Historic flooding, a record-breaking tornado outbreak and devastating wildfire activity made April 2011 a month of historic climate extremes across much of the United States, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C.

The average U.S. temperature in April was 52.9 degrees F, which is 0.9 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average.

April precipitation was 0.7 inches above the long-term average, the 10th wettest April on record. This monthly analysis, based on records dating back to 1895, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides.

U.S. Climate Highlights — April 

• Fueled by record-setting precipitation totals, historic and near-historic flooding occurred throughout the Midwest and Ohio Valley, from the smallest streams to the largest rivers. The Ohio Valley region had its wettest April on record and it was the second wettest for the Northeast. Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania each had their wettest April since 1895.

An average of 11.88 inches of precipitation fell across Kentucky, nearly three times its long-term average, breaking the previous record (7.61 inches in 1972) by more than four inches.


• Nationally, the overall drought footprint across the contiguous U.S. remained above average, but decreased slightly from the beginning of the month to approximately 22 percent. The area of the country affected by the two most intense drought categories (D3, Extreme and D4, Exceptional) has increased for 10 consecutive weeks. Much of this very intense drought is focused in the Southern Plains and Southern Rockies.


• In Texas, drought intensified making it the fifth driest April on record. The U.S. Drought Monitor classified 94 percent of the state as “Severe” (the D2 category) to “Exceptional” (D4, the most intense designation) drought.


• Prime wildfire conditions prevailed across portions of the Southern Plains and a record breaking 1.79 million acres burned across the country in April. Texas, where over 2.2 million acres have burned since January, again bore the brunt of the wildfire activity.


• Several violent tornado outbreaks impacted the country during April. According to data from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, the number of confirmed tornadoes for the month may approach the previous all time monthly record of 542 tornadoes which struck the U.S. in May 2003.