Climate of 2009

January in Historical Perspective

National Climatic Data Center, 17 February 2009



Contents Of This Report:
Selected Global Significant Events for January 2009

2008 Annual Report is available here.

Major Highlights

NOAA: January Temperature Slightly Above Average for U.S.,
Seventh Warmest January for Global Temperatures

Temperatures for the contiguous United States last month were slightly above the long-term average, based on records going back to 1895, according to a preliminary analysis by scientists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The average January temperature of 31.2 degrees F was 0.4 degree above the 20th Century average.

The combined global land and ocean surface average temperature for January 2009 was the seventh warmest since records began in 1880, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

The analyses in NCDC's global reports are based on preliminary data, which are subject to revision. Additional quality control is applied to the data when late reports are received several weeks after the end of the month and as increased scientific methods improve NCDC's processing algorithms.

U.S. Temperature Highlights

January temperatures were below average across much of the eastern United States, while the western half of the nation experienced warmer-than-average temperatures.

California had its sixth warmest January on record. Maine and Michigan had their eighth and ninth coldest January on record, respectively.

Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand was 3.0 percent above average in January.

U.S. Precipitation Highlights

It was the fifth driest January for the contiguous U.S., based on data going back to 1895. Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma experienced their third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, driest January on record.

All but 15 states experienced a drier-than-normal January. It was the ninth driest January on record for California, but wetter than normal for North Dakota and Massachusetts.

At the end of January, 21 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.

About 23 percent of the contiguous United States had moderately-to-extremely wet conditions at the end of January, according to the Palmer Index. Very-to-extremely moist conditions remained across the central U.S. from Nebraska to North Dakota, and Iowa to Illinois, and in New England.

Other U.S. Highlights

A major storm January 26-29 dropped up to 8 inches of snow from eastern Missouri through Ohio, with 12 to 16 inches from southeastern Illinois through central Indiana. At the Indianapolis International Airport, 12.5 inches of snow fell from January 26 - 28, tying as the sixth largest snowstorm for the city.

The January 26-29 storm also produced a large swath of freezing rain, as much as 1.5 inches in some areas. Total ice accumulations greater than one inch were common along a line in Kentucky, from Paducah to Lexington.

In northern Arkansas, the winter storm coated trees and wires with as much as two inches of ice. Up to 4.10 inches of precipitation was measured in Fayetteville.

Heavy rain and higher snow levels caused significant flooding in parts of northwest Oregon. On January 6 and 7, western Washington experienced heavy rain, which triggered record flooding on the Naselle River. Additionally, up to 10 inches of rain fell in parts of the Washington Cascades.

Global Temperature Highlights

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for January was 54.55 degrees F, 0.95 degree F above the 20th century mean of 53.6 degrees F.

Separately, the global land surface temperature was 38.67 degrees F, 1.67 degrees F above the 20th century mean of 37.0 degrees F, ranking as eighth warmest on record.

The global ocean surface temperature of 61.20 degrees F ranked as seventh warmest on record and was 0.70 degree F above the 20th century mean of 60.5 degrees F.

Other Global Highlights

Snowstorms swept across countries in northern and eastern Europe and reached as far south as Spain and northern Italy. The United Kingdom experienced some of the lowest temperatures in 15 years.

Based on NOAA satellite observations of snow cover extent, 11.3 million square miles (29.3 million square kilometers) of Eurasia (Europe and Asia) were covered by snow in January which is near the 1966-2009 average of 11.4 million square miles (29.5 million square kilometers).

Satellite-based snow cover extent for North America was 6.8 million square miles (17.6 million square kilometers) in January, which is near average. The January satellite-based snow cover extent for the Northern Hemisphere was 18.1 million square miles (46.9 million square kilometers), which also is near average.

Arctic sea ice coverage was at its sixth lowest January extent since satellite records began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Average ice extent during January was 5.43 million square miles. The Arctic sea ice pack usually expands during the cold season, reaching a maximum in March, then contracts during the warm season, reaching a minimum in September.

Moderate-to-severe drought encompassed parts of east-central China and the Tibet province. Excessive heat plagued southern Australia in January, breaking several temperature records. The temperature at Adelaide spiked to 114 degrees F (45.7 degrees C) on January 28, making it the location's hottest day in 70 years.

Report Index


to the top Global Analysis


to the top Global Hazards and Significant Events


to the top National and Regional Overview


to the top United States Drought