Year in Review: Northern Arizona hot and dry in 2012

The year 2012 was one of the warmest years on record across Northern Arizona, the National Weather Service office in Flagstaff reported late this week in its weather year in review.

Most areas in the Weather Service records for Northern Arizona observed above-normal temperatures during 10 out of the 12 months in 2012.

"Annual average temperatures for 2012 were much above normal for most locations across Northern Arizona," the Weather Service reported. "The year was among the warmest on record in Arizona."

It also was unusually dry across Northern Arizona.

"Precipitation totals for the year were consistently below normal for nearly all of the region," the Weather Service said.

Winslow set an all-time record for warmest year with an average temperature of 57.7 degrees.

Prescott and Flagstaff recorded their 5th warmest years. All have records dating back about a century, with Prescott records going back to 1898.

Other parts of Arizona set heat records, too. It was the hottest year on record for Tucson (average of 71.4 degrees, tying with 1989) and the second-hottest for Phoenix (76.7).

It also was warmer than normal for all the other sites listed on the Weather Service's Northern Arizona report, including the Prescott airport, Bagdad, Cottonwood and Seligman.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects 2012 to be the hottest on record for the Lower 48 states. Worldwide temperatures this year also are expected to be well above average.

Fifteen of the 16 sites on the Weather Service's Northern Arizona report for 2012 registered below-normal precipitation. The worst was Oak Creek, followed by Prescott. Prescott recorded 11.06 inches of precipitation compared to the long-term average of 18.78.

The report lists some interesting extremes for the Prescott airport. The hottest day was 100 degrees on Aug. 8; the coldest it got was 15 degrees on Dec. 20. The wettest day was July 14 with 1.84 inches of rain. A total of 53 days recorded precipitation.

Along with the unusual heat, the Weather Service listed three other top weather events of 2012 for Northern Arizona:

• March snowstorm on March 18-19.

It forced the closure of parts of Interstate 40, Interstate 17 and highways 180 and 87. Flagstaff and Pinetop recorded 26 inches of snow, while the Weather Service estimated that much of Prescott saw 16-21 inches.

Based on an estimated 16 inches of snow on March 18, the Weather Service concluded the storm produced the fourth-highest daily snowfall since Prescott records began in 1898. For most of those years the weather was recorded in downtown Prescott, which is higher in elevation than the current measuring site at the city's Sundog Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Sundog recorded only 10 inches from the storm. Other snow estimates in Yavapai County were 11 inches in Prescott Valley, 10 in Sedona, 6 in Jerome and 3 in Cottonwood.

• Gladiator wildfire and flooding in May and June on the north side of Crown King.

Severely burned areas with steep terrain led to flash flooding in the burn area once the monsoon arrived. The most notable flood event occurred on July 14 when 1-4 inches of rain fell in a short period of time over the burned area. It washed huge boulders onto the main road into Crown King (County Road 59) and forced its closure.

• Tuba City flash flood.

On the afternoon of Sept. 11, a total of 2.2 inches of rain fell in one hour. It was the city's 4th highest daily rainfall on record.

The storm washed out Highway 264 south of town, damaged other roads, broke water and sewer lines, caused major damage to crops, closed schools, and resulted in a Navajo Nation emergency declaration.


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