Climate of 2008
January in Historical Perspective

National Climatic Data Center
14 February 2008

Contents of this Report:

Selected Global Significant Events for January 2008

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Major Highlights

January 2008 - Cooler and Wetter than Average in Western U.S., Warmer in Northeast 31st Warmest Globally

The contiguous U.S. temperature during January 2008 was near average, according to an analysis by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville NC. Temperatures across much of the western U.S. were cooler than average, while temperatures were warmer than average in the Northeast, which had its 20th warmest January on record. An active pattern brought heavy rain and snow to the West and helped ease drought conditions in parts of the region, but 26% of the nation remained in some stage of drought. The global average surface temperature in January was the 31st warmest on record, based on preliminary data.

U.S. Temperature Highlights

For the contiguous United States, the average temperature was 30.5°F (-0.83°C) for January, which was 0.3°F (0.2°C) below the 20th century mean and the 49th coolest January on record, based on preliminary data.

The Northeast region had its 20th warmest January on record, the middle part of the country experienced near-normal average temperatures, and the far western regions (Southwest, West and Northwest regions) experienced cooler than average temperatures for the month.

The anomalous warmth in the Northeast reduced energy demand for heating and helped keep the nation's overall temperature-related residential energy demand near average. Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index, contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand was approximately 1 percent below average in January.

U.S. Precipitation Highlights

Precipitation was near the 20th century mean for the nation as a whole in January. An average of 2.21 inches (56.1 mm) fell across the contiguous U.S. this month, which is only 0.01 inch (0.26 mm) below average.

The West and parts of the Midwest were generally wetter than average while drier to much drier than average conditions affected the Plains and areas from the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast.

Dry conditions in Texas continued a pattern that began four months ago, when conditions changed from unusually wet (wettest January-September on record for the state) to a string of four straight drier than average months. By the first week of February moderate to severe drought had developed in large parts of the state, which aided in the development of numerous early-season wildfires affecting the state.

January was a wetter than average month for much of the drought-plagued West, with heavy rainfall in areas that included southern California and snowier than average conditions in the Sierras, Cascades, and southern Rocky Mountains.

In contrast to the past several years, western snowpack was average to above average at the start of February throughout most of the region, providing hope that if snowpack remains high the region's low reservoirs could benefit from a better spring melt season in 2008.

Wetter than average conditions in parts of the Southeast were beneficial to some drought-affected parts of the region, but according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, near the end of January 31% of the contiguous U.S. remained in some stage of drought. This was approximately 4% less coverage than at the beginning of the year.

Global Highlights

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for January was the 31st warmest on record, 0.32°F/0.18°C above the 20th century mean. Temperatures were colder than average across large parts of central and southern Asia. The January global land surface average was below the 20th century mean (-0.02°F/-0.01°C) for the first time since 1982.

Large parts of China struggled with a series of severe winter storms that crippled transportation at the start of the Chinese New Year holiday, but it was the warmest January on record in Australia. According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), temperatures were 3-4°C (5-7°F) above average across large areas in Western and Central Australia. The January 2008 average temperature for the nation was 1.23°C (2.21°F) above the 1961-1990 mean, which exceeded the previous record of +1.16°C (+2.09°F) set in January 1999.

La Niña, the cold phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, persisted in the equatorial Pacific, damping ocean surface temperatures. The global average ocean surface temperatures (SSTs) in January were the 17th warmest on record, with a monthly anomaly of 0.45°F/0.25°C above the 20th century mean.

Report Index

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