A DAY AT THE LAKE

A pair of paddleboarders makes their way up Upper Lake Mary as the last of the New Year's Day polar plungers dry off on the beach. The National Weather Service reports that 2017 was the third warmest year on record in Flagstaff.

Randy Wilson, Arizona Daily Sun

Last year was the third warmest on record in Flagstaff and the final three-month stretch of 2017 was the driest on record, according to the National Weather Service.

The city saw just 0.01 inches of precipitation from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, compared to the 5.39 inches that is normal for that time period. Just three other years since 1899 have logged more than 90 days with 0.01 inches of precipitation or less.

Nine record high temperatures were tied or broken throughout the year, which is the most in the past 10 years, though the top number of record high temperatures in a year was 18 days in 1977.  

The city also saw 10 days with temperatures that hit 90 degrees or higher. Seven of them came in one blistering streak in June that sent residents scrambling to buy fans and air conditioners.

Even so, the top temperature of the year — 93 degrees on June 23 — didn’t come close to Flagstaff’s all-time record high of 97 degrees set in 1973.  

Two record low temperatures were also tied or broken in 2017.

Last year’s average annual temperature was 48.7 degrees, making it the fourth consecutive year above the normal of 46.3 degrees. Seven out of the last 10 years have been above that number, which is calculated by adding the average high and low temperatures of the year and dividing by two.

Thanks to healthy snow and rainfall earlier in the year, including a 36-inch snowstorm in January, Flagstaff finished the year with 18 inches of precipitation. That’s nearly 4 inches below normal though.

The 76.2 inches of snow that fell over the area is also short of normal by nearly 25 inches.

Looking to the next three months, the long-term precipitation outlook calls for a continuation of below-average precipitation across Arizona.

With a 10 percent chance of rain on Saturday that is the only precipitation in the forecast, this winter will soon creep up to the third latest first snowfall on record. The latest ever is Jan. 15 in 2006.

Other cities in the state also broke weather records in 2017.

It was the warmest year ever for both Phoenix and Tucson. There were 14 days when Phoenix broke or tied record high temperatures while Tucson had the most daily record temperatures set or tied in a year since 1989, according to the Associated Press. On June 20, Phoenix saw its fourth highest temperature ever recorded when the mercury hit 119 degrees. Tucson heated up to 116 degrees that same day, which is the city’s second highest temperature on record.  

Emery Cowan can be reached at (928) 556-2250 or ecowan@azdailysun.com

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Environment, Health and Science Reporter

Emery Cowan writes about science, health and the environment for the Arizona Daily Sun, covering everything from forest restoration to endangered species recovery efforts.

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