Monthly average temperature for May in the contiguous U.S., 1895-2018. May 2018 eclipsed all previous Mays for warmth across the contiguous U.S. in records extending back to 1895. Graphic: Weather Underground / NOAA / NCEI

By Bob Henson 
6 June 2018

(Weather Underground) – After one of the coldest Aprils in U.S. history, last month delivered a stunning switch—the warmest May for the contiguous U.S. in records going back to 1895. May came in at 5.21°F above the 20th-century average, which beats out the Dust Bowl month of May 1934 (4.51°F above the 20th-century average). This is the third time in the past three years that a longtime monthly U.S. heat record has been eclipsed: December 2015 toppled a 1939 record, and June 2016 pushed out June 1933.

May’s warmth was remarkably well-distributed around the country. Whereas the nationally chilly April (13th-coldest on record) still had above-average warmth over the western U.S., every one of the Lower 48 states came in well above average for May—a rare feat. A total of 41 states had a top-ten-warmest May, and eight of those states had a record-warm May:  Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. The Oklahoma record is especially impressive given that western Oklahoma was near the epicenter of the devastating 1930s Dust Bowl.

Winter-weary residents of the Upper Midwest found themselves undergoing weather whiplash by Memorial Day weekend. Minneapolis had its earliest-ever 100°F reading on Sunday, 27 May 2018, and the Twin Cities also hit 90°F on six consecutive days, beating the May record string of four days, as reported by weather.com in a roundup of late May’s heat. Even heat-hardy Texans found themselves sweating a bit ahead of schedule. Lubbock not only endured its hottest May on record but reached the 100°F mark on eight days, beating the old May record of six days.

Dozens of other U.S. cities and towns had their warmest May on record. This includes at least 11 state capitals, all with more than a century of weather data under their belts:

Austin, TX (80.6°F, tied with May 1996, records begin 1898)
Atlanta, GA (74.8°F, tied with May 1996, records begin 1880)
Charleston, WV (72.0°F, old records 71.7°F in 1991, records begin 1892)
Columbus, OH (71.7°F, old record 70.8°F in 1991, records begin 1879)
Indianapolis, IN (72.6°F, old record 70.7°F in 1896, records begin 1871)
Lansing, MI (64.7°F, tied with May 1881, records begin 1863)
Little Rock, AR (76.4°F, old record 76.3°F in 1987, records begin 1880)
Raleigh, NC (74.2°F, old records 73.9°F in 1896, records begin 1887)
Richmond, VA (73.4°F, old record 73.0°F in 2004, records begin 1897)
Springfield, IL (74.5°F, old records 72.3°F in 1962, records begin 1880)
Topeka, KS (74.7°F, old record 72.7°F, records begin 1888) [more]

Nation’s Hottest May on Record Leaves Dust Bowl in the Dust

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