Scorching days. Deep-freezing nights. Withering drought. Torrential rains. Snow in the desert.
Those were just some of the highlights — or lowlights — of Tucson’s weather in 2013.
Some of the words Tucsonans have used to describe this year’s meteorological mix: wild, weird, wacky.
Glen Sampson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, put it in more measured terms.
“What was unusual is that it was very cold in the first part of the year and then got very hot,” Sampson said. “Even the airport (Tucson’s official weather station) got some snow in February ... and some areas got lots of rain in November.”
Let’s go straight to the stats.
Hottest day: 112 blistering degrees on June 29. The record high for the city is 117 — set on June 26, 1990.
Heat siege: Not only did June have the hottest day of the year, it was the first month in Tucson’s recorded history in which every single day topped out in the triple digits. But the heat wasn’t over. Daily highs topped out at 100 degrees or higher well into July, eventually tying Tucson’s all-time record of 39 consecutive days of triple-digit highs.
Coldest day: 17 freeze-your-nose-off degrees on Jan. 15. That was the coldest low recorded at the airport since Christmas Eve in 1974, when the temperature plummeted to 16 degrees. Tucson’s record low: 6 degrees on Jan. 7, 1913.
Wettest day: The airport got 1.21 inches of rain on Nov. 23. That rainfall was part of a three-day period of rain that brought 2.1 inches to the airport and up to 3.75 inches to some parts of Tucson’s northwest side. Sampson said the heavy rain on the northwest side “was primarily due to the mountains. They can give an extra push to the air. It cools faster and rains more.”
Desert snowstorm: The weather service noted that three winter storms moved through the Tucson area in February. “The most notable and coldest of the three storms hit the area on Feb. 20,” said a year-end weather report by the agency. “This storm had very low snow levels, which brought widespread snow to the metro area. Snowfall totals ranged widely across the area from a trace to 3 inches, with localized higher amounts of 4 inches.”
Drought persists: In spite of some heavy rains and spectacular snowfalls, 2013 was still an unusually dry and hot year overall in Tucson. The city recorded only 8.53 inches of precipitation for the year — more than 3 inches below the normal annual rainfall of 11.59 inches. “We’ve been pretty much in drought status for a while,” Sampson said. “And 2013 was the fifth-warmest year on record.”