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Climate: January sizzles; U.S. temps 4th-warmest ever

U.S. Snow-cover extent the third-lowest on record

Every state but Washington reported above- to well-above average temps during January 2012.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite a moderate La Niña in the Pacific, January temperatures across the U.S. climbed to near-record levels for the month, according to the National Climatic Data Center monthly stats released today.

The average temperature, compiled from hundreds of weather stations across the country, was 5.5 degrees above the 1901-2000 average, making it the fourth-warmest January on record.

The warm readings were also reflected by the lack of snow cover across the country, reported as the third-lowest in the 46-year satellite record. Warmth — along with unusual weather events including spring-like tornadoes — were widespread across the country, as nine states reported top-ten January temperatures.

The northern plains were especially warm, where many locations reported all-time January temperature records, including Minot, North Dakota, which reached 61 degrees on Jan. 5, passing the previous record high of 59 degrees, set in 1906.

Combined, the first two months of winter have also been much warmer than average across the U.S. with much of the warmth focused on the norther and eastern U.S. Minnesota reported an average temperature that was more than 10 degrees above average for the two-month period.

Cold readings came from Alaska, where several towns reported the coldest January readings on record, including Nome, Bethel and McGrath.

Precipitation was mixed bag across the country, with some relief for drought-stricken Texas, which reported above-average rain for the second month in a row.

Dry areas included the central plains, with the third-driest January on record for Kansas, and Florida, which reported its eighth-driest January.

According to data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the average snow extent during January was 1.0 million square miles, which was 329,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average. This marks the 3rd smallest January snow cover extent in the 46-year period of record.

Report compiled from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: National Overview for January 2012, published online February 2012, retrieved on February 7, 2012 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/.

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