Ag Weather Forum

Warm Winter Rundown

By Bryce Anderson , DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst
Nowhere in the contiguous U.S. was there a below-normal temperature trend logged during the 2015-16 weather record season of Dec/Jan/Feb. (NOAA graphic)

Graphic

There is no doubt about it -- the past weather-record winter season (months of December, January and February) were the warmest ever in recorded history for the contiguous U.S. Some pertinent details from NOAA are noted here.--Bryce

Dec-Feb Statewide Temperature Ranks

The December-February average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 36.8 deg F, 4.6 deg F above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record of 36.5 deg F set in 1999/2000. The record warm December boosted the contiguous U.S. winter temperature.

The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during winter was 46.9 deg F, 4.2 deg F above the 20th century average, the fourth-warmest on record. The average minimum temperature was 26.7 deg F, 4.9 deg F above average, second only to the winter minimum temperature of 1997/1998.

Forty-six states in the contiguous U.S. had a winter temperature that was above average. Much-above average winter temperatures were observed across the Great Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Northeast, and parts of the West. Each of the six New England states had a winter temperature that was record warm.

Alaska had its second warmest December-February with a statewide temperature of 14.2 deg F, 10.6 deg F above average. Several locations in Alaska were record warm, including Barrow and King Salmon, while Anchorage and Juneau had their second-warmest December-February.

Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during winter was zero and the lowest value on record. The record and near-record warm temperatures in the densely populated Midwest and Northeast contributed to the record-low REDTI value.

Precipitation

Dec-Feb Statewide Precipitation Ranks

The winter precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 8.05 inches, 1.26 inches above the 20th century average. This was the 12th-wettest December-February on record for the Lower 48 and the wettest since 1997/1998.

Above-average winter precipitation was observed across parts of the Northwest, Central Plains, and Midwest, and along the East Coast. Twelve states had winter precipitation totals that were much above average. Iowa was record wet with 6.20 inches of precipitation, 3.07 inches above average, surpassing the previous record of 5.79 inches in 1914/1915. Most of Iowa's winter precipitation fell during December, with January being drier than average and February near average.

Hawaii had a dry winter with nearly all locations in the islands observing below-average precipitation. Honolulu received 0.70 inch of rain from December to February, only 9 percent of normal and a new record low for the season, at 0.20 inch below the previous record in 1976/1977.

According to an analysis of NOAA data by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the December-February contiguous U.S. snow cover extent was 1.30 million square miles, 52,000 square miles above the 1981-2010 average and the 17th-largest in the 49-year period of record.

Extremes

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for winter was 20 percent above average and the 27th-highest value on record. On the national scale, extremes in one-day precipitation totals and the spatial extent of wetness were much above average. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record) in temperature, precipitation, land-falling tropical cyclones, and drought across the contiguous U.S.

On a regional scale, the Northeast had its fifth-highest winter CEI due to extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures and one-day precipitation totals. The Upper Midwest had its eighth-highest winter CEI due to extremes in warm minimum temperatures, one-day precipitation totals, days with precipitation, and the spatial extent of wetness.

February 2016 Statewide Temperature Ranks

The February temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 39.5 deg F, 5.7 deg F above the 20th century average, ranking as the seventh-warmest on record and warmest since 2000.

The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during February was 50.9 deg F, 6.0 deg F above the 20th century average, the sixth warmest on record. The average minimum temperature was 28.2 deg F, 5.4 deg F above average, tying 1999 as the sixth warmest on record.

Above-average February temperatures were widespread across Alaska and the western half of the contiguous U.S. as well as parts of the Midwest and Northeast, where 21 states were much warmer than average. Alaska had its warmest February on record with a statewide temperature of 17.2 deg F, 12.4 deg F above average. Near-average February temperatures were observed across the Southeast.

During February there were 6,805 record warm daily high (3,882) and low (2,923) temperature records, which is about six times the 1,109 record cold daily high (777) and low (332) temperature records

Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during February was 75 percent below average and the ninth-lowest value on record.

Precipitation

February 2016 Statewide Precipitation Ranks

The February precipitation total was 1.93 inches, 0.20 inch below average, which is near the median value for the 122-year period of record.

Below-average February precipitation was observed across the western half of the Lower 48, including the drought-stricken areas of California. Above-average February precipitation was observed across the East. Four states in the Northeast had a February precipitation total that was much above average.

According to the March 1 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 14.3 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down about 1.2 percent compared to the beginning of February. Drought conditions improved across parts of the Northwest and Northeast, with drought worsening in parts of the Southern Plains and Southwest. Over 95 percent of California continued to experience drought conditions, with 38 percent of the state remaining in the worst category of drought.

Outside of the contiguous U.S., the dry winter in Hawaii caused drought conditions to expand to over half of the state. Several months of drought across the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands led to a state of emergency in the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. Drought conditions improved across eastern Puerto Rico.

According to an analysis of NOAA data by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the February contiguous U.S. snow cover extent was 1.05 million square miles, 147,500 square miles below the 1981-2010 average, and the 13th-smallest in the 50-year period of record. Above-average snow cover was observed across parts of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Below-average snow cover was observed in parts of the Northern Rockies and Plains and Northeast.

Sep-Feb Statewide Temperature Ranks

The September-February average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 46.8 deg F, 3.9 deg F above the 20th century average. This was the warmest such six-month period on record and consisted of the warmest autumn and warmest winter on record for the Lower 48. This bested the previous record of 46.3 deg F in 1998/1999. The maximum (daytime) temperature was the third highest on record while the minimum temperature was record warm.

Precipitation

Sep-Feb Statewide Precipitation Ranks

The September-February precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 16.42 inches, 2.74 inches above the 20th century average. This was the third-wettest such six-month period on record. Only the September-February periods in 1996/1997 and 1973/1974 were wetter.

Extremes

The USCEI for the six-month period was 35 percent above average and the 18th highest value on record. On the national scale, extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures and one-day precipitation totals were much above average.

On a regional scale, the Northeast, Ohio Valley, and Upper Midwest had six-month CEI values that ranked among the five highest on record. Extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, the spatial extent of wetness, days with precipitation and one-day precipitation totals drove the elevated regional CEI values.

(SK)

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