The United States experienced its 18th coldest winter on record, according to preliminary data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The winter’s average temperature of 31.2 degrees marked the USA’s coldest winter in 26 years. NOAA, whose records cover the 116-year period of 1895 through 2010, defines winter as December through February.
Nearly two-thirds of the nation experienced a below normal winter temperature, while several northern states managed above normal temperatures.
The cold winter weather struck early and dramatically. The average December temperature represented the 14th coldest for the period of record.
Although the USA experienced only a slightly below average January temperature, unusually cold weather returned in February. The month’s national average temperature of 32.4 degrees F – more than two degrees below average – ranked as 29th coolest.
February’s cold struck the southern states especially hard. Florida recorded its 4th coldest February, Louisiana its 5th coldest, and Alabama, Georgia and Texas their 6th coldest.
Conversely, the Pacific Northwest experienced above normal weather during its Winter Olympics and the entire 3-month winter period.
NOAA cited a “strong El Nino” during the winter months for the cool conditions in the south and unseasonably warm weather in the Pacific Northwest.
NOAA defines El Nino as “a warming of the ocean current along the coasts of Peru and Ecuador…generally associated with dramatic changes in the weather patterns of the region” with a major event “generally (occurring) every 3 to 7 years.”
In the winter, El Nino-associated changes typically result in above average temperatures in the Northwest, and below normal temperatures in southern states, consistent with this year’s readings.
NOTE: Data are based upon National Climatic Data Center/NOAA’s “provisional” data. Considerable quality control on this data is forthcoming, and final values may vary significantly from the provisional data.
NOAA Definitions: NOAA, National Weather Service Glossary www.nws.noaa.gov/glossary/index.php
National Climatic Data Center/NOAA, US Climate at a Glance http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/cag3/cag3.html
National Climatic Data Center/NOAA NOAA: U.S. Winter and February Cooler Than Average, http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100310_cooler.html
National Climatic Data Center/NOAA, 2010 Temperature,