March 10, 2009
Temperatures for winter, December 2008 – February 2009, across the contiguous United States were near average, based on records dating back to 1895, according to a preliminary analysis by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. For February 2009 alone, the average temperature was above the long-term average.
Winter Temperature Highlights
- The December 2008 – February 2009 average temperature was 33.49 degrees F, which is 0.53 degree F above normal.
- On a regional basis, temperatures were warmer than average across the southern tier states and central Rockies, while the upper Midwest, Great Lakes, Maine, and Washington had a cooler-than-average winter.
- Based on NOAA’s Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand was 0.4 percent above average during winter.
February Temperature Highlights
- The average February temperature of 36.9 degrees F was 2.3 degrees F above the 20th century average.
- February temperatures were above average across much of the country. Only parts of the Southeast, Northwest, and West experienced near-normal temperatures.
- Oklahoma and Texas had their ninth and 10th, respectively, warmest February. Florida was the only state to experience a cooler-than-average temperature for the month.
- The contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand was 4.1 percent below average in February.
Winter Precipitation Highlights
- The United States experienced its fifth driest December-February period on record. Texas had its driest winter ever and the Southeast experienced its 10th driest winter. Only the East-North-Central region (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) had precipitation averages that were above normal.
- Twelve states (in the southern Plains, Southeast, and Northeast) had their 10th driest, or drier, January-February period in the 1895-2009 record.
February Precipitation Highlights
- Precipitation across the contiguous United States in February averaged 1.40 inches, which is 0.62 inch below the 1901-2000 average and tied with February 1954 as the eighth driest February on record.
- Much of the country received below-average precipitation, resulting in the eighth driest February for the contiguous U.S. It was especially dry in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, where New Jersey and Delaware had their driest February on record.
- At the end of February, 24 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate-to-exceptional drought, based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Severe-to-extreme drought conditions continued in the western Carolinas, northeast Georgia, the southern Plains, and parts of California and Hawai’i, with exceptional drought in southern Texas.
- About 20 percent of the contiguous United States had moderately-to-extremely wet conditions at the end of February, according to the Palmer Index (a well-known index that measures both drought intensity and wet spell intensity). This is about three percent less than at the end of January.
- January-February 2009 was the driest, first two month-period in the 1895-2009 record for the contiguous United States. Precipitation across the nation averaged 2.69 inches for January-February.
- NOAA satellite observations of snow cover extent showed 6.7 million square miles of North America were covered by snow in February 2009, which is 0.1 million square miles above the 1966-2009 average of 6.6 million square miles.
NCDC’s preliminary reports, which assess the current state of the climate, are released soon after the end of each month. These analyses are based on preliminary data, which are subject to revision. Additional quality control is applied to the data when late reports are received several weeks after the end of the month and as increased scientific methods improve NCDC’s processing algorithms.
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