National Climatic Data Center
8 January 2009
NOAA: 2008 Temperature for U.S. Near Average, was Coldest Since 1997;
Below Average for December
The 2008 annual temperature for the contiguous United States was near average, while the temperature for December was below the long-term average, based on records dating back to 1895, according to a preliminary analysis by scientists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.U.S. Temperature Highlights - 2008
The Central and Southern regions experienced below-average temperatures, while above-average temperatures were felt in the West, Southwest and Northeast. This resulted in a near average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. and the coolest annual temperature since 1997.
For 2008, the average temperature of 53.0 degrees F was 0.2 degree above the 20th Century average.
The nation's January-December average temperature has increased at a rate of 0.12 degree F per decade since 1895, and at a faster rate of 0.41 degree F per decade during the last 50 years.U.S. Temperature Highlights - December
The average December 2008 temperature of 32.5 degrees F was 0.9 degree below the 20th Century average.
December temperatures were much below average across the Upper Midwest and cooler than average across much of the West, Northwest and Midwest. Warmer-than- average temperatures were experienced in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic States.
The East North Central region (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) had its 10th coolest December on record. Respectively, Minnesota and North Dakota had their seventh and eighth coolest December.
South Carolina and Georgia had their sixth and eighth, respectively, warmest December on record.U.S. Precipitation Highlights
The average precipitation for the U.S. in 2008 was 30.48 inches, which is 1.34 inches above average.
2008 was the wettest year on record for New Hampshire and Missouri, second wettest for Massachusetts, and third wettest for Connecticut, Illinois, and Iowa. Also, 2008 was the fourth wettest year for Indiana, fifth wettest for Maine, Michigan, and Vermont, seventh wettest for New York, and eighth wettest for Kansas and Rhode Island.
The United States measured above-average precipitation in December across the Northeast, Great Lakes, Mississippi Valley, and much of the northern Great Plains and interior West. However, December was drier than average across the southern Plains.
At the end of December, 19 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate-to-exceptional drought, based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Severe-to-extreme drought conditions continued in the western Carolinas, northeast Georgia, the southern Plains, and parts of California and Hawai'i, with exceptional drought in southern Texas.Other Highlights
A series of intense snow storms moved across the western, central, and northern states during December, breaking more than 2,000 daily snowfall records.
NOAA satellite observations showed 6.8 million square miles (17.6 million square kilometers) of North America were covered by snow in December 2008, which is 0.4 million square miles (1.0 million square kilometers) above the 1966-2008 average.
In 2008, an estimated 77,772 wildfires were reported in the United States. Approximately 5.2 million acres were burned.