January Climate Overview

February 23rd, 2013 at 6:33 pm by under Weather


Climate Highlights — January

  • The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during January was 32.0°F, 1.6°F above the 20th century average, tying with 1958 as the 39th warmest January on record.
  • January brought warmer-than-average conditions to the eastern half of the contiguous U.S., despite several cold air outbreaks. The largest warm temperature departures from average were in the Southeast, where Georgia and Florida both had their 11th warmest January with monthly temperatures 5.7°F and 5.6°F above average, respectively.
  • Below-average temperatures were anchored in the western United States. Nevada had its ninth coolest January on record, with a monthly temperature 5.9°F below average, and Utah had its eighth coolest January, with temperatures 7.5°F below average.
  • The January nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.36 inches was 0.14 inch above the long-term average. The January precipitation average masked both wet and dry extremes across the nation. Drought conditions remained entrenched across the Southeast, Great Plains, and the mountainous West.
  • Wetter-than-average conditions stretched from the Southern Plains to the Mid-Atlantic, where Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Michigan, and Virginia each had January precipitation totals ranking among their ten wettest. The above-average precipitation generally missed the core drought areas of the central and southeastern United States.
  • Drier-than-average conditions were observed along the West Coast, the central Rockies, and parts of the Northern Plains, Southeast, and Northeast. California, Connecticut, and Florida each had one of their ten driest Januarys.
  • According to data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the January snow cover extent for the contiguous U.S. was slightly above average at 1.4 million square miles. Mountain snowpack was near-average for much of the West, with the exceptions in parts of the Northwest where snowpack was much above average, and in the Central and Southern Rockies where snowpack was much below average.
  • Alaska was warmer and wetter than average. The statewide average temperature was 7.1°F above average and the precipitation total was 64 percent above average. Parts of the state had monthly temperatures more than 10°F above normal.
  • According to the January 29thU.S. Drought Monitor report, 57.7 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought, smaller than the 61.1 percent at the beginning of the month. Drought conditions improved in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-Mississippi River Valley.

Climate Highlights — Winter to Date (December 2012 — January 2013)

Climate Highlights — Last 12 months (February 2012 — January 2013)

  • The 12-month period, ending in January, was the warmest such period for the contiguous U.S., with every state being warmer than average. Sixteen states, across the central U.S. and Northeast, were record warm, and 27 additional states were top ten warm. The February-January nationally-averaged temperature of 55.0°F was 2.9°F above average and the ninth warmest of any 12-month period on record for the nation.
  • The nationally-averaged precipitation total of 26.95 inches for the February-January period was 2.19 inches below average. Much of the central U.S. was drier than average. , Colorado, and Missouri had a top ten dry 12-month period, while Colorado and Nebraska were record dry. Wetter-than-average conditions occurred in the Pacific Northwest and central Gulf Coast where Washington and Louisiana had a top ten wet period.

Regional Highlights

Southern Region: (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)

  • January proved to be another consecutive warm month for the Southern Region. Temperatures throughout the region averaged between 0 to 6 degrees F (0 to 3.33 degrees C) above normal, with temperature anomalies increasing from west to east. The only exception to this was in the western panhandle of Texas and along the Texas western border, where temperatures averaged slightly below normal. The warmest anomalies were observed in Mississippi and southern Tennessee. All state temperature rankings were on the warm side of normal, but all fell within the middle two quartiles. The state-wide average temperatures were as follows: 41.70 degrees F (5.39 degrees C) in Arkansas, 52.20 degrees F (11.22 degrees C) in Louisiana, 48.50 degrees (9.17 degrees C) in Mississippi, 39.70 degrees F (4.28 degrees C) in Oklahoma, 41.00 degrees F (5.00 degrees C) in Tennessee, and 47.70 degrees F (8.72 degrees C) in Texas.
  • January was a very wet month for most of the Southern Region. A majority of stations throughout the region reported precipitation totals that were well above the monthly normal. There were some areas in the region that received less than normal precipitation. This includes much of central and western Oklahoma, southern Texas, and a small pocket in north central Texas. Elsewhere, most stations reported over 150 percent of normal precipitation. The highest anomalies were observed in in the western panhandle of Texas, where stations reported over three times the monthly normal. Because this is a fairly dry region, precipitation totals ranged only from 2 to 4 inches (50.80 to 101.60 mm). The highest precipitation totals for the country occurred in southern Louisiana and along the Louisiana-Mississippi border. Many stations in this area reported monthly totals of over 10 inches (254 mm), with some stations reporting over 20 inches (508 mm). The state of Louisiana averaged 11.20 inches (284.5 mm) of precipitation, which makes it the second wettest January there on record (1895-2013). Mississippi experienced their ninth wettest January on record, with a state wide precipitation total of 9.29 inches (236.00 mm). Conditions were also quite wet in Tennessee, where a state wide precipitation total of 8.81 inches (223.80 mm) was reported, or the eighth wettest January on record (1895-2013). For Arkansas, it was their eighteenth wettest January on record (1895-2013), with a state wide precipitation total of 6.15 inches (156.20 mm). The state of Texas averaged 2.64 inches (67.06 mm) of precipitation, while Oklahoma averaged 1.85 inches (46.99 mm) of precipitation. For Texas, it was the sixteenth wettest January on record (1895-2013), while for Oklahoma it was their thirty-eighth wettest.
  • Despite high precipitation totals, drought conditions did not change too much over the past month. This is due in part to the fact that much of the heavy rainfall occurred in areas that were not experiencing drought, such as in Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi for example. High precipitation totals in Arkansas did result in about a one category improvement, but much of the northwest portions of the state remain in moderate to extreme drought. In central Texas, above normal precipitation did result in some improvement, but a little over half the state is still experiencing severe drought conditions or worse.
  • A tornado in De Soto Parish, Louisiana resulted in two injuries on January 12. The twister was classified as an EF-1.
  • On January 29, dozens of tornadoes and wind events were reported over an area ranging from northern Louisiana to central Tennessee. In Tennessee, two people were injured by tornadoes. One injury occurred in Dickson County, while the other occurred in Robertson County. Damages from these twisters are yet to be fully assessed, however; there were numerous reports of structural damage to barns, buildings and homes.
  • Heavy rainfalls in southern Louisiana resulted in some significant flash flooding events. Flooding was observed in several Parishes in the southeastern part of the state, and Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency on January 10. HLNTV reported that hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes.
  • In Texas, flooding from excessive rainfall earlier in the month presented problems in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Snook. Intermittent snowfall caused a fair amount of vehicular damage as well, generally from accidents caused by snow, sleet, and freezing rain or potholes and roadway damage caused by freezing temperatures (Information provided by the Texas Office of State Climatology).
  • For Texas, many AgriLife Extension agents expect that the January rainfall, while not ensuring a successful harvest, did prevent winter wheat from being lost entirely, with some believing it saved over a million dollars. Cotton farmers are less fortunate, with initial yield estimates dropping by 500,000 due to the persistently dry conditions across most of the state. While snow cover in the western parts of the state have farmers cautiously optimistic, the long-term conditions are so poor that it’s not believed that the melt water will be enough to replenish soil moisture. With soil moisture conditions so poor, ranchers are still having trouble keeping their herds fed, causing the Cargill Meatpacking Plant in Plainview to lay off 2000 workers. Longer-term ecological damage has also been seen in recent months, culminating in the Wildlife Department falling short $4.6 million last year (Information provided by the Texas Office of State Climatology).
  • Despite high precipitation totals in Texas, many regions are still suffering from low water supply, notably west Texas. The Lower Colorado River Authority enacted emergency conservation plans in January, and various levels of government are attempting to tackle the problem. Potential solutions include implementation of a 100-year plan in Lubbock estimated to cost anywhere between $4.1 and $10 billion, and a $2 billion appropriation plan introduced in the state legislature (Information provided by the Texas Office of State Climatology).
  • For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.


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