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University of Kentucky
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Serving Kentucky residents
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Mouseover to pause!......Kentucky Short-term forecast... Western KY ...EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 PM CDT SUNDAY... .TONIGHT...Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 70s. South winds around 5 mph. Central KY ...EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM EDT SUNDAY... .TONIGHT...Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 70s. Southwest winds 5 to 10 mph. Eastern KY ...HEAT ADVISORY IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING... .TONIGHT...Partly cloudy. A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms near dawn. Lows in the lower 70s. Light winds. ...The mission of the UK Agricultural Weather Program/Center is to provide educational resources through the development of agricultural weather products and services that minimize weather surprise to Kentucky residents relative to their agricultural needs... Detailed forecast information is available in your Precision Ag Weather forecast here... -=-=-=-=-=-=-=--=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Long-range outlooks here.

Courtesy Douglas Wilson
McCracken County
Courtesy of Douglas Wilson
McCracken County

2012 Year to Date Kentucky Climate Summary

2012 has been completely different from any other year on record. Each season has been far from normal and has been dominated by different features. Spring seemed to come early this year as warm temperatures dominated the latter half of winter. Severe weather started nearly a month ahead of normal. June and July have been known for the historic drought that took hold of the country, while the beginning of August brought more fall-like temperatures. The abnormal year did not stop there as going into the fall season, the remnants of 2 hurricanes passed through the state, just before a major warm up going into the beginning of December. The following article strives to give a sense of how different this year has been from years past.


EF4 tornado near New Pekin, Indiana on March 2 (NWS Louisville)

The year started off with an incredibly mild winter and very little snowfall. Did we even have a winter? Temperatures were above normal for the entire season and ended 11 degrees above normal for the month of March. This ended up being the warmest March on record for the Bluegrass State. The spring-like temperatures led to severe weather instances starting about a month ahead of normal. As of the end of February and into March, the weather pattern had shifted to support strong to severe thunderstorms and some tornados. This started as early as Leap Day, as several tornados ripped through the Ohio Valley. The worst of the severe weather happened on March 2nd as a powerful storm system initiated large scale tornados, with an EF4 tornado touching down just north of Louisville. The picture to the right was provided by the Louisville NWS and displays the monstrous tornado as it moves near New Pekin, Indiana.

2012 Temperature Departures

The record warmth in March allowed for farmers to start planting earlier than normal. Unbeknownst to them at the time, 2012 would lay claim to one of the worst agricultural droughts of all time. As was the winter season, spring was also very dry. April is supposed to be known for a more vigorous weather pattern with multiple chances of rainfall and severe weather. April of 2012 was nearly the exact opposite. Kentucky ended the month almost 2.5 inches of rainfall below normal and drought started to set in upon the Bluegrass State. Temperatures returned to near normal, but this was short-lived. By May, warm temperatures were making a comeback with temperatures on average, 12 degrees warmer across Kentucky during the first week of the month. The warming trend became significant during the last 2 weeks of June when temperatures started to exceed 100 degrees on a daily basis and break records across the state. Drought continued to deepen and expand throughout the month. The entire state of Kentucky only averaged 0.88 inches of precipitation in June, which was 3.5 inches below normal. This resulted in the second driest June on record for the Bluegrass State. As of the end of June, most areas of the state were under moderate to extreme drought conditions.

July Statewide Ranks from the National Climate Data Center

Scorching heat and high humidity carried over to the month of July. Kentucky witnessed its 3rd warmest July on record. This is nearly an understatement compared to the contiguous United States as a whole, which experienced the warmest July ever recorded at an average temperature of 77.6 degrees. The previous record was set back in the dust bowl year of 1936, when the average U.S. temperature was 77.4 degrees (National Climatic Data Center). July accounted for 9th straight month of above normal temperatures here in the Bluegrass State. The image to the right displays the record warming trend across the United States.

US Drought Monitor

By the middle of July, drought had overtaken nearly the entire state. Western portions of the Commonwealth were hardest hit with exceptional drought conditions. The impacts were severe and were displayed both hydrologically and agriculturally. On a positive note, near the end of July, mainly eastern and central portions of Kentucky did start to see significant amounts of rainfall as cold fronts moved through the area on nearly a weekly basis. This created abrupt and very significant drought turnaround periods. Going into the last 2 weeks of July, the entire state of Kentucky was in agricultural despair as drought took hold of the lower Ohio Valley. By the end of July; only western sections remained in extreme drought hardship.

Fall seemed to come early during the middle 2 weeks of August. The passage of a strong cold front had temperatures only topping out in the upper 70s to mid 80s. This was around 6 degrees below normal for this time of the year. By the end of the month, the remnants of the earlier known Hurricane Isaac made themselves up through the Ohio Valley. This was the first major tropical system to progress into Kentucky since Hurricane Dennis and Katrina back in 2005.

Weather conditions seemed to make a complete 180 going into September, where the Commonwealth got drenched. Kentucky ended the month over 2 inches above normal as a combination of the remnants of Isaac and multiple frontal passages made for a very wet pattern. The state hasn't seen this much rainfall since November of 2011. Midway through the fall season, conditions took another turn. First off, Kentucky was welcomed by yet another hurricane. The remnants of Hurricane Sandy soaked eastern portions of the state with around 2 inches of rainfall. Some higher elevations even saw over a foot of snow. After this system, rainfall seemed to taper off through the month of November. It was the 5th driest November on record since 1895 with the state over 2.5 inches below normal. Over the course of the month, most of the state had slipped back into abnormally dry conditions.

NWS Drought Outlook

The year ended with a very mild December, as the Commonwealth saw its 8th month of 2012 with above normal temperatures. It was the 7th warmest December on record going back to 1895. The warm temperatures were led in the first week of the month where strong southwesterly flow put temperatures on average, 15 degrees above normal. The state also saw the skies open up after an extremely dry November. Numerous frontal boundaries and disturbances soaked the Commonwealth with on average, around 5 inches of rainfall. A couple strong low pressure systems also brought some significant snowfall events toward the end of the month with totals in excess of 6 inches falling in western Kentucky the day after Christmas. The figure to the right was provided by the National Weather Service Office in Louisville and shows a high resolution visible satellite image taken on December 30th of the snowpack across the region following the 2 snowfall events.

So overall the state did see quite a few extremes throughout the year. The drought was truly evident in the rainfall data. The western climate division ended the year with only 32.94 inches of precipitation, which made for the driest year going all the way back to 1963, where just over 30 inches was recorded. The state as a whole ended the year with an average of just over 40 inches, making it the driest since 2005. Overall, Kentucky was over 7 inches below normal with 8 of the 12 months seeing below normal precipitation. Temperature wise, the west also saw a very warm year with an average temperature of 60.8 degrees. This makes for the warmest year on record going back to 1895. 2012 also now holds name to the warmest year on record for Louisville, in addition to the second warmest year for Lexington at 60.8 and 57.6 degrees, respectively. So, what does 2013 have in store for the Commonwealth? Just like the 2012, only time will tell what truly happens.

Ag Weather Center, Department of Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering, University of Kentucky