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Weather Trends: A Comprehensive Review of 2023 and Forecast for 2024

Deanna Kawasaki
January 29th, 2024
5 Min Read

It’s official: 2023 was the planet’s warmest year on record, according to an analysis by scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

 

Temperatures were significantly warmer than average over the vast majority of the Earth’s surface in 2023. Areas of notable warmth include the Arctic, northern North America, central Asia, the North Atlantic and the eastern tropical Pacific. Temperatures were cooler than average over relatively smaller areas, such as eastern and western Antarctica, the Southern Ocean near western Antarctica and southern Greenland.

December 2023

Temperatures were warmer than average over the vast majority of the Earth’s surface in 2023. Areas of notable warmth include the Arctic, northern North America, central Asia, the North Atlantic and the eastern tropical Pacific. Temperatures were cooler than average over relatively smaller areas, such as eastern and western Antarctica, the Southern Ocean near western Antarctica and southern Greenland.

Looking ahead, NCEI is predicting that there is a one-in-three chance that 2024 will be warmer than 2023 and a 99% chance that 2024 will rank among the top five warmest years.

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What about the US?

The 2023 average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was the fifth warmest year in the 129-year record.

Most of the contiguous U.S. experienced above-average temperatures during 2023, with near- to below-average temperatures from parts of the central Rockies to California. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Massachusetts each ranked warmest on record while Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and Florida each ranked second warmest in the 129-year record. An additional 24 states experienced a top-10 warmest January-December on record. However, Texas and Arizona faced some of the most intense heat conditions in 2023.

  • Approximately 65 million people were impacted by record heat during 2023.

  • A total of 416 counties were record warm while an additional 1960 counties ranked in the top-10 warmest for the year. There are 3,143 counties in the U.S.

  • Annual temperatures across the eastern U.S. have been warmer than average in 2023 with 35 states experiencing a top-10 warmest January–December.

  • A heat wave in June caused temperatures to soar well above 100°F across parts of the southern Plains. In Texas, the cities of Del Rio and Rio Grande reached 113°F and San Angelo reported 114°F on June 20, setting the all-time heat record at each location. On June 24, the temperature at Rio Grande Village, Texas topped out at 119°F, only 1°F below the all-time temperature record for the state.

  • Phoenix, Arizona had an average temperature of 102.8°F for the month of July—the hottest month on record for any major city in the U.S. Contributing to the record, Phoenix had 31 consecutive days of temperatures above 110°F from June 30 to July 30—breaking the previous record of 18 days set in 1974.

  • On July 16, Death Valley soared to 128°F, setting a daily-temperature record, and reported its hottest midnight temperature on record at 120°F on July 17.

  • On August 24, temperatures in Chicago soared to 100°F, with a 120°F heat index—this was the first 100°F temperature since July 6, 2012 and the highest heat index ever recorded at Chicago’s official climate observation site.

  • Phoenix, Arizona had their all-time warmest summer on record this year, with an average summer temperature of 97.0°F—breaking the previous record of 96.7°F set in 2020.

  • Record-high temperatures persisted across much of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during the month of September. San Juan reported a monthly average temperature of 85.8°F, making it the hottest month on record. Also, on St. Croix, Rohlsen Airport had their warmest September on record.

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In 2023, the U.S. experienced 28 weather and climate disasters each incurring losses that exceeded $1 billion.

It was a historic year of U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters as 2023 ranked first for the highest number of billion-dollar weather disasters in a calendar year, surpassing the previous record of 22 in 2020. These disasters included: 17 severe storms, four flooding events, two tropical cyclones, two tornado outbreaks, one winter storm, one wildfire and one drought and heat wave event.

The U.S. disaster costs for 2023 was $92.9 billion and have resulted in 492 direct and indirect fatalities. The costliest events in 2023 were:

  • $14.5 billion in total costs from the Southern/Midwestern drought and heat wave that occurred during Spring to Fall of 2023.

  • $6.0 billion in total costs from the Southern and Eastern severe weather event that occurred in early March.

Additional Weather Extremes That Affected Trade Services

Hurricanes

Record-warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic basin brought 20 named tropical systems during 2023, ranking fourth for the most named storms in a year since 1950. Seven of these storms were hurricanes, including three that intensified to major hurricanes, while three of these storms made landfall in the U.S.—Hurricane Idalia and tropical storms Harold and Ophelia. Several notable storms brought destruction and flooding to portions of the U.S. and its territories during the months of August and September:

  • On August 8, winds from Hurricane Dora exacerbated a wildfire on the island of Maui, Hawaii, making it the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in over a century.

  • On August 18, the first-ever tropical storm watch was issued for southern California as remnants of Hurricane Hilary brought record-breaking rainfall and flooding to parts of the Southwest.

  • On August 22, Tropical Storm Harold brought strong winds and heavy rains to parts of the southern Plains.

  • On August 30, Hurricane Idalia made landfall in the Big Bend region of Florida as a Category 3 hurricane. This is the strongest hurricane to hit the region in more than 125 years.

  • Hurricane Lee brought catastrophic flash flooding and damage to portions of New England before it made landfall just across the border in Canada.

  • On September 23, Tropical Storm Ophelia made landfall in eastern North Carolina and moved north along the East Coast. Ophelia brought heavy rain and flooding from North Carolina to Massachusetts, resulting in significant damage and power outages.

Wildfires

The number of wildfires in 2023 was close to the 10-year average (2013–2022) with more than 55,500 wildfires reported over the year, while the total acres burned from these wildfires—2.6 million acres—were well below this 10-year average of 7.1 million acres.

  • In Alaska, nearly 300,000 acres burned during the 2023 fire season—less than half of the state’s seasonal average.

  • In Hawaii, a wildfire broke out on the island of Maui, becoming the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in over a century.

  • Smoke from Canadian wildfires caused significant air quality issues for millions in portions of the Northeast and Great Lakes this year. On June 7, around 100 million people across 16 states were under air quality alerts while New York City reported the worst air quality of major cities worldwide. On June 27, Chicago reported the worst air quality of any major city in the world as wildfire smoke affected a large portion of the Midwest.

Tornados

The 2023 tornado count was above the 1991–2020 annual average across the contiguous U.S. with 1,197 confirmed tornadoes reported, with an additional 97 preliminary tornadoes during the October 1 to December 31 period yet to be verified.

  • On January 2–4, a tornado outbreak occurred across portions of the southern Plains, Southeast and Illinois. A total of 61 tornadoes was confirmed by the National Weather Service. The tornadoes and severe thunderstorms with hail caused significant damage to the region. Nine of these confirmed tornadoes occurred in Illinois on January 3—the highest number of tornadoes in January for the state since 1989.

  • On January 16, two tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service in Iowa—the state’s first January tornadoes since 1967.

  • On February 26–27, a tornado outbreak occurred across portions of the South and Midwest. A total of 27 tornadoes, including three EF-2 tornadoes, was confirmed by the National Weather Service. The tornadoes caused damage to portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. A total of 11 of these confirmed tornadoes occurred in Oklahoma on February 26—the highest number of tornadoes in February for the state since records began in 1950.

  • An EF-1 tornado touched down on March 22 in the Los Angeles area, becoming the strongest tornado to hit the area since 1983.

  • On March 24–26, a tornado outbreak occurred across portions of the Southeast and caused catastrophic damage in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. A total of 41 tornadoes, including an EF-4 and three EF-3s, was confirmed by the National Weather Service.

  • On March 31, nearly 28 million people were under tornado watches as a widespread and deadly tornado outbreak occurred across portions of the Midwest and southern U.S. More than 110 tornadoes, including an EF-4 and eight EF-3s, were confirmed by the National Weather Service—the largest outbreak in a 24-hour period for the month of March.

  • On April 1, a 700-yard-wide EF-3 tornado touched down in Delaware, becoming the widest tornado in the state's history and tying as its strongest.

  • On April 30, a state of emergency was declared after a rare EF-3 tornado touched down in Virginia Beach, destroying more than 100 structures.

Snowfall

Snowfall began in earnest with several atmospheric river events, from late 2022 into mid-January 2023, that brought record amounts of rain and mountain snow across parts of the western U.S, hitting California particularly hard causing more than 700 landslides, over 1,400 rescues plus loss of life. By January 26, snow covered nearly 60 percent of the contiguous U.S., while snow cover was below normal from the Plains to the Northeast during January. Additional atmospheric rivers, in February and March, brought additional rain and snow to much of the West. By December 2023, snow cover was below average for most of the contiguous U.S., while portions of the Rockies and central Plains received above-normal snowfall after a blizzard hit the region during the final week of the year.

  • In February, a rare winter storm dumped heavy snow and record rainfall on portions of Southern California, prompting the National Weather Service to issue the first blizzard warning for the region since 1989.

  • According to the California Department of Water Resources, the statewide snowpack is among the deepest ever recorded for the end of March—237% of normal, while Utah had their snowiest winter season since 1980.

  • A total of 39 inches of snow fell in Anchorage, Alaska in December, with over 78 inches of snowfall since October—becoming the snowiest water year (October 2023 – September 2024) to date in Anchorage.

So what about 2024?

NOAA is predicting a warmer winter in the north to northwest and a hotter than average northeast in the spring. As they look forward into summer, they are predicting above average temperatures in a band stretching from the southwest to the northwest.

*Note the 90-day forecasts are issued every month and can be found here: https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/seasonal.php?lead=10  
https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/global-climate-202312
https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/national/202313
https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/us-climate-outlook-january-2024
https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/seasonal.php?lead=4

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