February climate highlights

March 14th, 2013 at 3:26 pm by under Weather



Climate Highlights — February

•The February average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 34.8°F, which was 0.8°F above the 20th century average.

•February temperatures were near-average for a large portion of the Lower 48, including the Northwest Coast, Central and Southern Plains, Midwest, Southeast, and much of the East Coast. Below-average temperatures were reported for the Southwest, while most of the Canadian-border states and parts of the Gulf Coast were warmer than average.

•The nationally-averaged precipitation total during February was 2.00 inches, which was 0.02 inch below the long-term average, masking regional wet and dry extremes.

•The West Coast and Northern Rockies were drier than average. California had its fifth driest February on record, with a precipitation total of 0.57 inch, 3.05 inches below average. Oregon’s precipitation total of 1.20 inches was 2.00 inches below average and marked the seventh driest February for the state.

•Above-average precipitation was observed from the Upper Midwest to the Central Plains, mostly along the eastern periphery of the Plains core drought area, and in the Southeast. Above-average precipitation was also present for parts of New England, where Massachusetts had its eighth wettest February and Rhode Island its third wettest.

•Georgia had its wettest February on record with 9.92 inches of precipitation, 5.42 inches above average. The above-average precipitation drastically improved drought conditions which have been present since the summer of 2010. Neighboring Alabama had its fourth wettest February and South Carolina its seventh wettest.

•Three major winter storms impacted the nation during February, contributing to an above-average monthly snow cover extent, according to data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab. A Nor’easter hit the East Coast on February 7th-10th, dropping over 30 inches of snow in parts of New England. The storm was rated a Category 3 on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS), which takes into account snowfall accumulation in the densely populated areas of the northeastern United States. Back-to-back winter storms hit the central U.S. on February 20th-23rd and 25th-28th, bringing heavy snowfall totals and near blizzard conditions from New Mexico to Michigan.

•According to the February 26 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 54.2 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought, smaller than the 57.7 percent at the end of January. Drought conditions continued to plague much of the Great Plains and West.

Climate Highlights — winter season (December 2012 — February 2013)

•The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during the winter season was 34.3°F, 1.9°F above the 20th century average, marking the 20th warmest winter on record.

•Winter was warmer than average for all states east of the Rockies, with the largest departures from average along the East Coast. Florida, Delaware, and Vermont each had one of their ten warmest winters on record. Conversely, the Southwest was cooler than average, and near-average winter temperatures reported in the Northwest.

•The winter nationally-averaged precipitation total of 7.10 inches was 0.63 inch above the long-term average.

•The above-average temperatures were accompanied by above-average precipitation for most states east of the Rockies. Many states in the Great Lakes region and Gulf Coast — Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia — had winter precipitation totals ranking among their ten wettest. Below-average precipitation occurred from the West Coast through the Northern Plains and Rockies.

•According to data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the winter average snow cover extent for the contiguous U.S. was 1.3 million square miles, which was 127,000 square miles above the 1981-2010 average. This marked the 15th largest seasonal snow cover extent in the 1966-present period of record.

•The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI), an index that tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S., was slightly below average during the December-February, period. However, the component that examines the spatial extent of drought was more than three times the normal value for the 3-month period.

•Based on NOAA’s Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand was less than half the 1895-2012 period of record average during winter. This was the 14th smallest such value on record.

Climate Highlights — year-to-date (January — February)

•The first two months of 2013 were warmer than average for the contiguous U.S. with a nationally-averaged temperature of 33.3°F, 1.2°F above average. Near- and above-average temperatures were recorded east of the Rockies. Florida experienced its 11th warmest January-February with a statewide temperature 3.7°F above average. Below-average temperatures were present for much of the West, from California to Colorado. Utah had its 12th coolest January-February, with temperatures 5.3°F below average.

•The January–February precipitation total for the U.S. was 4.36 inches, just 0.12 inch below average. The West and Northeast were both drier than average during the two-month period. California had its driest January–February on record, with average precipitation of 1.75 inches, well below its average of 8.28 inches. Above-average precipitation was present for parts of the Midwest and Gulf Coast, where seven states were top ten wet.

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

•February temperatures in the Southern Region varied from north to south, with the north experiencing a slightly cooler than normal month, while the southern half experienced yet another warmer than normal month. Average temperature anomalies did not sway too far from normal. In the north where it was cooler, temperatures averaged only a couple of degrees below expected values. In the south, temperatures averaged between 0 and 6 degrees F (0 to 3.33 degrees C) above normal, with the highest anomalies occurring in the southern portions of Texas and along the Texas Gulf coast.

•February precipitation totals varied significantly over the Southern Region. In western Oklahoma and north western Texas, precipitation totals ranged from two hundred to over three hundred percent of normal. It should be noted, however; that these values equate to approximately 2 to 4 inches (50.8 to 101.6 mm) of precipitation. Conditions were also a lot wetter than normal in southern Mississippi and in south eastern Louisiana, where precipitation for the month ranged from one hundred and thirty to two hundred and fifty percent of normal. The precipitation totals ranged from 6 to 10 inches in south eastern Louisiana, to 10 to 12 inches (254.0 to 304.8 mm) in southern Mississippi. Conversely, it was quite dry throughout most of Tennessee, with precipitation totals there ranging from twenty-five to ninety percent of normal. Southern Texas was also extremely dry, particularly in the south west and southern tip of the state. Most stations in those regions received under five percent of normal precipitation, with many not seeing a drop of rain all month.

•Above average precipitation in central Oklahoma has lead to the removal of most of the exceptional drought that had resided there last month. There has also been a one drought category improvement over much of the state in general. Elsewhere, drought conditions have not changed significantly. Severe and extreme drought conditions continue to plague the state of Texas, while the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee remain drought-free.

•On February 10, 2013, a series of twisters touched down in southern Mississippi. Dozens of injuries were reported over several counties. In Marion County, eight people were injured. In addition, dozens of injuries were reported in Lamar County and in Forrest County, Mississippi, where twisters ravaged parts of the city of Hattiesburg. Over sixty injuries were reported, but fortunately, there were no reported fatalities. Reuters reported that one twister was believed to have a path width of one mile (1.6 km). Damage was reported across the city of Hattiesburg, including parts of the University of Southern Mississippi. One of the twisters was reported to have been an EF-3, with wind speeds in excess of 140 mph (225.3 kmph).

•Several twisters also occurred in south eastern Texas on February 18, 2013. Damage reported appears to be restricted mostly to trees and power lines.

•One twister-related fatality was reported on February 21, 2013. This occurred in Sabine County, Texas.

•In Texas, as of March 1, 2013 reservoirs were at 67.0 percent of conservation storage, 2 percent less than the previous record and almost 5 percent less than 2012. Because of this, more regions of the state are attempting to curtail their water use. The Edwards Plateau region has approved a plan designed after the 1950s drought plan, estimated to cost between $16 and $18 million. With the onset of spring, harvesting and new planting is a concern for farmers. Dry soil moisture conditions near Wichita Falls and El Paso has caused farmers to pump groundwater and replant to keep their pecan, bean, and pea harvests from going under. Loss of grazing land over the last several months has caused ranchers to sell off their livestock and meat-packaging plants to close, costing two thousand jobs. Corn planting was down after increased corn priced were expected to boost numbers. Not all of the state is in as poor condition, as recent snowfall in the Panhandle has helped replenish upper-level soil moisture and has farmers in the region optimistic. (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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