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Big Precipitation Extremes in July Climate Report

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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World July 2021 rainfall shows either damaging dryness or damaging very heavy totals. (NOAA graphic)

Headlines for the latest NOAA monthly climate report, which covers the month of July, were again indicating record warmth. The two lines are: "July 2021 was the warmest July on record for the globe" -- and immediately following -- "Global land surface was also record warm."

The summary from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) continues to detail the warming trend: "The global temperature for July 2021 was the highest for July in the 142-year NOAA record, which dates back to 1880. The year-to-date (January-July) global surface temperature tied as the sixth highest on record. According to NCEI's Global Annual Temperature Rankings Outlook, it is very likely that the year 2021 will rank among the 10 warmest years on record."

The report also details some big precipitation extremes. Here are those details.


Significantly below-average precipitation occurred across northwestern contiguous U.S. to the Canadian Prairies, much of Argentina, northeastern and southern Europe, and parts of Australia and eastern and southern Asia. Significantly above-normal precipitation occurred in southern and northeastern parts of the United States, northern parts of South America, and parts of Europe, eastern Asia, and southern Australia.

Several locations across southern Europe had drier-than-average conditions during the month. The dry conditions combined with very warm temperatures helped with the development and spread of dangerous wildfires in the region by the end of the month. According to media reports, destructive wildfires affected parts of southern and southwestern Turkey, forcing residents to evacuate. Devastating wildfires also affected parts of northeastern Spain. For the month as a whole, Spain had below-average July precipitation, receiving only 57% of normal July precipitation.

Parts of western Europe had torrential rains that caused deadly floods during July 13-15, with some locations receiving at least twice their normal monthly precipitation in only three days. According to preliminary reports, over 140 fatalities across western Germany and Belgium were attributed to the devastating floods. The high flood levels were also responsible for damaging homes in the affected regions.

Much of northern Austria had wetter-than-average conditions during July 2021, with several locations receiving twice their normal July precipitation. Heavy rain fell across parts of northern Austria during July 17-18, setting several new precipitation records. Of note, Kufstein (northwestern Austria) set a new 48-hour precipitation record when a total of 163 millimeters (6.4 inches) fell during that time. The Wien-Hohe Warte station set a new 3-hour precipitation record when it received 80 mm (3.1 inches) of rain during that period of time. Meanwhile, southern Austria had below-average July precipitation, with deficits ranging between 20-50% below average. Overall, Austria's July 2021 precipitation total was 25% above average and the wettest July since 2016.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, Zhengzhou, in the Henan province, China, received 382 mm (15.0 inches) -- a little over half of its average annual precipitation of 641 mm (25.2 inches) -- in only six hours on July 20 and more than 640 mm during a short period of four days. The copious rain prompted dangerous floods and over 20 fatalities were attributed to the heavy rain.

Drier-than-average conditions engulfed much of Argentina during the month. According to Argentina's Servicio Nacional Meteorologico, about 75% of the Parana River basin was in moderate to exceptional drought, which encompasses about 70 million hectares (approximately 17.5 million acres). Also, about 75% of the Paraguay River basin was also suffering some type of drought as of Aug. 3. Precipitation total for southern Argentina was 200 mm (8 inches) below the 1981-2010 average during the three-month period of May through July. Lack of snow across Patagonia was also reported, with some locations reporting their lowest values since 2000.

Australia, as a whole, had near-average precipitation during July 2021. Regionally, the Northern Territory had the largest rainfall precipitation deficit at 88% below average.


The full report is available at this link:…

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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