lows, has been seen all year long. This is helping to put 2016 on track to be at least the second warmest year on record in the United States, according to Henson.

October warmth

Source: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service/PRISM

The map above shows how daily mean temperatures varied from the long-term average across the United States between October 1st and 27th. The yellow, orange and brown tones show where temperatures were between 1 and 10 degrees F warmer than average.

It has also been quite dry across large swaths of the country:

In addition to being warm, October was dry across much of the U.S.

Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service/PRISM

Northern California has received some desperately needed drought relief. But large portions of the interior West, the High Plains and the South have seen scant precipitation this month. The same is true of the drought-stricken Northeast.

Over the past month, parts of these same regions have moved into drought, or where abnormally dry or drought conditions already existed, the’ve intensified:

October drought class change

Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

There is one piece of good news, however: There is a chance that we’re reaching a turning point in California’s drought. According to the long-range forecast, atmospheric rivers of moisture combined with a strong Pacific jet stream could bring storms and copious precipitation to California over the next one to three weeks.

Fingers crossed!

  • Mike Richardson

    These findings don’t surprise me. In Louisiana, we went from record heat and floods in August to a hotter than average October with drought. Personally, I prefer the drought, but in places where it’s gone on for months or even years, I can see where any amount of rain would be welcome. Both extremes are to be expected with a warming earth, as many climate models have predicted.



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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