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National Precipitation

National Climatic Data Center, 14 March 2003

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Global Analysis / Global Hazards / United States Overview / U.S. Drought / Extremes
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National Precipitation rank map
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Contents:
  • February Precipitation
  • Precipitation Departures
  • Last 3 months - winter (Dec-Feb)
  • Last 12 months (Mar-Feb)
  • U.S.Temperatures
  • North America Snow Season

  • Click on links throughout the text of this report for more maps and graphs.
    Visual Text Separator

    Top of Page February Precipitation

    National Precipitation Time Series
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    National Precipitation Time Series
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    The graph to the left is a time series depicting precipitation averaged across the contiguous U.S. Based upon preliminary precipitation data, February 2003 was wetter than average, ranking 23rd wettest. As can be seen in the graph below left, this marks a return to wet conditions after a very dry January. Warm sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific (El Nino), typically lead to predictable climate impacts over the United States, including wet conditions over the southern tier states. For many areas, January was an anomalous month in terms of an El Nino winter and February marks a return to more typical conditions. La Nina, (cool tropical Pacific Sea surface temperatures) has been an important influence on the US climate over the last several years and has led to predominantly dry conditions. The last El Nino winter was in 1998 when conditions were again wet, as the graph to the left shows. With El Nino expected to wane in the coming months, and more neutral conditions in the tropical Pacific, the climate pattern in the US should also become less closely tied to the tropical Pacific.

    Many states across the contiguous U.S. averaged wetter than the 109-year mean for February 2003, with 9 states ranking much above average, and 2 states (Virginia and Maryland) experiencing record wetness for February. Eight states were dry for February, with some states in the upper Midwest experiencing their 4th consecutive dry month. The drought alleviation for many eastern states, which was interrupted in many areas in January, continued for most states in February. Long-term moderate dryness still exist for parts of the Southeast and Maine, and severe moisture deficits continue to impact much of the West. For more details on drought across the country, please click on the U.S. drought page.
    State Precipitation Ranks
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    Some precipitation fell as snow in February, especially in the New England region and along the east coast. More details of snowfall in February and the season so far can be found on the snow season page.


    Regional Precipitation Ranks for the
    Contiguous U.S., February 2003
    Region Rank
    Northeast 82nd driest/ 28th wettest
    East North Central 20th driest/ 90th wettest
    Central 96th driest/ 14th wettest
    Southeast 88th driest/ 22nd wettest
    West North Central 47th driest/ 63rd wettest
    South 97th driest/ 13th wettest
    Southwest 107th driest/ 3rd wettest
    Northwest 22nd driest/ 88th wettest
    West 43rd driest/ 67th wettest
    National Precipitation Time Series
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    The graph to the left is a time series depicting precipitation from October 2002-February 2003 averaged across the Primary Hard Red Winter Wheat Belt. The growing season runs from October to February for the hard red winter wheat and preliminary data indicate that precipitation was above average for the growing season this year.

    Top of Page Precipitation Departures

    The map below, based on more than 500 airport stations, shows February 2003 total precipitation as a percent of the 1971-2000 station normals. Some of the precipitation which fell in February was in the form of snow. Click to the snow page for more details on February and the season-to-date.

    A new monthly precipitation record was set at Jackson, KY for February 2003. A total of 7.89 inches (200 mm) of rain fell breaking the precious record of 7.61 inches (193 mm) that fell in 1989. Dillon, MT also set a new monthly precipitation record on February 15th, 2003. The month-to-date total reached 0.81 inches (21 mm) breaking the previous monthly record of 0.77 inches (20 mm) set in 1952. The normal February precipitation total is 0.20 inches (5 mm). A record high daily precipitation total was set at Easterwood Field Airport in Bryan/College Station, TX. with a total of 4.76 inches (121 mm) falling on February 20th, breaking the old record of 3.81 inches (97 mm) set in 1927. For more records during February 2003, see NCDC's Extremes Page.
    National Precipitation Departures
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    Top of Page Winter (Dec 2002-Feb 2003)

    National Precipitation Time Series
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    The graph to the left is a time series depicting precipitation averaged across the contiguous U.S. Based upon preliminary precipitation data, December 2002-February 2003 was near average, ranking 58th driest in the last 108 years. This winter is a marked change from the last three winters which were much below average for precipitation.

    State Precipitation Ranks
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    State Precipitation Ranks
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    Five states in the upper Midwest and Northeast received much below average precipitation for December-February 2003, inlcuding Michigan which had its record driest winter. November was also dry for much of the upper Midwest leading to record dryness for the East North Central Region for both December to February and November to February. Only one state (Virginia) received much above average precipitation over the winter period (Dec-Feb).
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    Top of Page National Precipitation - March 2002-February 2003

    National Precipitation Time Series
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    The graph to the left is a time series depicting precipitation averaged across the contiguous U.S. Based upon preliminary precipitation data, March 2002-February 2003 was near average, ranking 47th driest in the last 108 such periods. This follows three March-February periods that have averaged below the long term mean precipitation.

    The dominant signal in the last 12 months was dryness in the west and above average wetness in much of the east. Much below average precipitation fell in five western states from March 2002-February 2003. More information on drought analysis for these states and others can be found on NCDC's Drought Pages. Four states from the Gulf to the Ohio Valley had much above precipitation for the 12 months, much of this rainfall resulting from several landfalling tropical storms in the fall of 2002. State Precipitation Ranks
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    Top of Page Questions?

    For all climate questions other than questions concerning this report, please contact the National Climatic Data Center's Climate Services Division:

    Climate Services Division
    NOAA/National Climatic Data Center
    151 Patton Avenue
    Asheville, NC 28801-5001
    fax: 828-271-4876
    phone: 828-271-4800
    email: questions@ncdc.noaa.gov

    For further information on the historical climate perspective presented in this report, contact:

    Jay Lawrimore
    NOAA/National Climatic Data Center
    151 Patton Avenue
    Asheville, NC 28801-5001
    fax: 828-271-4328
    email: Jay.Lawrimore@noaa.gov


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