January Was USA’s 4th-Warmest On Record


sun1The warmth last month wasn’t a mirage: January 2012 was the USA’s 4th-warmest January on record, federal climate scientists announced on Tuesday.

The national average temperature in January was 36.3 degrees F, which is 5.5 degrees F above the long-term average and the warmest since 2006, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. The other warmer Januarys were in 1990 and 1953.

The data is based on records dating back to 1895.

Nine states – Arizona, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming – had January temperatures ranking among their ten warmest. Florida and Washington were the only states in the lower 48 with temperatures near average, and no state was cooler than average.

Cities across the Northern Plains, Midwest and Northeast had below-average snowfall during the month as a result of the warm, dry weather.

According to data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the average snow cover in January was 1 million square miles, which was 329,000 square miles below average. This marked the 3rd-smallest January snow cover extent in the 46-year period of record.

Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada was less than 50 percent of average by the end of the month.

Several cities in the Northern Plains set all-time monthly record high temperatures on Jan. 5. Mitchell, S.D., for example, soared to a record high of 68 degrees that day. The average high on Jan. 5 in Mitchell is 27 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

One of the causes of the unusual warmth in the Plains, and across much of the country, was due to the Arctic Oscillation (AO), a climate pattern over the polar regions that affects weather here in the USA.

“The AO moves between a positive phase and a negative phase and when the AO is in a positive mode, the High Plains Region tends to have warmer than normal temperatures,” the High Plains Regional Climate Center reports. “For much of this winter the AO has been in a positive phase. In addition, the effects of the AO are strong enough to override the effects of ENSO (El Niño and La Niña).”

While the lower 48 basked in relative warmth, Alaska endured an unusually cold month, even by its frigid standards. Final monthly temperature data for the state is not yet available, but several locations shivered through their coldest January on record.

January’s monthly temperature in Bettles, Alaska, was -35.6 degrees F. A typical January sees an average temperature in Bettles of -10 degrees F.

The first two months of the winter season, December and January, have been much warmer than average for the lower 48. This two-month period was the fourth warmest on record, with a season-to-date temperature 3.8 degrees F above average.

Climatological winter runs from Dec. 1 until the last day of February.

{USA Today/Matzav.com Newscenter}



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