There’s a reason you didn’t unpack your sweaters until last week.
Above-average temperatures in every month but August combined to make 2014 the warmest year on record in Tucson.
Our average daily temperature of 72.2 blew out the old record of 71.4 without us ever feeling abnormally hot.
“People may say that we weren’t that hot this year and that’s true. It’s just that the low temperatures have been rather warm,” said meteorologist John Glueck, who compiles climate reports for the Tucson office of the National Weather Service.
Our low temperatures were significantly above normal throughout the year, making it extremely pleasant in the winter months at the beginning of the year.
It hit freezing just once and just barely in winter 2013-14, with a low of 32 on Jan. 6, 2014.
We didn’t hit freezing again until Christmas Eve, then added five more freezing nights before the year’s end.
Before that, fall-like weather had prevailed, partly the result of higher- than-normal humidity.
“It has been warm but also humid, and that humidity has really played a role in keeping the overnight temperatures high, said climate scientist Michael Crimmins of the University of Arizona’s CLIMAS report.
“We’ve had very few cool, crisp nights.”
The year’s biggest temperature deviations, or “departures from normal,” as the National Weather Service calls them, came in the winter months, rather than during our brutal summer.
Month by month
Summer was still hot, the fourth hottest on record, but most of the excessive heat came in June, the month where we traditionally pay the penalty for our balmy winters and perfect shoulder seasons.
The year began with the third warmest January and second warmest February on record, which combined with December 2013 to create our warmest winter ever.
Wildflowers bloomed in January.
In February, record crowds attended the parade and rodeo events of La Fiesta de los Vaqueros in brilliant sunshine.
There was gorgeous golf-watching weather for the PGA event in Marana and the sun shined brightly on our winter Gem Show guests.
Mount Lemmon Ski Valley failed to open for the first time in its 50 years of operation.
It remained dry until a March 1 drenching.
Warm, dry conditions returned for the remainder of spring. Gila monsters emerged months early. By April, saguaros were in bloom.
Wildflowers bloomed atop Mount Lemmon in May and by the 16th we had our first 100-degree day.
June was consistently hot, the third hottest on record, with temperatures of 100 degrees or more on 29 of its 30 days. But it was June — traditionally hellish. We shrugged it off.
In July, the monsoon arrived right on time and it rained each day, somewhere in the valley, from July 3 to July 8. Rain fell intermittently for the rest of the month.
August was wetter, and consistent cloud cover made it the only month with below-normal temperatures, an 85.1 reading that was 0.2 degrees below normal.
In September, a series of tropical storms padded our monsoon statistics. Rainfall records for the rainy season were broken in Phoenix and some areas of Southern Arizona.
In Tucson, the monsoon total was exactly normal — 6.06 inches at the airport.
It remained abnormally warm through October. A balmy Halloween finally yielded to a cold snap that dropped temperatures into the 40s on Nov. 1, for the first time since April 27.
By mid-November, wildflowers still bloomed in the Catalinas and El Tour de Tucson’s riders pedaled around the city without the customary leg- and arm- warmers. We hit 83 degrees on Thanksgiving.
It was never hotter than 108. The coldest reading was 28 degrees on Dec. 27.
It wasn’t a memorably hot year. It was consistently warm, with average temperatures above normal in 11 of 12 months.
If may have seemed “normal” but we are changing our definition of that word. Most of our record-setting years have come in this century, and we’re not alone.
Phoenix and Yuma also broke records this year, as did many locales in California and throughout the West.
Globally, the January-to-November period was the warmest on record, according to the Weather Service’s parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the September–November period was 0.70°C (1.26°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F), the warmest such period on record,” it reports.
Its annual numbers will be reported mid-month.
The moisture-laden second half of 2014 made up most of the rain deficit from the first six months, but Tucson still ended the year with below-average rainfall. Our New Year’s Eve storm added 0.54 inches to give us a preliminary year-end total of 10.19. Normal is 11.56 inches.
Phoenix and many areas of Southern Arizona, meanwhile, recorded above-normal rainfall, mainly due to that string of tropical storms in September and October.
Warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific should keep this winter wetter than normal, although the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has yet to declare that El Niño conditions exist.
Crimmins, of the UA’s CLIMAS report, said weather agencies in Australia and Asia have already acknowledged the weather pattern and its effects are being felt in our wet December.
“The Southwest is experiencing El Niño-like weather patterns and should continue to do so into the spring, especially if the El Niño event is moderate in strength,” says the CLIMAS outlook.