Warm January Pushes Lower 48 States Toward New Record for Winter

(CN) – The contiguous United States is in the midst of the warmest winter on record, according to data published by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday – a sobering picture that adds more evidence to the case for global warming.

“Out of the 3,134 counties and county-equivalents (such as parishes) in the lower 48 states, not a single one had a temperature significantly below the 20th-century average for the three-month period,” wrote Bob Henson of the Weather Underground, a weather blog. “The vast majority of counties came in well above average.”

While NOAA published its monthly climate report for January 2020, Henson crunched the numbers from November and December 2019 and found the average temperature was 35.95 degrees Fahrenheit, topping the same period in 2005.

The average temperature is also 4.5 degrees higher than the 20th-century average.

For January alone, the average temperature was 5.4 degrees about the 20th-century average and the fifth warmest ever recorded.

“This was the ninth consecutive January with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average for the month,” NOAA said in its report published on Thursday.


The East Coast in particular experienced warmer than average temperatures. Many records fell on Jan. 11. Boston saw a high of 74 degrees on Jan. 12, a record high for the city in January.

The warmer than average temperatures have had an impact on the Great Lakes, where ice cover was only 35% of average in January. The lack of ice in the Great Lakes could impact the lake’s thermal structure with ripple effects reaching the flora and fauna that traditionally thrive in the world’s largest freshwater system.

Lake Erie is usually half frozen by the end of January but currently stands at .04 percent coverage.

The only area of the United States experiencing something close to a traditional winter is Alaska, where temperatures were well-below the long-term average. Alaska experienced an average temperature of minus 6.2 degrees Fahrenheit, which according to experts is really cold – cold enough to be tied for the 13th coldest January in the state’s recorded history and the coldest since 2012.

Speaking of cold, Chicken, Alaska, recorded a temperature of minus 62 degrees Fahrenheit on Jan. 10. Chicken is in the eastern reach of the state near the state’s border with the Yukon Territory.

Hawaii experienced the other end of the spectrum as Hilo, Hawaii on the Big Island experienced record high temperatures in January. The drought affecting portions of Hawaii lifted slightly, while the U.S. Southwest experienced enough precipitation to improve the drought outlook in a part of the country that has consistently suffered from a lack of rain in recent years.

On Jan. 28, approximately 11% of the United States was classified in the drought category.

In the middle of the country, accumulations of snowpack and soil saturation gave way to fears the Missouri River and the Upper Mississippi could flood in the springtime when the snow melts and runoff occurs.

Finally, Texas and Louisiana experienced heavy storms and tornadoes in January. The storm brought the third-largest tornado outbreak across the south in recorded history.

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