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Climate: A tale of two winters

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Colorado stands out as one of the few western states with above average precipitation during January 2014.

January 2014 cool and dry across the U.S.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The monthly summary from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center tells a tale of two winters across the United States, with cold conditions and big snows in the eastern half of the country and record drought and warmth in parts of the West.

Overall, the nationally averaged temperature across the contiguous 48 states was 30.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 0.1 degrees below the 20th century average, making it the coldest January since 2011, according to the state of the climate report for January 2014.

The federal climate center said that, despite some of the coldest Arctic air outbreaks to impact the East in several years, no state reported record cold temperatures for the month — although Alabama came close, with its fourth-coldest January on record.

While well-above average temperatures prevailed across parts of the far West, no state reported record warmth, but New Mexico recorded the driest January on record, continuing a long spell of dry conditions for the parched state.

The drier-than-average conditions also prevailed across much of the West and Great Plains, and into parts of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Eight states had January precipitation totals that ranked among the 10 driest.

The average January national precipitation total was 1.32 inches, 0.90 inch below the 20th century average, ranking as the fifth-driest January on record and the driest since 2003.

On the other end of the scale, Alaska reported its eight-wettest January on record, and one of warmest as well. The statewide average temperature for Alaska was 14.8 degrees above the 20th century average, making it the third-warmest January on record.

And while snow was in the news on the East Coast, numbers from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab showed that the January snow cover extent across the contiguous U.S. was the 16th-smallest in the 48-year period of record at 1.28 million square miles, about 82,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average.

Above-average snow cover was observed across the Northern Plains, Midwest, and Northeast where numerous winter storms brought heavy snowfall during the month, while below-average snow cover was observed for most of the West and Southern Rockies.

In the West, some weather stations broke daily high temperature records, including a Jan. 24 79 degree Fahrenheit reading at Sacramento, a new record monthly high.

The average temperature in Sacramento was 52.7 degrees Fahrenheit, the second highest January average in the station’s 137-year record. Similarly, San Francisco also recorded its second-highest monthly average temperature on record.

Drought conditions also worsened in northern Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico this month. In Arizona, Flagstaff had a run of 39 days (December 22-January 29) without precipitation, the longest winter dry streak in the station’s 87 years of data. Albuquerque, New Mexico, also received no measurable January precipitation for the 9th time since 1897.

Information compiled from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: National Overview for January 2014: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/2014/1.

 

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