Dry conditions persist in far West
FRISCO — The average February temperature across contiguous United States was well below the 20th century average. With an average reading of 32.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.6 degrees below average), last month will go down in the books at the 37th-coldest February on record, the National Climatic Data Center reported in its regular monthly update.
The winter season overall (December to February) was 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit below average, making it the coldest winter since 2009-2010. This winter stood in sharp contrast to the last two winters, and most winters of the past two decades, when temperatures were predominately warmer than the 20th century average, the climate data center said. Read the full report here.
With cold temperatures prevailing, an analysis by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab showed that the winter average snow cover extent for the contiguous U.S. was 1.42 million square miles, about 170,000 square miles above the 1981-2010 average. This marked the 10th largest seasonal snow cover extent in the 1966-present period of record. Above-average snow cover was observed across the northern and eastern U.S., while below-average snow cover was observed from the Southern Rockies, westward.
And even though there were pockets of heavy snow, overall total winter precipitation averaged across the contiguous U.S. was much below average. With a total of 5.69 inches, 1.10 inches below average, this was the driest winter since 2001 to 2002. The February national precipitation total was 2.12 inches, ranking near the middle of the 120-year period of record.
The coldest readings in the country were in the Midwest, where seven states reported top-10 cold winter seasons, but no state was record cold.
Warmer than average temperatures prevailed across Florida and much of the West, where California had its warmest winter on record, while Arizona had its fourth warmest. The California winter temperature was 48.0 degrees Fahrenheit, 4.4 degrees above the 20th century average, far exceeding the previous record, set in 1980/81, by 0.8°F.
Much of the West and Great Plains were much drier than average. Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas each had a top 10 dry winter season. During winter, drought intensified across the West and Southern Plains. Statewide reservoirs in Texas averaged 64 percent capacity on February 20, their lowest level for the time of the year since 1990.