Entire Report - January 2011


National Overview

NCDC transitioned to the nClimDiv dataset on Thursday, March 13, 2014. This was coincident with the release of the February 2014 monthly monitoring report. For details on this transition, please visit our public FTP site and our U.S. Climate Divisional Database site.

Maps and Graphics

Temperature and Precipitation Ranks
U.S. Percentage Areas
More Information

National Overview:

The weather patternweather pattern over the contiguous United States during January 2011 consisted of a broadscale high pressure ridge over the West and a low pressure trough over the East. Temperatures averaged above normal in the Pacific Coast states under the upper ridge, while cooler-than-normal temperatures dominated east of the Rockies under the upper trough.

Strong storm systems moving in this flow pattern brought rain and snow to many areas. Pacific extra-tropical cyclonic systems moved across the Northwest and northern Rockies then intensified as they moved into the Great Plains states. Nebraska and North Dakota each had the 12th wettest January on record. Other winter storm systems developed over the Southern Plains, tapping Gulf of Mexico moisture as they moved across the southern states and intensified and finally tracking up the Atlantic Seaboard. Several of the low pressure sytems and associated cold fronts brought severe weather to the Gulf Coast, including several tornadoes to central Florida. The northern systems and Gulf systems exited the country in the Northeast.

The combination of Gulf moisture and cold Canadian air resulted in widespread snowfall. January began with about 50 percent of the contiguous U.S. under snow cover and ended with about 42 percent snow covered, but the snow cover area varied with each snowstorm during the month, reaching a maximum of about 71 percent of the country on January 12th. Based on the 45-year satellite record, January 2011 had the 5th largest January snow cover extent for the country. Snow has a lower moisture content than rain, so it takes more snow (on average, about ten times as much) to equal the same amount of precipitation (meltwater equivalent) that would fall as rain. These winter storm systems brought above-normal snowfall but below-normal rain to many areas, giving the impression of wet conditions when, in fact, total precipitation was below normal. The southwestern U.S. was unusually dry beneath the upper ridge, with New Mexico having the driest January in the 117-year record and Arizona and Nevada ranking 2nd driest. Many states along the Mississippi River and eastward were drier than normal, with Virginia ranking 5th driest and North Carolina 9th driest. For the nation as a whole, January 2011 ranked as the 9th driest January in the 117-year record.

Cold fronts and low pressure systems moving in the storm track flow are influenced by the broadscale atmospheric circulation. Two such large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns were dominant during January. The first was the La Niña, which is the phenomenon created by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. La Niña is typically associated with wet conditions in the northwest states and Ohio Valley this time of year, cooler-than-normal conditions in the Far West and North Central states, and warm and dry conditions in the southern tier states and Atlantic Seaboard. The second atmospheric circulation index was the Pacific/North American (PNA) pattern, which was positive during much of January. A positive PNA is typically associated with colder-than-normal temperatures over the southeastern half of the country and warmer-than-normal temperatures along the Pacific Coast at this time of year (December-February). The typical precipitation pattern associated with a positive PNA is drier than normal along and east of the Mississippi River, parts of the interior West, and in the Pacific Northwest. The temperature pattern for January 2011 matched what is expected for a positive PNA, while the precipitation pattern was a combination of positive PNA in the East and La Niña in the West.

  • Temperature Highlights
  • Across the contiguous United States, the average January temperature was 30.0°F (-1.1°C) which is 0.8°F (0.4°C) below the 1901-2000 average.January 2011 was the coolest January since 1994 when the average temperature was 28.3°F (-2.1°C), breaking a long string of warm or near-normal Januaries.
  • Cooler-than-normal conditions dominated most areas east of the Rocky Mountains while the western coastal states of California, Oregon and Washington were above-normal in January.
  • The past three months (November-January) were especially cool in the Southeast climate region, which experienced its seventh coolest such period. Five states had top-ten-coolest such periods: Georgia (4th coolest), North Carolina (5th), South Carolina (6th), Florida (8th), and West Virginia (9th).
  • Looking at a rolling twelve-month period (February 2010-January 2011), average temperatures were record warm in Maine (3.5°F [1.9°C] above normal), New Hampshire (3.1°F [1.7°C] above normal) and Rhode Island (3.1°F [1.7°C] above normal-tied with 2002). Eight other states, in the Northeast and Great Lakes areas, averaged a temperature for the period among their ten warmest. The Northeast climate region experienced its fourth warmest such period.
  • Precipitation Highlights
  • Despite several large winter storms across the contiguous United States, January was the ninth driest on record, much drier than normal. Average precipitation across the contiguous United States was 1.48 inches (38 mm), which is 0.74 inch (19 mm) below the 1901-2000 average.
  • Precipitation for the month of January was record dry for New Mexico (0.55 inch [14 mm] below normal), while both Arizona and Nevada had their second driest January. Notably, Nevada's extreme dryness followed a record-wet December for the state. Other states whose precipitation averages were much below normal were: Virginia (5th driest), Oklahoma (8th), North Carolina (9th), and California (10th). Meanwhile, much above normal precipitation fell in North Dakota and Nebraska.
  • The lack of precipitation across the Four Corners region tied with 2003 as the driest January on record for the Southwest climate region. Its January precipitation of 0.23 inch (6 mm) was nearly 0.7 inch (18 mm) below the 20th century average. The West climate region also had very low precipitation, resulting in its eighth-driest January.
  • January extended a pattern of continued dryness and drought across a wide band of the southern United States. The three-month period (November-January) was the 3rd driest such period for North Carolina, 4th driest for South Carolina, 7th driest for Arkansas, and 9th driest for New Mexico. Average precipitation in Montana (8th wettest) and North Dakota (10th wettest) was much above normal.
  • For the twelve months since February 2010, the Southeast climate region had its tenth driest such period. Within the region, Georgia and South Carolina had their seventh and eighth driest such period, respectively. In the South, Arkansas was fourth driest, Louisiana seventh driest, and Mississippi ninth driest. In contrast, many northern locations have seen a very wet twelve-month period. North Dakota (6.3 inches [160 mm] above normal) had its wettest such period, while Iowa (11.6 inches [41 mm] above normal) and Minnesota (7.8 inches [198 mm] above normal) had their second wettest.
  • Other Items of Note
  • Several winter storms impacted the northeastern U.S. during January, causing New York City and Hartford, Connecticut to break January snowfall records. The 57.0 inches (145 cm) which fell at Hartford's Bradley International Airport was the city's all-time snowiest month on record.
  • The snowstorm that traversed the northern plains, Great Lakes and Northeast United States on January 9-13 ranked as a Category 3, or "Major" snowstorm, according to preliminary analysis on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS). The NESIS score of 5.31 was slightly greater than the "Christmas 2010" blizzard and slightly less than the storm of late February 2010.
  • Drought coverage, as indicated by the U.S. Drought Monitor, continued to expand during January. As of February 1, 24.1 percent of the United States was affected by D1-D4 (Moderate-Exceptional) drought. At this point last year (Feb 2, 2010), only 8.5 percent of the United States was affected. Dry conditions across southern Arizona and New Mexico led to the development of severe drought conditions. Rainfall across the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana improved drought conditions there by one category from extreme drought to severe drought.

Alaska Temperature and Precipitation:

  • Alaska had its 26th warmest January on record, with a temperature 3.8°F (2.1°C) above the 1971–2000 average.
  • Alaska had its 35rd warmest November–January on record, with a temperature 0.9°F (0.5°C) above the 1971–2000 average.
  • Alaska had its 42nd wettest January since records began in 1918, with an anomaly that was 4.1 percent above the 1971–2000 average.
  • Alaska had its 24th wettest November–January on record, with an anomaly that was 13.0 percent above the 1971–2000 average.

For additional details about recent temperatures and precipitation across the U.S., see the Regional Highlights section below. For information on local temperature and precipitation records during the month, please visit NCDC's Records page. For details and graphics on weather events across the U.S. and the globe please visit NCDC's Global Hazards page.


Regional Highlights:

These regional summaries were provided by the six Regional Climate Centers and reflect conditions in their respective regions. These six regions differ spatially from the nine climatic regions of the National Climatic Data Center.

  • Northeast Region: (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)
  • The first month of 2011 averaged cooler than normal in the Northeast. January's regional temperature average was 21.6 degrees F (-5.8 degrees C). This was 1.4 degrees F (0.8 degrees C) below normal and 3.3 degrees F (1.8 degrees C) cooler than January 2010. Two states, Maine and Vermont, ended up with above normal temperatures. The departure in Maine was +2.6 degrees F (+1.4 degrees C), and in Vermont, +0.1 degree F (+0.1 degree C). Of the 10 states that were cooler than normal, departures ranged from -3.3 degrees F (-1.8 degrees C) to -0.6 degrees F (-0.3 degrees C). In general, the warmest temperatures occurred on the 1st and 2nd, while the third week of the month saw the coldest readings.
  • The region's monthly precipitation total averaged 2.14 inches (54 mm), which was 64 percent of normal. This was the driest January since 2001 and the 18th driest since records began in 1895. Departures ranged from 53 percent of normal in Maine to 95 percent of normal in Rhode Island. Although the region averaged less than normal precipitation, snowfall totals were above normal. This was due to a persistent weather pattern that resulted in frequent storms, large and small. Measureable snow fell over large portions of the region at least once a week during January. By the 31st, parts of every state except Maryland and Delaware had snowfall totals that exceeded 2 feet (61 cm). New daily records were set during the month, including two that went back to the late 1800's: Central Park's 6.1 inches (15.5 cm) on the 12th beat the 5.0 inches (12.7 cm) that fell in 1893; and Newark, NJ's 6.7 inches (17.0 cm) on the 27th topped the 6.5 inch (16.5 cm) record set in 1894. Six cities saw their snowiest January on record: Bridgeport, CT (42.0 inches, 106.7cm); Hartford, CT (57.0 inches, 144.8 cm); Newark, NJ (37.4 inches, 95.0 cm); Central Park, NY (36.0 inches, cm); Islip, NY (34.3 inches, 87.1 cm); and LaGuardia Airport, NY (32.6 inches, 82.8 cm).
  • The most significant snowfall events occurred on the 11th-12th and the 26-27th. Each of the storms dumped at least 6 inches (15.2 cm) of snow along the I-95 corridor from Philadelphia, PA to Portland, ME, with many areas reporting over two feet (61 cm). Each event resulted in thousands of cancelled flights, public transportation delays, school closing, and numerous fender benders. The storm on the 26th and 27th caused travel nightmares in the Washington, DC area with reports of commuters stuck for up to eight hours. At least 6 weather related deaths were reported in Maryland, Delaware and New York during this storm. As the snow piled up, reports of roof collapses started coming in at month's end. State and municipal snow removal budgets, strained after the late December blizzard, were depleted with half the winter left on the calendar. Also in short supply were places to dump the snow collected from city streets. Environmental regulations prohibit dumping snow in waterways so densely populated east coast cities have turned to dumping snow in parks, playing fields and parking lots or trucking the snow to snow-melting companies.
  • For more information, please go to the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • Midwest Region: (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
  • January temperatures were below normal across all but a small portion of the region. Temperatures ranged from near normal over a small portion of the upper Midwest to 5 to 6 degrees F (2.8 to 3.3 degrees C) below normal from western Minnesota south into western Missouri. The coldest weather of the month occurred on January 20-21, when temperatures plummeted to -30 to -46 degrees F (-34 to -43 degrees C) across the northern half of Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, and -20 degrees F (-29 degrees C) or lower as far south as northern Iowa. In Minnesota, low temperatures dropped to -46 degrees F (-43 degrees C) at International Falls and Babbitt and from -40 to -43 degrees F (-40 to -42 degrees C) at six other locations in the northeastern part of the state. Elkader, IA recorded a low of -30 degrees F (-34 degrees C) on the morning of January 21st. On the other side of the coin, temperatures across parts of southern Missouri pushed into the 70s (20s C ) near the end of the month as warm air was pulled northward ahead of a developing storm in the southern Plains.
  • January precipitation was below to much below normal. The exception was the area from northwestern Minnesota south through northwestern Missouri, where precipitation was 100 to 200 percent of normal. Most of the region received less than 75 percent of normal precipitation, with and area from southwestern Missouri into the Ohio Valley receiving less than 50 percent of normal.
  • Snow was a frequent occurrence during the month across most of the region. The highest totals were found in the lee of Lakes Superior and Michigan, and in northwestern Ohio as northwest and west winds favored frequent lake-effect snows. Snowfall was more than twice normal this month from northwestern Minnesota south through northwestern Missouri, where snowfall was more than three times normal Snowfall was also 200 percent of normal or more in the Ohio Valley. In Kentucky, snowfall was well above normal for the second consecutive month with more than 12 inches (30.5 cm) of snow falling in the Bluegrass Region and eastern Kentucky. The back to back snowy winters of 2010 and 2011 are the snowiest in Kentucky since the snowy winters of 1977-1979. In Iowa, Des Moines recorded snowfall on all but five days during the month. The South Bend, IN airport measured 32.6 inches (82.8 cm) in 24 hours and a storm total 38.6 inches (98.0 cm) for a lake-effect snow event on January 7-8. The biggest large-scale snow event this month was a storm that moved across the central Midwest on January 19-20. Six to 12 inches (15.2 to 30.4 cm) of snow fell in a wide band across central Missouri. On January 22nd snow covered the entire Midwest region, but by the end of the month the southern extent of the snow had retreated to a line from Kansas City, MO to Bloomington, IN
  • For details on the weather and climate events of the Midwest, see the weekly summaries in the MRCC Midwest Climate Watch page.
  • Southeast Region: (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)
  • For the second consecutive month, mean temperatures were below normal across the Southeast region. The greatest departures occurred across northern Florida and eastern sections of Georgia and the Carolinas, where monthly average temperatures were 4 to 7 degrees F (2.2 to 3.9 degrees C) below normal. Interior portions of Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, as well as the Florida Keys were 2 to 4 degrees F (1.1 to 2.2 degrees F) below normal, while most of Virginia and the Florida Peninsula were 1 to 2 degrees F (0.5 to 1.1 degrees C) below normal for the month of January. Monthly temperatures were slightly above normal across Puerto Rico, while the U.S. Virgin Islands experienced their third consecutive month of below normal temperatures. In contrast to December, which saw over 1,000 daily record low maximum and minimum temperatures, there were only 142 daily record low maximum and 126 daily minimum temperature records tied or broken across the Southeast in January. Many of these occurred in the southern tier of the region and along the Atlantic coast. Cherry Point, NC, located near the Outer Banks, recorded a low temperature of 9 degrees F (-12.8 degrees C) on the 23rd of the month, which ranked as the 4th coldest minimum temperature for any January date in a record extending back to 1945.
  • Precipitation totals for January were below normal across a large portion of the Southeast. Precipitation totals were less than 75 percent of normal across most of Alabama, Georgia, and southern Florida, and less than 50 percent of normal across the Carolinas and Virginia. The driest locations (less than 25 percent of normal) were found across western Virginia and local portions of the Carolinas and Alabama. Roanoke, VA received only 0.82 inches (20.8 mm) of precipitation for the month, making it the 4th driest January in a record extending back to 1912. In contrast, monthly precipitation totals were between 100 and 150 percent of normal across the northern tier of Florida and as much as 300 percent of normal across the central Peninsula. Orlando, FL and Tampa, FL recorded their 5th wettest January with 5.92 and 6.28 inches (150.4 and 159.5 mm), respectively. Monthly precipitation was below normal across much of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • There were 42 reports of severe weather across the Southeast in January, and all but one occurred in Florida. On the 17th of the month, thunderstorm winds brought down power lines in Key West, FL and blew cars off a highway in Manatee County, FL. A weak tornado was also reported along I-95 in Brevard County, FL. On the 25th of the month, a line of strong storms spawned six tornadoes and produced damaging winds across central Florida. At least a dozen mobile homes were destroyed by a tornado in Lee County, FL with no injuries reported. Numerous reports of felled trees and structural damage resulting from these storms were reported across central Florida. At least one person was injured following a 90 mph (144 km/hr) wind gust at a gas station that was damaged in Pinellas County, FL.
  • The Southeast region was affected by four winter storms in January. On the 7th and 8th of the month, an Alberta Clipper moved across the Great Lakes and dropped 2 to 4 inches (50.8 to 101.6 mm) of snow across northern Virginia. A few days later, a low pressure system developed in the Gulf of Mexico and produced frozen and freezing precipitation across the region as it moved up the East Coast. Snowfall totals of 6 to 10 inches (152.4 to 254 mm) were observed across northern and central portions of Alabama and Georgia, northwest South Carolina, and western North Carolina. According to the Georgia State Climate Office, Athens, GA recorded an all-time 24-hr snowfall total of 8.8 inches (223.5 mm). Ice accumulations ranged from 0.1 inches (2.54 mm) across eastern South Carolina and central North Carolina to 0.75 inches (19.1 mm) across central Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. An extended period of cold temperatures following the storm and a lack of snow removal equipment caused severe disruptions across parts of the region. Some schools in northern Georgia and northwestern North Carolina were closed for an entire week due to the storm. On the 22nd of the month, a low pressure system off the Southeast coast produced 6 to 7 inches (152.4 to 177.8 mm) of snowfall along portions of North Carolina's Outer Banks. The 6 inches (152.4 mm) of snow reported at Cape Hatteras, NC broke both the 24-hr and monthly snowfall totals for January by 2.5 inches. On the 26th of the month, a low pressure system tracked through the Southeast and dropped 5 to 7 inches (127 to 177.8 mm) of snow across the Washington D.C. area. With respect to monthly snowfall totals, Huntsville, AL recorded 9.2 inches (233.7 mm), which registered as the 3rd snowiest January in a record extending back to 1894.
  • Widespread drought continued across the Southeast in January. The most notable change in the U.S. Drought Monitor was an expansion of moderate drought (D1) conditions through central portions of North Carolina and Virginia. The lack of precipitation over the past several months lead to record low stream flows across several watersheds in January, preventing recharge to reservoirs. As a result, minimum releases were ordered out of several North Carolina reservoirs to help maintain water levels. The persistence of cold temperatures this winter has resulted in sufficient chill hours for a number of winter crops, including blueberries and peaches. As a result, farmers are concerned that warm February temperatures could cause the crops to bloom and thus be susceptible to an early spring freeze.
  • For more information, please go to the Southeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • High Plains Region: (Information provided by the High Plains Regional Climate Center)
  • The temperatures this January were full of ups and downs. The year started off with extreme cold across Colorado and Wyoming. In the middle of the month, after a brief warm up, the High Plains Region experienced some of the coldest temperatures of the month. According to the South Dakota State Climate Office, South Dakota had the coldest temperatures in the lower 48 states on January 19th when several locations were -20 degrees F (-28.9 degrees C) or colder. While not record breaking, Pollock, South Dakota did have a low of -32 degrees F (-35.6 degrees C) that day. The warmest temperatures of the month occurred about 10 days later when temperatures ranged from 60-75 degrees F (15.6-23.9 degrees C) across Kansas and Colorado. These warm temperatures did not last long as a blast of cold Arctic air plunged south into the Region at the very end of the month.
  • Overall, temperatures were slightly warmer than normal across much of Wyoming, central Colorado, western Kansas, and the western edge of the panhandle of Nebraska and cooler than normal in the northern and eastern areas of the Region. Although average temperatures were 6-8 degrees F (3.3-4.4 degrees C) below normal from eastern North Dakota south through eastern Kansas, the cold weather was not record breaking. Many places did rank in the top 20 coldest Januaries on record, however. Seward, Nebraska, which is located just west northwest of Lincoln, tied for its 10th coldest January on record (period of record 1900-2011). The average temperature for Seward was 16.6 degrees F (-8.6 degrees C) this month which was 7.8 degrees F (4.3 degrees C) below normal. The coldest January on record occurred in 1940 with an average temperature of only 8.2 degrees F (-13.2 degrees C).
  • Precipitation varied across the Region this month. Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas were generally drier than normal with some isolated areas receiving above normal precipitation. Enough snow fell in the higher elevations in western Wyoming to eliminate the moderate drought conditions which have been in place for months. Several rounds of snow impacted the northern and eastern portions of the Region this month. Many locations in northeast Nebraska and southeast South Dakota had snowfall totals that ranked in the top 10 snowiest Januaries on record and a few even broke monthly records. A long-standing January snowfall record was broken in Oakdale, Nebraska where 23.2 inches (59 cm) of snow fell this month. The previous record was 17.6 inches (45 cm) and occurred in 1936 (period of record 1893-2011). Interestingly, two days this month ranked as top one-day January snowfalls for Oakdale. The fifth highest one-day snow total occurred on January 23rd with 7.0 inches (18 cm) and the second highest one-day snow total occurred on January 10th with 9.5 inches (24 cm). January 2011 was also the second snowiest month of all time in Oakdale. Only March of 1911 had more snow (27.0 inches/69 cm).
  • Concerns of major flooding along the Red River have started again this winter. According to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the combination of a wet 2010, higher than normal snowfall this winter season, and a La Niña forecast of a cool and wet spring could lead to major spring flooding. Snowfall totals across the area have been impressive, although not near those preceding the historical flood of 1997. For instance, Fargo, North Dakota has received 59.2 inches (150 cm) of snow so far this season. This amount has already surpassed the entire 2009-2010 seasonal snowfall total of 46.6 inches (118 cm)!
  • The U.S. Drought Monitor remained largely unchanged since last month. In western Wyoming, a good snow pack and high precipitation caused the moderate drought conditions (D1) to be eliminated and the abnormally dry conditions (D0) to be trimmed slightly. The D0 in the southwest corner of Colorado were also eliminated. However, severe drought conditions (D2) remained over south-central Colorado and western Kansas. D1 across eastern Colorado, western and southeastern Kansas, and the panhandle of Nebraska were also unchanged. According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released January 20th drought conditions across Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska were expected to persist and drought conditions were expected to develop in south central Nebraska.
  • For more information, please go to the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • Southern Region: (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)
  • January temperatures in the Southern Region were consistently below normal by 0 - 4 degrees F (0 - 2.22 degrees C), with little spatial variation among temperature anomalies. The average temperatures for the six states were: 37.40 degrees F (3.00 degrees C) in Arkansas, 46.8 degrees F (8.22 degrees C) in Louisiana, 41.8 degrees F (5.44 degrees C) in Mississippi, 34.50 degrees F (34.5 degrees C) in Oklahoma, 34.10 degrees F (1.17 degrees C) in Tennessee, and 44.80 degrees F (7.11 degrees C) in Texas. Although it was a generally cooler than normal month for the region, none of the state temperature values were close to setting records. The rankings for the above values ranged from the twenty-third coldest January on record (1895-2011) in Mississippi, to the the thirty-eighth coldest January on record (1895-2011) in Texas.
  • With the exception of southern Texas, much of the Southern Region experienced its fourth consecutive drier than normal month. The Southern Region continues to struggle through a strong drought, and little to no precipitation through much of the northwestern tier of the region did little to help that cause. The driest areas of the region included Oklahoma, the northern two thirds of Arkansas and much of north western Texas. The majority of stations in those regions received only a quarter of the precipitation that is normally expected in January. In fact dozens of stations reported no precipitation at all. In Arkansas, most stations received between 25 and 50 percent of normal precipitation. In total, Oklahoma averaged only 0.29 inches (7.37 mm) of precipitation for the month, making it the eighth driest January there on record (1895-2011). Arkansas averaged 1.62 inches (41.15 mm) for the month, which was their fifteenth driest January on record (1895-2011). In Texas, the January average precipitation total was a near average value of 1.52 inches (38.61 mm). The state average is somewhat skewed by the fact that it was extremely dry in the northern half of the state, and quite wet in the southern half. Louisiana also had a near average month for precipitation. The state average precipitation total was 4.71 inches (119.63 mm), which is only slightly below average. In Mississippi, the state average precipitation total was 4.33 inches (109.98 mm), which like Louisiana, is a little on the dry side of average. Tennessee averaged 3.10 inches (78.74 mm), which was the twenty-seventh driest January on record (18-95-2010).
  • Drought conditions did not change much over the month of January in the Southern Region. Extremely dry conditions in the western Texas panhandle has led to a one category deterioration to severe drought. Similar dryness in western Mississippi has also led to the introduction of sever drought. Anomalously high January precipitation totals in southern Texas has led to some improvements. For instance, much of the gulf coast in Texas is now drought free. There are still, however; some small pockets of moderate drought in the extreme southern tip of the state. Similar improvements also occurred in south central Louisiana and central Mississippi. Based on the February 1 report of the United States Drought Monitor, 6.59 percent of the Southern Region is experiencing extreme drought, which is an improvement of 3.58 percent from last month. In addition, only 58.97 percent of the region is classified as moderate drought or worse. Last month, this value was 67.65 percent.
  • There were few instances of severe weather impacts for the Southern Region in the month of January. On January 31, a wind report in Brazos County, Texas indicated that a roof was blown off a mobile home. On the same day, strong winds resulted in roof damage for residents of Burnet County, Texas. Reports indicate that roofs were blown off or damaged. Numerous trees and power lines were also damaged.
  • For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Regional Climate Center)
  • Temperatures were near normal throughout the West except for isolated basins and valleys where strong inversions persisted through the month keeping temperatures well below normal. Vernal, UT, in the snow covered Uinta Basin, was nearly 8 degrees F below normal for January as a strong inversion remained solid for most of the month, while nearby mountain locations 3000 feet higher averaged 10-15 degrees F (6-10 C) warmer. In California's Central Valley frequent fog kept average maximum temperatures mostly below normal while coastal and mountain locations basked in sun and above normal temperatures.
  • Precipitation was below to well below normal in the throughout most of the West except for portions of northwest Washington and northeast Montana. Glasgow, MT, set a new all time monthly snowfall record going back 95 years with 41.6 inches (105.7 cm) shattering the old record of 32.9 (83.6 cm) inches set in January 2004. It was also the second wettest January in Glasgow. Much of the desert Southwest received no precipitation at all.
  • Mountain snowpack dropped significantly in the Sierra Nevada from January 1st to February 1st, with snowpack dropping from 215% of normal to 130% of normal around Lake Tahoe. Although mountain snowpack remains fairly healthy throughout the west, many locations lost snow during the dry January. The Pacific Northwest and the mountains of the Southwest are below normal even though precipitation in the Northwest is above normal for the winter as snow levels have been relatively high for many storm events. Crater Lake, Oregon, received only 17.5 inches (44.4 cm) of snow, its 2nd lowest January total (record, 9 inches / 22.9 cm in 1985, average about 90 inches / 229 cm) during what is normally the snowiest month. The snow depth on the ground there decreased from 100 inches (254 cm) on the 1st to a mere 66 inches (168 cm) on the 31st, normally increasing from 65 inches (165 cm) to 93 inches (236 cm) during that span.
  • December 25-26, 2010 - January 3, 2011: Freezing Spray in Alaska: Strong winds combined with blizzard conditions, cold temperatures and a lack of sea ice caused very heavy freezing spray to build up on power lines in the village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island leading to widespread power outages to over half the town. With furnaces shut down numerous homes reported water pipes bursting. Power was finally restored on January 3rd.
  • January 11: Freezing Rain and Snow in Pacific Northwest: A cold winter storm brought snow and freezing rain to parts of western Washington and Oregon. Up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) of snow fell in the Seattle area before turning to freezing rain. Interstate 84 east of Portland was closed several times on the 11th from the icy conditions. Seattle-Tacoma Airport had numerous delays and about a dozen flights were diverted.
  • January 15-17: Heavy Rain in Flooding in Oregon and Washington: A rather warm storm hit the Pacific Northwest with heavy rain and high snow levels causing widespread flooding in the region. Numerous highways were closed due to landslides, flooding or avalanches. Some evacuations were in place in parts of northwest Oregon. One person was killed by a falling tree about 20 miles east of Seattle.
  • January 23: Blizzard in Southwest Alaska: A 14-year old boy from Kipnuk, AK, in southwest Alaska, died while trying to walk home from a friend's home in a blizzard. He apparently became disoriented in the blowing snow. Winds were gusting to 60 mph at the time combined with a temperature of -10 F (-23.3 C) leading to wind chill factors of -50F (-46 C).

See NCDC's Monthly Records web-page for weather and climate records for the most recent month. For additional national, regional, and statewide data and graphics from 1895-present, for any period, please visit the Climate at a Glance page.


PLEASE NOTE: All of the temperature and precipitation ranks and values are based on preliminary data. The ranks will change when the final data are processed, but will not be replaced on these pages. Graphics based on final data are provided on the Temperature and Precipitation Maps page and the Climate at a Glance page as they become available.

Global Analysis

Contents of this Section:


December 2011 Selected Climate Anomalies and Events MapJanuary 2011 Selected Climate
Anomalies and Events Map

Global Highlights

  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for January 2011 was 0.38°C (0.68°F) above the 20th century average of 12.0°C (53.6°F). This is the 17th warmest January on record.

  • The global land surface temperature for January 2011 was 0.45°C (0.81°F) above the 20th century average of 2.8°C (37.0°F)—tying with 1949 as the 29th warmest January on record. Land surface termperature in the Northern Hemisphere was the 37th warmest on record for January. In the Southern Hemisphere, land surface temperatures ranked as 12th warmest on record.

  • The worldwide ocean surface temperature for January 2011 was the 11th warmest January on record, at 0.35°C (0.63°F) above the 20th century average of 15.8°C (60.5°F).

Please Note: The data presented in this report are preliminary. Ranks and anomalies may change as more complete data are received and processed. Effective with the July 2009 State of the Climate Report, NCDC transitioned to the new version (version 3b) of the extended reconstructed sea surface temperature (ERSST) dataset. ERSST.v3b is an improved extended SST reconstruction over version 2. For more information about the differences between ERSST.v3b and ERSST.v2 and to access the most current data, please visit NCDC's Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.

==global-temps-errata==

Introduction

Temperature anomalies for January 2011 are shown on the dot maps below. The dot map on the left provides a spatial representation of anomalies calculated from the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) dataset of land surface stations using a 1961–1990 base period. The dot map on the right is a product of a merged land surface and sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly analysis developed by Smith et al. (2008). For the merged land surface and SST analysis, temperature anomalies with respect to the 1971–2000 average for land and ocean are analyzed separately and then merged to form the global analysis. For more information, please visit NCDC's Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.


January 2011

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature anomaly for January 2011 was 0.38°C (0.68°F) above the 20th century average, resulting in the 17th warmest January since records began in 1880. Separately, both the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere land and ocean temperatures were also 0.38°C (0.68°F) above the 20th century average, resulting in the 21st warmest January for the Northern Hemisphere and the 15th warmest on record for the Southern Hemisphere. Although the temperature anomaly is the same for the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, as well as the globe, each region has a different 20th century average temperature. This results in the same monthly temperature anomaly ranking differently for the different regions. The worldwide monthly averaged land surface temperature tied with 1990 as the 29th warmest January on record, with a temperature anomaly of 0.45°C (0.81°F) above the 20th century average. As shown in the dot maps above, warmer-than-average temperatures during the month of January were present across much of the world's land areas. The warmest anomalies occurred across the eastern half of Canada, Iran, and much of Siberia. Cooler-than-average conditions were present across southern Siberia, Mongolia, and most of China.

According to the Beijing Climate Center, January 2011 ranked as China's second coolest January on record—behind 1977—since national records began in 1961.

The worldwide sea surface temperatures (SST) during January 2011 were warmer than average across most of the oceans, with the exception of cooler-than-average conditions across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, part of the southern Atlanitic Ocean, part of the Indian Ocean, and the southern oceans. The global ocean temperature ranked as the 11th warmest January on record, with an anomaly of 0.35°C (0.63°F) above the 20th century average. A moderate-to-strong La Niña remained across the equatorial Pacific Ocean during the month. Of note, the January 2011 global ocean temperature was the warmest on record among all Januaries when La Niña was present. The ten warmest Januaries occurred during either El Niño or ENSO-neutral conditions. According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (CPC), ENSO-neutral or La Niña conditions are equally likely by May–June 2011.

The average position of the upper-level ridges of high pressure and troughs of low pressure (depicted by positive and negative 500-millibar height anomalies on the January 2011 height and anomaly mapJanuary 2011 map, respectively) are generally reflected by areas of positive and negative temperature anomalies at the surface, respectively. For other Global products, please see the Climate Monitoring Global Products page.

[ top ]


Temperature Rankings and Graphics

Current Month

January Anomaly Rank
(out of 132 years)
Warmest on Record
°C °F Year °C °F
Global
Land +0.45 ± 0.14 +0.81 ± 0.25 29th warmest* 2007  +1.75 +3.15
Ocean +0.35 ± 0.07 +0.63 ± 0.13 11th warmest 1998  +0.56 +1.01
Land and Ocean +0.38 ± 0.08 +0.68 ± 0.14 17th warmest 2007  +0.82 +1.48
Northern Hemisphere
Land +0.43 ± 0.22 +0.77 ± 0.40 37th warmest 2007  +2.18 +3.92
Ocean +0.35 ± 0.08 +0.63 ± 0.14 8th warmest 1998  +0.55 +0.99
Land and Ocean +0.38 ± 0.12 +0.68 ± 0.22 21st warmest 2007  +1.15 +2.07
Southern Hemisphere
Land +0.50 ± 0.06 +0.90 ± 0.11 12th warmest* 2010  +0.82 +1.48
Ocean +0.36 ± 0.06 +0.65 ± 0.11 16th warmest* 1998  +0.58 +1.04
Land and Ocean +0.38 ± 0.06 +0.68 ± 0.11 15th warmest 2010* +0.60 +1.08

*Signifies a tie

* Global Land tied with 1949 as 29th warmest on record.
* Southern Hemisphere Land tied with 1999 and 2008 as 12th warmest on record.
* Southern Hemisphere Ocean tied with 1980 as 16th warmest on record.

The most current data may be accessed via the Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.

[ top ]


Precipitation

The maps below represent anomaly values based on the GHCN dataset of land surface stations using a base period of 1961–1990. The areas with the wettest anomalies during January 2011 included large parts of coastal Australia, northeast Brazil, and much of Indonesia. The driest anomalies were observed across a portion of central West Africa, Pakistan, India, much of northeast Asia, French Polynesia, the Hawaiian Islands, and parts of Mexico.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, flooding in Australia was widespread in southeast Queensland and Victoria. Average monthly rainfall across Victoria was the highest January rainfall in the 112-year period of record.

Additional details on flooding and drought can be found on the January 2011 Global Hazards page.

[ top ]


References

Peterson, T.C. and R.S. Vose, 1997: An Overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network Database. Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc., 78, 2837-2849.

Quayle, R.G., T.C. Peterson, A.N. Basist, and C. S. Godfrey, 1999: An operational near-real-time global temperature index. Geophys. Res. Lett., 26, 333-335.

Smith, T.M. and R.W. Reynolds (2005), A global merged land air and sea surface temperature reconstruction based on historical observations (1880-1997), J. Clim., 18, 2021-2036.

Smith et al (2008), Improvements to NOAA's Historical Merged Land-Ocean Surface Temperature Analysis (1880-2006), J. Climate., 21, 2283-2293.

[ top ]

Global Hazards

Please note: Material provided in this report is chosen subjectively and included at the discretion of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The ability to report on a given event is limited by the amount of information available to NCDC at the time of publication. Inclusion of a particular event does not constitute a greater importance in comparison with an event that has not been incorporated into the discussion. Data included in this report are preliminary unless otherwise stated. Links to supporting information are valid at the time of publication, but they are not maintained or changed after publication.


Updated 31 January 2011


9-13 JanuaryRecord breaking snow storm impacts the Eastern U.S. read more 1-7 JanuaryCold temperatures and heavy snowfall kill 30 in India read more JanuaryFlooding continues in Queensland, Australia. Damage estimates top $20 billion. read more 12-18 JanuaryFlooding in the Philippines kill 57 people. read more 2-3 JanuaryRare snowfall closes interstates across Southern California. read more 1-21 JanuaryCold temperatures and wintry precipitation halts Chinese travel during busy holiday. read more 3-9 JanuaryHeavy rains in Sri Lanka affect over one million people. read more 6-20 JanuaryFloods and mudslides hit eastern Brazil. Death toll could reach 1,000. read more 7-21 JanuaryCold snap brings life to a halt in Bangladesh. read more JanuaryOn-going drought in eastern Africa damages crops. read more 25-27 JanuaryAnother record breaking snow storm impacts the Eastern U.S. read more



Drought conditions

East Africa Drought
East Africa Vegitation Stress
Image Credit: NASA

An ongoing drought across eastern Africa intensified during January. Seasonal weather patterns typically bring moisture and rain to Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia during November and December, referred to as the Deyr rainy season. Two thirds of Somalia received less than 75 percent of normal rainfall during December 2010 and some regions of the country received no rainfall, according to the United Nations-funded Somalia Water and Land Information Management program. Hot and dry conditions were observed in the central-south regions of Somalia while dry and windy conditions were observed in the northern region during January 2011, and combined with the lack of rainfall, this caused water and moisture stress on vegetation. River levels were reported to be below average for the Shabelle and Juba Rivers. Dry conditions over the headwaters of these rivers in the Ethiopian Highlands exacerbated the problem. The presence of La Niña was blamed for the limited rainfall this year. The largest impacts were on crop performance. The cereal harvest, including sorghum, was a complete failure, and pasture conditions were reported to be poor to very poor. Kenya was also impacted by the drought, and food shortages were reported in many regions of the country due to the poor crop conditions. In Kenya alone, there were reports of 113,000 children suffering from malnutrition due to the increased price of food. The lack of rain also caused a shortage of food for livestock, leading to a reported 5,000 cattle fatalities.

[ top ]

Extreme Temperatures

A cold snap during the first week of 2011 brought the coldest temperatures this winter to much of India. Temperatures as low as -10.5°F (-23.6°C) were reported across northern India. According to the India Meteorological Department, the daily maximum temperature in Delhi only reached 58.3°F (14.6°C), which is 11°F (6°C) below normal. During the entire winter season, Delhi has been experiencing below normal temperatures. Up to 9.8 feet (3 meters) of snow fell across the high mountain passes of Rohtang and Kunzam cut off access to portions of far northern India including the Kashmir province. The death toll due to the cold temperatures soared to 30 for the country, as many people do not have viable heating sources in their homes.

The cold air that impacted parts of India during the first week of January moved into Bangladesh during the second and third weeks of the month. Temperatures were 9°F-19°F (5°C-10°C) below normal. The entire country, from the northern higher elevations to the tropical coastal regions, was impacted. The cold temperatures hit agriculture the hardest and the impacts will likely have long-term effects on the economic situation in the farming and poorer communities of the country. Hundreds of people, especially children and the elderly, suffered from cold-related diseases including bronchial asthma, pneumonia, coughs and diarrhea.


Asian Temperature Anomalies for January 2011
Asian Temperature Anomalies
January 2011
Image Credit: NOAA ESRL

A prolonged cold snap across the Korean peninsula the second half of January impacted energy prices and food production across North and South Korea. A news report out of North Korea stated the isolated nation was suffering its harshest winter in decades. A Japanese media outlet reported that temperatures across North Korea were below freezing for 40 consecutive days, marking the longest cold snap since 1945. In South Korea, fears of an increased energy demand prompted government officials to ask residents to wear long johns to work to allow thermostats to be set lower. The South Korean government also put in place energy saving plans that included banning decorative lighting and limiting elevator use in public buildings.

[ top ]

Heavy rainfall and flooding

Austrlian Flooding runoff
Australian Flooding Runoff
Image Credit: NASA

Heavy rains that began during the Austral spring season (September-November) continued into early summer causing severe flooding in the northeastern Australian state of Queensland. Australia as a whole had its wettest spring and third wettest year (2010) on record, partially attributable to La Niña. The flooding rains during the first half of January caused numerous towns to be submerged across Queensland, and the extent of flooding was nearly the size of France and Germany combined. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed as rivers breached their banks during the worst flooding in decades. The town of Rockhampton, which is home to 77,000 people, was particularly hard hit. The city was completely surrounded by floodwaters and was cut off from the outside world for several days. Australia’s third largest city, Brisbane, was also hard hit with flooding. On the 10th, six inches (152 mm) of rain fell in just 30 minutes near Toowoomba, which is upstream of Brisbane. The Brisbane River crested near 17 feet (5 meters) in the city, and inundated over 10,000 homes and businesses. Some sections of coastal Queensland received over 4 feet (1.2 meters) of rain over the past few months. A major concern was the dangerous wildlife which were displaced during the floods. Poisonous snakes and dangerous crocodiles were floating through cities and towns, endangering residents. The impacts of the flooding were far-reaching. Over 75 percent of coal producing operations were halted in the state, which supply just under half of the world's coking coal needed in steel manufacturing, driving up prices worldwide. It is estimated that the coal industry losses would top 2.3 billion Australian dollars. One of Australia’s most important environmental treasures was also impacted by the floods. Runoff from agricultural lands negatively impacted the delicate Great Barrier Reef, which is particularly sensitive to chemicals used in fertilizers and pesticides. It was estimated that total rebuilding costs across Queensland would top 30 billion Australian dollars — potentially the costliest natural disaster in Australian history. The death toll in Queensland reached 33 people, and another 40 were reported missing. Please see the December 2010 Global Hazards Report for additional information on this flooding event.


Filippino Flooding
12-18 January Philippines Rainfall
Image Credit: NASA

Heavy rains that began on December 31st continued into early January in the Philippines led to heavy flooding in Bhutan City, which is home to 270,000 people. Mandatory evacuations were ordered and 453,000 people were forced to leave their homes. Over one and a half million people across 144 towns were affected by the flood waters. Cold air from northeast Asia coming into contact with warmer air in the tropical country helped cause the heavy rains. Leyte Island was also hard hit with flooding. In 2006, 1,000 people there were killed due to a massive landslide — one of the deadliest natural disasters in Filipino history. The death toll during the two weeks of flooding was 57 people according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and 1,300 homes were destroyed. An initial government estimate put the damage to roads and bridges, homes, and farms at nearly 900 million pesos (20.29 million US dollars).


Sri Lanka Flooding
3-9 January Sri Lanka Rainfall
Image Credit: NASA

Heavy monsoonal rains in eastern Sri Lanka the first two weeks of 2011 were the heaviest to occur over such a short period of time, on record, causing widespread flooding across the island nation. The heavy rains began in December, with the city of Batticaloa, receiving 63 inches (1.6 meters) of rain between December 1st, 2010 and January 12th, 2011. Over one million people were displaced due to the flooding — more than during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Media reports claim that 40 were killed due to the flood waters.. The eastern regions were the worst affected by the deluge, which left some stretches of railway line under nearly 3.3 feet (1 meter) of water. Officials stated that the city of Ampara received the most rainfall ever recorded in such a short time period. The floods brought the risk of disease, including the mosquito-borne dengue fever, which, even in normal times, is a severe problem in the country. The floods sparked fears of food shortages, as 20 percent of the nation’s rice fields were flooded.


Brazil Flooding
Brazil Flood Water
Image Credit: Brazil City-State Times

Heavy rainfall, which began on January 6th in southeast Brazil, caused the worst flooding and landslides to affect the nation in decades. The death toll soared to 830 people with another 540 were reported missing, marking the deadliest natural disaster in Brazil’s history. According to media reports, this catastrophe was the sixth most deadly in the last 12 months, globally. Estimates suggested that the death toll could top 1,000 people. The collapse of electricity and communications systems, combined with the destruction of many roads and bridges, severely hampered the rescue work. The hardest hit area was the mountainous area 40 miles (64 km) north of Rio de Janeiro. On January 11th and 12th, a foot (305 mm) of rain fell in just a few hours near Teresopolis and Nova Friburgo. Officials said that the first few days of January saw nearly as much rainfall as is typical the entire month. Hundreds of homes were completely destroyed in the region. The steep terrain caused the deluge of water to collect in the valleys and small streams became wide, deep, and violent rivers. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo were also impacted by the heavy rains, with 13 people reported killed by flood waters in Sao Paulo.

Heavy rain, which began in December, continued through January across southern Africa. South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi were all impacted. Forty one deaths were reported in South Africa, while ten people were reported killed in Mozambique’s central province of Manica, as well as more than 13,000 people forced to evacuate their homes. According to Zimbabwe's meteorological department, the nation experienced its heaviest rain in 30 years. Seven of South Africa’s nine provinces were declared disaster zones, and 85 lives were reported taken during the flooding event. Soybean and sunflower harvests were expected to take a hit due to the extremely wet conditions. Flood damages in South Africa alone were expected to top 280 million U.S. dollars.


Malaysia Flooding
Malaysia Rainfall 24-30 January
Image Credit: NASA

Heavy rains that impacted the Philippines during January also impacted Malaysia between the 24th and 30th. Rainfall amounts over 31 inches (800 mm) were reported across the northern regions of Borneo and three rivers breached their banks on the 31st — the Sungai Muar, Sungai Benut, and Sungai Mengkibol. Over 46,000 people were forced to evacuate in what is being referred to as the worst flooding in the country since 2006. Floodwaters cut off communication to several towns, including Johor, Negri Semibilan, Pahang, Malbacca, and Sabah. Three people were reported killed due to the floodwaters and another was missing.

Torrential flooding hit the western Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah on January 26th through 28th. At least 10 deaths were blamed on the flooding and another three people were reported missing. Jeddah received 4 inches (111 mm) of rain in just three hours. Nearly 2,000 people had to be rescued — ground teams rescued 1,451 people and another 498 were rescued by helicopters. Power was cut to 70,000 residents of the Jeddah province. These floods were reminiscent of extreme flooding which hit the city in November 2009.

[ top ]

Severe winter weather

A rare snowfall across the U.S. southwest on January 2nd and 3rd brought snow to Las Vegas, Nevada. Portions of Interstates 5 and 15 were closed through mountain passes in Southern California. Interstate 5 is a main transportation corridor between Los Angeles and San Francisco and Interstate 15 is the major corridor between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Traffic was backed up for miles on both highways for several hours as they were particularly busy due to the New Year’s Holiday. Several inches of snow were reported outside Las Vegas proper, while only snow flurries were reported on the Vegas Strip. The Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita also received snowfall, a rarity for the Los Angeles metropolitan area.


January US Snow storm
11 January U.S. Snow Cover
Image Credit: NOAA NOHRSC

A strong winter storm impacted the southern and eastern U.S. between January 9th and 13th, dropping several feet of snow in its path. Snow totaling between 8-11 inches (20-28 cm) was reported in eastern Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas during the first phase of the storm on the 9th and 10th. Freezing rain was also widespread, where up to an inch and a half (38 mm) of ice accumulated in Georgia and South Carolina. Six states declared states of emergency, and travel was extremely hazardous in the affected region, including Atlanta, where at least five closures of major interstates occurred. Atlanta is a major transportation hub for the Southeast and the entire U.S. and ripple effects were felt nationwide. In Huntsville, Alabama, 8.9 inches (23 cm) of snow fell, marking the third largest snow storm for the city on record. The storm caused snow to be on the ground in 49 of 50 of the U.S. states (Florida had no snow on the ground). The heaviest snow total was reported in Bakersville, North Carolina where 20 inches (51 cm) accumulated. The storm eventually moved up the Eastern Seaboard bringing wintry weather to the major cities of the Northeast and blizzard conditions to parts of New England. New York City received 9.1 inches (23 cm) of snow, while Boston, Massachusetts had 14.6 inches (37 cm). The 24 inches (61 cm) which fell at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut broke the previous all-time greatest storm record of 21.9 inches (56 cm), set on February 12th, 2006.

During the first three weeks of January, freezing temperatures and winter precipitation across southern China led to the evacuation of nearly 60,000 people according to the Chinese government. Ice and sleet collapsed the roofs of more than 1,200 homes. The provinces of Jiangxi, Hunan, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou were the hardest hit. Thousands of travelers were forced to leave their cars on highways as icy weather paralyzed traffic while most were traveling to be with their families for the Lunar New Year Holiday. An estimated 230 million people typically travel for the month-long holiday, the largest annual human migration globally. Crops in the regions were also hard hit by the abnormally cool temperatures. Nearly 350,000 acres (141,650 hectares) of crops were destroyed including cabbage and rice. The ministry of Civil Affairs estimated economic losses of 200 million U.S. dollars.


US Snow Storm 27 January
27 January U.S. Snow Cover
Image Credit: NOAA NOHRSC

On January 25th – 27th, another large and powerful winter storm impacted parts of the eastern United States. Snowfall was reported from Arkansas to Maine as the storm moved along the Gulf Coast and then northward up the Atlantic seaboard. Snowfall amounts up to six inches (15 cm) were reported across western Kentucky and Tennessee on the 25th. The cold front associated with the extratropical cyclone brought severe weather to the Florida peninsula, with five tornadoes reported and 26 high wind reports on the 25th. No fatalities were reported. Once the storm moved over the warm Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean, it rapidly intensified and brought heavy snowfall to the densely populated Northeast corridor on the 26th and 27th. The snow began first in the Washington, D.C. area, where the federal government released 300,000 employees from work early. The Washington area received five to eight inches (13 to 20 cm) of snow accumulation. Philadelphia received 15.1 inches (38 cm) of snow from the event, while Central Park in New York City had 19.0 inches (48 cm) of snow. These snowfall amounts rank in the top ten largest snowstorms for both cities. Thundersnow was reported in New York City, with snowfall rates approaching three inches per hour. Public schools in the city were forced to close for only the ninth time since 1979 and over 180,000 households lost power in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. The nearly 10 inches (25 cm) that fell in Boston, Massachusetts forced the closure of Logan International Airport for half a day, causing air travel hassles across the country.

[ top ]

National Snow & Ice

NCDC transitioned to the nClimDiv dataset on Thursday, March 13, 2014. This was coincident with the release of the February 2014 monthly monitoring report. For details on this transition, please visit our public FTP site and our U.S. Climate Divisional Database site.

During January, temperatures were below normal across the eastern half of the country and near- to above normal for the western half. The combination of below-normal temperatures and several storms impacting the Eastern Seaboard caused the densely populated Northeast corridor to have above-average snowfall for the month — several locations broke long standing snowfall records. Two of these storms originated across the Gulf Coast states, bringing snowfall to a large swath of the Southeast. On January 11th, 49 of the 50 U.S. states had snow on the ground (all except Florida). While most of the East was experiencing above-average snowfall for January, many locations in the Plains as well as the mountain West experienced below-average snowfall. The contiguous U.S. as a whole had above-average snow cover extent for January, and the month had the fifth largest January snow cover extent on record (out of 45 years). According to the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, a NOAA supported facility, the monthly snow cover extent was 723,000 square km (279,000 square miles) above the long-term average of 3.5 million square km (1.4 million square miles). At the beginning of the month, 50.3 percent of the country was under snow cover — the high elevations of the West, the central and northern Plains, the western Great Lakes, the central and southern Appalachians, the Mid-Atlantic coast, and most of the Northeast. The monthly maximum snow cover extent occurred on January 12th when 70.9 percent of the nation was snow covered. By the end of the month, 41.6 percent of the U.S. had snow on the ground — the high elevations in the West, the Northern Plains, the Great Lakes, the Upper Mississippi River Valley, and the Northeast.

Select January 2011 Snowfall Records

City Record AmountPrevious Record/ Comment
Huntsville, Alabama Most consecutive days with snow on the ground 8 days 6 days - January 1988
Huntsville, Alabama Third largest snow storm on record 8.9 inches (22.6 cm) Largest: 17.1 inches - 1964
Hartford, Connecticut Snowiest month on record 57.0 inches (144.8 cm) 45.3 inches - March 1956
New York, New York (Central Park) Snowiest January on record 36.0 inches (91.4 cm) 27.4 inches - January 1925
Newark, New Jersey Snowiest January on record 37.4 inches (96.3 cm) 31.6 inches - January 1996
Bridgeport, Connecticut Snowiest January on record 42.0 inches (106.7 cm) 26.2 inches - January 1965
Islip, New York Snowiest January on record 34.2 inches (86.9 cm) 21.5 inches - January 2005
South Bend, Indiana Indiana all-time greatest 24-hour snowfall 26 inches (66 cm) - January 8th 22 inches - December 2006, Cannelton, IN

South Bend Record Snowfall
South Bend Record 2-Day Snowfall
Source: NWS

A series of disturbances moving from central Canada across the Great Lakes cranked up the lake effect snow machine across Indiana between January 7th and 9th. A lake effect snow band set up coming off Lake Michigan into northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan, bringing heavy snow to the region. Snowfall rates of up to 4 inches (10.2 cm) per hour were reported. During the event, South Bend, Indiana reported 36.6 inches (93 cm) of snow on the 7th and 8th. This breaks the previous two-day snowfall record for the city of 29.0 inches (73.7 cm) which fell over January 30th and 31st, 1909. Also impressive, was the one day snowfall total of 26.0 inches (66 cm) which fell on the 8th, which broke the all-time record snowfall for a single day in South Bend and possibly for the entire state of Indiana. The previous state record for snowfall during a 24-hour period was 22 inches (54 cm), which was set in December 2006 in Cannelton, Indiana and the previous South Bend 24-hour snowfall occurred on January 30th, 1909 when 20 inches (51 cm) of snow fell. Records for South Bend date back to 1893.

Eastern U.S. Snowfall 9-13 January
Eastern U.S. Snow Accumulation 9-13 January

The first major winter storm complex during January impacted the eastern half of the United States between January 9th-13th, dropping over a foot (30.5 cm) of snow for many locations across the Central Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. A significant freezing rain and icing event occurred across many portions of the South and Southeast. The event began across northeast Texas on the 9th where over 6 inches (15.2 cm) of snow accumulated. The upper level low pressure system progressed along the Gulf Coast, drawing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico causing a large precipitation shield over the Southeast. Parts of Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia received over 10 inches (25.4 cm) of snow by the 10th. Huntsville, Alabama received 8.9 inches (22.6 cm) of snow, marking the third largest snow storm on record for the city. Parts of the Atlanta metropolitan area received eight inches (20 cm) of snow, shutting down the city for days. In the North Carolina mountains, up to 20 inches (51 cm) of snow were reported. The storm system then moved northward along the Atlantic Coast, bringing heavy snow to the population centers of the Northeast. Blizzard conditions were reported in Boston for several hours on the 12th. New York City received 9.1 inches (23 cm) of snow, while Boston, Massachusetts had 14.6 inches (37 cm). The 24 inches (61 cm) which fell at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut broke the previous all-time greatest storm record of 21.9 inches (56 cm), set on February 12th, 2006. Six states declared states of emergency. After the event, 49 of 50 U.S. states (all except Florida) had snow on the ground. The preliminary NESIS score, which measures the impact of snow on population centers, was a Category 3 (major). Please see the January Global Hazards report for more information on this storm.

25-27 January Snowfall
27 January U.S. Snow Cover
NOAA NOHRSC

Another major winter storm impacted the eastern U.S. between January 25th and 27th. Snowfall was reported from Arkansas to Maine. As the storm began to strengthen across the South, it dumped up to six inches (15 cm) of snow across western Kentucky and Tennessee. Unlike the previous winter storm, most of the precipitation across the Southeast fell as rain. As the system moved into the Northeast, it was cold enough to bring heavy snowfall to the central Appalachians, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. Heavy snowfall was reported across the D.C. metro area on the morning of the 26th, and five to eight inches (13 to 20 cm) accumulated there. The storm strengthened once it moved over the Atlantic, and dropped several feet of snow across the major cities of the Northeast. Central Park in New York City received 19.0 inches (48 cm) of snow, marking the eigth largest snow storm ever recorded in the city. The 15.1 inches (38.4 cm) that fell in Philadelphia tied as the city's tenth largest snowfall on record. This storm, in addition to previous storms during the month, caused several cities including Hartford, Connecticut and New York City to break their January monthly snowfall records. Please see the January Global Hazards report for more information on this storm.

Hurricanes & Tropical Storms

NCDC transitioned to the nClimDiv dataset on Thursday, March 13, 2014. This was coincident with the release of the February 2014 monthly monitoring report. For details on this transition, please visit our public FTP site and our U.S. Climate Divisional Database site.


Note: This report catalogs recent tropical cyclones and places each basin's tropical cyclone activity in a climate-scale context. It is not updated in real time. Users seeking real time status and forecasts of tropical cyclones should visit The National Hurricane Center.

South Pacific Basin

Vania
Tropical Storm Vania Satellite Image
Vania Track
Tropical Storm Vania Forecast Track


Safir Simpson Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Saffir-Simpson Scale Color Legend
Tropical Cyclone Summary
Tropical Cyclone Vania
Cyclogenesis Date 01/12
Cyclolysis Date 01/15
Highest Saffir-Simpson Category TS
Maximum 6-hr Sustained Wind 69 mph (60 kt or 111 km/h)
Min Pressure 970 mbar
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE*) Index (kt2) 3.2475 x 104
Landfall Information (date, location and sustained winds) N/A
Deaths 0
*The (ACE) Index calculations are based on preliminary data.

Wilma
Tropical Storm Wilma Satellite Image
Wilma Track
Tropical Storm Wilma Forecast Track


Safir Simpson Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Saffir-Simpson Scale Color Legend
Tropical Cyclone Summary
Tropical Cyclone Wilma
Cyclogenesis Date 01/22
Cyclolysis Date 01/28
Highest Saffir-Simpson Category TS
Maximum 6-hr Sustained Wind 132 mph (115 kt or 213 km/h)
Min Pressure 930 mbar
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE*) Index (kt2) 10.7369 x 104
Landfall Information (date, location and sustained winds) N/A
Deaths 0
*The (ACE) Index calculations are based on preliminary data.


Australian Basin

Vince Track
Tropical Storm Vince Track


Safir Simpson Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Saffir-Simpson Scale Color Legend
Tropical Cyclone Summary
Tropical Cyclone Vince
Cyclogenesis Date 01/12
Cyclolysis Date 01/15
Highest Australian Category Cat 1
Maximum Gust 93 km/h
Highest Saffir-Simpson Category TS
Maximum 6-hr Sustained Wind 46 mph (40 kt or 74 km/h)
Min Pressure 986 mbar
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE*) Index (kt2) 1.7981 x 104
Landfall Information (date, location and sustained winds) N/A
Deaths N/A
*The (ACE) Index calculations are based on preliminary data.

Zelia
Tropical Storm Zelia Satellite Image


Australian Scale Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Australian Scale Color Legend
Zelia Track
Tropical Storm Zelia Track


Safir Simpson Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Saffir-Simpson Scale Color Legend
Tropical Cyclone Summary
Tropical Cyclone Zelia
Cyclogenesis Date 01/14
Cyclolysis Date 01/17
Highest Australian Category Cat 3
Maximum Gust 204 km/h
Highest Saffir-Simpson Category Cat 2
Maximum 6-hr Sustained Wind 104 mph (90 kt or 167 km/h)
Min Pressure 957 mbar
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE*) Index (kt2) 6.9175 x 104
Landfall Information (date, location and sustained winds) N/A
Deaths N/A
*The (ACE) Index calculations are based on preliminary data.

Anthony
Tropical Storm Anthony Satellite Image


Australian Scale Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Australian Scale Color Legend
Anthony Track
Tropical Storm Anthony Track


Safir Simpson Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Saffir-Simpson Scale Color Legend
Tropical Cyclone Summary
Tropical Cyclone Anthony
Cyclogenesis Date 01/23
Cyclolysis Date 01/25
Highest Australian Category Cat 1
Maximum Gust 102 km/h
Highest Saffir-Simpson Category TS
Maximum 6-hr Sustained Wind 52 mph (45 kt or 83 km/h)
Min Pressure 988 mbar
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE*) Index (kt2) 6.9175 x 104
Landfall Information (date, location and sustained winds) N/A
Deaths N/A
*The (ACE) Index calculations are based on preliminary data.

Bianca
Tropical Storm Bianca Satellite Image


Australian Scale Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Australian Scale Color Legend
Bianca Track
Tropical Storm Bianca Track


Safir Simpson Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Saffir-Simpson Scale Color Legend
Tropical Cyclone Summary
Tropical Cyclone Bianca
Cyclogenesis Date 01/25
Cyclolysis Date 01/29
Highest Australian Category Cat 4
Maximum Gust 259 km/h
Highest Saffir-Simpson Category Cat 4
Maximum 6-hr Sustained Wind 132 mph (115 kt or 213 km/h)
Min Pressure 945 mbar
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE*) Index (kt2) 8.7313 x 104
Landfall Information (date, location and sustained winds) N/A
Deaths N/A
*The (ACE) Index calculations are based on preliminary data.

Yasi
Tropical Storm Yasi Satellite Image


Australian Scale Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Australian Scale Color Legend
Yasi Track
Tropical Storm Yasi Track


Safir Simpson Color Legend for Track Map from Unisys
Saffir-Simpson Scale Color Legend
Tropical Cyclone Summary
Tropical Cyclone Yasi
Cyclogenesis Date 01/30
Cyclolysis Date 02/03
Highest Australian Category Cat 5
Maximum Gust 306 km/h
Highest Saffir-Simpson Category Cat 4
Maximum 6-hr Sustained Wind 155 mph (135 kt or 250 km/h)
Min Pressure 922 mbar
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE*) Index (kt2) 15.0594 x 104
Landfall Information (date, location and sustained winds) 02/3 - Queensland, Australia (125 kt or 232 km/h)
Deaths 1
*The (ACE) Index calculations are based on preliminary data.

Drought

NCDC transitioned to the nClimDiv dataset on Thursday, March 13, 2014. This was coincident with the release of the February 2014 monthly monitoring report. For details on this transition, please visit our public FTP site and our U.S. Climate Divisional Database site.

Issued 15 February 2011
Contents Of This Report:
Map showing Palmer Z Index

National Drought Overview

[top]


Detailed Drought Discussion

Overview

January 2011 was below the long-term average for precipitation and temperature (9th driest and 37th coolest, based on data back to 1895) when weather conditions are averaged across the country. But this reflected wide regional extremes (monthly precipitation and temperature) which resulted from the persistence of weekly regional precipitation (weeks 1, 2, 3, 4) and temperature (weeks 1, 2, 3, 4) anomalies throughout the month. Beneficial precipitation fell across parts of the drought area in the South, notably parts of Florida and Texas, and over parts of Hawaii. But for the most part, it was drier than normal over most of the drought and abnormally dry areas as well as a large part of the rest of the country. Abnormally dry and drought conditions contracted across parts of Texas to Mississippi, Florida, Nevada, and Hawaii, but expanded in the Southwest to western Texas, Carolinas to parts of the Northeast, Upper Michigan, and Alaska. About 24 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate to extreme drought at the end of January, reflecting a steady rise since last summer when the percent area dropped to the lowest value in the USDM 10-year record.

U.S. Drought Monitor map from February 1, 2011
The U.S. Drought Monitor drought map valid February 1, 2011.

The prevailing weather patternweather pattern over the contiguous United States during January consisted of a dominant high pressure ridge over the West and a low pressure trough over the East. Temperatures averaged above normal in the Pacific Coast states under the upper ridge, while cooler-than-normal temperatures dominated east of the Rockies under the upper trough.

Strong storm systems moving in this flow pattern brought rain and snow to many areas. Pacific extra-tropical cyclonic systems moved across the Northwest and northern Rockies then intensified as they moved into the Great Plains states. Nebraska and North Dakota each had their 12th wettest January on record. Other winter storm systems developed over the Southern Plains, tapping Gulf of Mexico moisture as they moved across the southern states and intensified, then finally tracked up the Atlantic Seaboard. Several of the low pressure sytems and associated cold fronts brought severe weather to the Gulf Coast, including several tornadoes to central Florida. The northern systems and Gulf systems exited the country in the Northeast.

The combination of Gulf moisture and cold Canadian air resulted in widespread snowfall. January began with about 50 percent of the contiguous U.S. under snow cover and ended with about 42 percent snow covered, but the snow cover area varied with each snowstorm during the month, reaching a maximum of about 71 percent of the country on January 12th. Based on the 45-year satellite record, January 2011 had the 5th largest January snow cover extent for the country and 4th largest January snow cover extent for North America. Snow has a lower moisture content than rain, so it takes more snow (on average, about ten times as much) to equal the same amount of precipitation (meltwater equivalent) that would fall as rain. These winter storm systems brought above-normal snowfall and snow cover but below-normal rain to many areas, giving the impression of wet conditions when, in fact, total precipitation was below normal. The southwestern U.S. was unusually dry beneath the upper ridge, with New Mexico having the driest January in the 117-year record and Arizona and Nevada ranking 2nd driest. Many states along the Mississippi River and eastward were drier than normal, with Virginia ranking 5th driest and North Carolina 9th driest. For the nation as a whole, January 2011 ranked as the 9th driest January in the 117-year record.

Cold fronts and low pressure systems moving in the storm track flow are influenced by the broadscale atmospheric circulation. Two such large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns were dominant during January. The first was the La Niña, which is the phenomenon created by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. La Niña is typically associated with wet conditions in the northwest states and Ohio Valley this time of year (December-February), cooler-than-normal conditions in the Far West and North Central states, and warm and dry conditions in the southern tier states and Atlantic Seaboard. The second atmospheric circulation index was the Pacific/North American (PNA) pattern, which was positive during much of January. A positive PNA is typically associated with colder-than-normal temperatures over the southeastern half of the country and warmer-than-normal temperatures along the Pacific Coast at this time of year. The typical precipitation pattern associated with a positive PNA is drier than normal along and east of the Mississippi River, parts of the interior West, and in the Pacific Northwest. The temperature pattern for January 2011 matched what is expected for a positive PNA, while the precipitation pattern was a combination of positive PNA in the East and La Niña in the West.

By the end of the month, the core drought areas in the U.S. included:


Palmer Drought Index

Palmer Z Index map Palmer Hydrological Drought Index map

The Palmer drought indices measure the balance between moisture demand (evapotranspiration driven by temperature) and moisture supply (precipitation). The Palmer Z Index depicts moisture conditions for the current month, while the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI) and Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) depict the current month's cumulative moisture conditions integrated over the last several months. As seen on the Palmer Z Index map, low precipitation resulted in dry conditions for January 2011 over much of the Mid-Atlantic states and northern parts of the Southeast and Southern Plains, parts of the Northeast and Ohio Valley, and much of the Southwest and Pacific Coast. Wet conditions for January are evident on the Z Index map across the northern Plains and a few parts of the Pacific Northwest, Florida, and southern Texas. Compared with the December 2010 PHDI map, the January 2011 PHDI map indicates that drought conditions intensified in the Southwest, Mid-Atlantic states, and Carolinas; drought conditions lessened in northern Florida; and moist conditions lessened in parts of the Northeast and West. The January 2011 PHDI map also reflects the long-term nature of the drought conditions. The Z Index and PHDI maps in combination show that the dryness in the Southeast to Southwest and Ohio Valley is both a short-term and long-term phenomenon; that the dryness in the Northeast and Far West is a short-term phenomenon; that the wetness in Florida is also a short-term phenomenon; and that the wetness in the northern Plains and northern Rockies is both a short-term and long-term phenomenon.


Standardized Precipitation Index

1-month Standardized Precipitation Index 2-month Standardized Precipitation Index 3-month Standardized Precipitation Index

The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) measures moisture supply. The SPI maps here show the spatial extent of anomalously wet and dry areas at time scales ranging from 1 month to 24 months. Dryness is evident across much of the West at the 1-month timescale, with wet conditions dominating at the 2- to 24-month timescales, but dryness characterizes parts of the Southwest at all time scales. January was dry in parts of the Northeast, and the dryness extends to 3 months for the Adirondacks of New York, but the Northeast is generally wet at the 6- to 24-month timescales. The Gulf coastal areas were wet or near normal for January, but much of the Southeast and South is dry out to the 12-month timescale. The rain in January was enough to neutralize the deficits in Florida at 2 and 3 months, but not at 6 and 9 months for all of the state and 6 to 12 months for northern Florida. Parts of the Ohio Valley show up as dry at the 1- to 12-month timescales, with most of the region dry at the 2- and 6-month timescales. The dryness extends into the Great Lakes across Lower Michigan at the 1- to 6-month timescales. The Northern Rockies and Northern Plains are persistently wet at all timescales, with the wetness extending into the Midwest and Central Plains at 6 to 24 months.


6-month Standardized Precipitation Index 12-month Standardized Precipitation Index 24-month Standardized Precipitation Index

Agricultural Indices

January 30 VIC model soil moisture percentiles
January 30th VIC model soil moisture percentiles
Number of Rain Days, January 2011
Number of Rain Days, January 2011

Abnormal dryness and drought were evident in several indicators. There were hardly any days with precipitation across the southwestern fourth of the country and parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley and northwestern Great Lakes, as well as the central mountains of Virginia. This resulted in long runs of consecutive dry days in these areas. It is also reflected in low total precipitation amounts and below-normal precipitation. On the other hand, it rained or snowed half or more of the days of the month along the coastal Pacific Northwest and parts of the Northern Rockies, Northern High Plains, and Northeast. During the winter cold season, vegetation goes dormant across much of the country. But soil moisture, as monitored by several models (NOAA Climate Prediction Center [CPC] anomalies and percentiles, NLDAS [North American Land Data Assimilation System] top soil layer and total soil layer, VIC [University of Washington Variable Infiltration Capacity macroscale hydrologic model] percentiles), was still drier than average across much of the country from the southern Great Lakes to the Lower Mississippi Valley, most of the Gulf Coast, the Southeast to Mid-Atlantic states, and parts of the Central and Southern Plains and Southwest. Satellite monitoring of vegetation health (Vegetation Drought Response Index [VegDRI], Vegetation Health Index [VHI]) indicated stress on vegetation in parts of the Southwest, Southern Plains, and Ohio Valley.


Hydrological Indices

Well monitoring stations (real-time network, climate response network, total active network) in the drought-stressed areas continued to show low groundwater levels. Streamflow (observed and modeled [CPC anomalies and percentiles, VIC 1- and 2-month runoff percentiles]) was below average for the month across much of the Southeast and Gulf Coast and parts of the Great Lakes, Central and Southern Plains, Southwest, Mid-Atlantic states, and Hawaii.


Regional Discussion

Mountain snowpack as of February 1, 2011
Mountain Snowpack as of February 1, 2011.

January 2011 was warmer than normal across Alaska and drier than normal across most of central and southern Alaska. Consequently, snowpack was below normal in most basins and decreased compared to last month. The February 1st USDM map had a third of the state in the abnormally dry category, which was an increase compared to last month and reflected long-term deficits which still remained at several stations at longer time scales (2, 3, 6, 12, 24, 36 months).

Most of Puerto Rico was drier than normal during January and much of the island was drier than normal for the last 60 to 90 days. But the dryness mostly disappears at longer time scales (last 6 months). Streamflow for Puerto Rico was near normal and the island remained drought free on the February 1st USDM map.

Above-normal precipitation fell across parts of the Hawaiian Islands during January, but many locations were drier than normal, especially over the Big Island. The area under extreme (D3) and severe (D2) drought shrank this month, compared to the end of December, resulting in an increase of the area under moderate (D1) drought. The D2-D3 shrinkage was mainly due to vegetation conditions improving in parts of the western slopes of Mauna Kea. Long-term rainfall deficits continued at many stations at several time scales (last 2, 3, 6, 12, 24, 36 months) and January streamflow continued below normal on the Big Island.

State precipitation ranks, January 2011 New Mexico statewide precipitation, January, 1895-2011

On a statewide basis, January 2011 was drier than normal for many states in the Southwest, Southern Plains, and east of the Mississippi River. Eight states had the tenth driest, or drier, January in the 1895-2011 record, including New Mexico (which had the driest January on record) and Arizona and Nevada (which each ranked 2nd driest).

1-month SPI, January 2011 New York climate division 8 (St. Lawrence Valley) precipitation, January, 1895-2011

January was record dry or tied for driest on record for several climate divisions in the Southwest and in Utah and New York:


2-month SPI, December 2010-January 2011 12-month SPI, February 2010-January 2011
Missouri climate division 4 (West Ozarks) precipitation, December-January, 1895-2011 Arkansas climate division 8 (South Central) precipitation, February-January, 1895-2011

Dryness in the Lower to Mid-Mississippi Valley has persisted for several months. Several climate divisions have been record dry for the last 2 months and 12 months, including:

The record dry February-January (2010-2011) follows a record wet February-January (2009-2010) in the two Arkansas climate divisions (8 and 9).


Texas climate division 5 (Trans Pecos) precipitation, October-January, 1895-2011

West Texas (especially around the Trans Pecos) has been dry for the last three to four months. Texas climate division 5 had the driest December-January, November-January, and October-January in the 1895-2011 record. Lake levels continued to drop, with January 25 reports ranging from 58 percent of capacity at Oak Creek Reservoir to 3 percent at E.V. Spence Reservoir. The January 24 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Crop Report indicated that, statewide, 49 percent of wheat, 48 percent of oats, and 51 percent of the range and pasture land in Texas was in very poor to poor condition. The USDA report stated that topsoil was very short to short (very dry to dry) in 100 percent of the Trans-Pecos district, 90 percent of the Southern Low Plains district, 88 percent of the Edwards Plateau district, and 80 percent of the Cross Timbers district. The Farm Service Agency reported significant crop loss in several western Texas counties, with up to 70 percent loss of wheat for grazing in Shackelford County.

Percent area of the Western U.S. in moderate to extreme drought, based on the Palmer Drought Index
Percent area of the Western U.S. in moderate to extreme drought, January 1900-January 2011, based on the Palmer Drought Index.

January 2011 was drier than average across much of the West. This is in sharp contrast to the wetness of the previous three months. The combination of lack of precipitation and above-normal temperatures resulted in a decrease in the mountain snowpack this month compared to last month. While many of the high elevation SNOTEL stations still had above-normal snow water content, especially from the Sierra Nevada to Central Rockies, many areas have decreased to near normal snowpack with much of Oregon and Washington below normal and southern portions of the Southwest much below normal. Total precipitation for the hydrologic year to date (October-January) was near normal in the Pacific Northwest in spite of the below-normal snowpack because more precipitation fell as rain versus snow than usual. An analysis of early data by the USDA indicated that reservoir levels were, on average, below normal from New Mexico, across the Interior Basin states, to Oregon, and near to above normal in Washington and Arizona and the Rocky Mountain states. According to the USDM, 13 percent of the West was experiencing moderate to severe drought at the end of January, about the same as December, while the Palmer Drought Index statistic was about 12 percent, a jump of 8 percent compared to last month due to expansion of moderate drought in southern portions of the Southwest. The Palmer statistic for moderate to extreme wet spell decreased from 47 percent in December to about 26 percent at the end of January, further testifying to the magnitude of the January dryness.

A more detailed drought discussion, provided by the NOAA Regional Climate Centers and others, can be found below.

As noted by the Southeast Regional Climate Center, precipitation totals for January were below normal across a large portion of the Southeast. Precipitation totals were less than 75 percent of normal across most of Alabama, Georgia, and southern Florida, and less than 50 percent of normal across the Carolinas and Virginia. The driest locations (less than 25 percent of normal) were found across western Virginia and local portions of the Carolinas and Alabama. Roanoke, Virginia received only 0.82 inches (20.8 mm) of precipitation for the month, making it the 4th driest January in a record extending back to 1912. In contrast, monthly precipitation totals were between 100 and 150 percent of normal across the northern tier of Florida and as much as 300 percent of normal across the central Peninsula. Orlando, Florida and Tampa, Florida recorded their 5th wettest January with 5.92 and 6.28 inches (150.4 and 159.5 mm), respectively. Monthly precipitation was below normal across much of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Widespread drought continued across the Southeast in January. The most notable change in the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of January 25, was an expansion of moderate drought (D1) conditions through central portions of North Carolina and Virginia. The lack of precipitation over the past several months lead to record low stream flows across several watersheds in January, preventing recharge to reservoirs. As a result, minimum releases were ordered out of several North Carolina reservoirs to help maintain water levels. The persistence of cold temperatures this winter has resulted in sufficient chill hours for a number of winter crops, including blueberries and peaches. As a result, farmers are concerned that warm February temperatures could cause the crops to bloom and thus be susceptible to an early spring freeze.

For the second consecutive month, mean temperatures were below normal across the Southeast region. Monthly temperatures were slightly above normal across Puerto Rico, while the U.S. Virgin Islands experienced their third consecutive month of below normal temperatures. In contrast to December, which saw over 1,000 daily record low maximum and minimum temperatures, there were only 142 daily record low maximum and 126 daily minimum temperature records tied or broken across the Southeast in January. Abundant snow occurred with the cold temperatures. The Southeast region was affected by four winter storms in January. According to the Georgia State Climate Office, Athens, Georgia recorded an all-time 24-hr snowfall total of 8.8 inches (223.5 mm). An extended period of cold temperatures following an early January storm and a lack of snow removal equipment caused severe disruptions across parts of the region. On the 22nd of the month, a low pressure system off the Southeast coast produced 6 to 7 inches (152.4 to 177.8 mm) of snowfall along portions of North Carolina's Outer Banks. With respect to monthly snowfall totals, Huntsville, Alabama recorded 9.2 inches (233.7 mm), which registered as the 3rd snowiest January in a record extending back to 1894.

As explained by the Southern Regional Climate Center, with the exception of southern Texas, much of the Southern region experienced its fourth consecutive drier than normal month. The Southern region continued to struggle through a strong drought, and little to no precipitation through much of the northwestern tier of the region did little to help that cause. The driest areas of the region included Oklahoma, the northern two thirds of Arkansas and much of northwestern Texas. The majority of stations in those regions received only a quarter of the precipitation that is normally expected in January. In fact, dozens of stations reported no precipitation at all. In Arkansas, most stations received between 25 and 50 percent of normal precipitation. In total, Oklahoma averaged only 0.29 inches (7.37 mm) of precipitation for the month, making it the eighth driest January there on record (1895-2011). Arkansas averaged 1.62 inches (41.15 mm) for the month, which was their 15th driest January on record (1895-2011). In Texas, the January average precipitation total was a near average value of 1.52 inches (38.61 mm). The state average is somewhat skewed by the fact that it was extremely dry in the northern half of the state, and quite wet in the southern half. Louisiana also had a near average month for precipitation. The state average precipitation total was 4.71 inches (119.63 mm), which is only slightly below average. In Mississippi, the state average precipitation total was 4.33 inches (109.98 mm) which, like Louisiana, is a little on the dry side of average. Tennessee averaged 3.10 inches (78.74 mm), which was the 27th driest January on record (1895-2011). January temperatures in the Southern region were consistently below normal by 0 to 4 degrees F (0 to 2.22 degrees C), with little spatial variation among temperature anomalies.

Drought conditions did not change much during the month of January in the Southern region. Extremely dry conditions in the western Texas panhandle led to a one-category deterioration to severe drought. Similar dryness in western Mississippi also led to the introduction of severe drought. Anomalously high January precipitation totals in southern Texas resulted in some improvements. For instance, much of the Gulf Coast in Texas was now drought free. There were still some small pockets of moderate drought in the extreme southern tip of the state. Similar improvements also occurred in south central Louisiana and central Mississippi. Based on the February 1 report of the USDM, 6.59 percent of the Southern region was experiencing extreme drought, which is an improvement of 3.58 percent from last month. In addition, only 58.97 percent of the region was classified as moderate drought or worse. Last month, this value was 67.65 percent.

As summarized by the Midwest Regional Climate Center, January precipitation was below to much below normal. The exception was the area from northwestern Minnesota south through northwestern Missouri, where precipitation was 100 to 200 percent of normal. Most of the region received less than 75 percent of normal precipitation, with an area from southwestern Missouri into the Ohio Valley receiving less than 50 percent of normal. Snow was a frequent occurrence during the month across most of the region. January temperatures were below normal across all but a small portion of the region. Temperatures ranged from near normal over a small portion of the upper Midwest to 5 to 6 degrees F (2.8 to 3.3 degrees C) below normal from western Minnesota south into western Missouri.

As noted by the Northeast Regional Climate Center, the Northeast region's January 2011 precipitation total averaged 2.14 inches (54 mm), which was 64 percent of normal. This was the driest January since 2001 and the 18th driest since records began in 1895. Departures ranged from 53 percent of normal in Maine to 95 percent of normal in Rhode Island. Although the region averaged less than normal precipitation, snowfall totals were above normal. This was due to a persistent weather pattern that resulted in frequent storms, large and small. Measureable snow fell over large portions of the region at least once a week during January. By the 31st, parts of every state except Maryland and Delaware had snowfall totals that exceeded 2 feet (61 cm). New daily snowfall records were set during the month, including two that went back to the late 1800's: Central Park's 6.1 inches (15.5 cm) on the 12th beat the 5.0 inches (12.7 cm) that fell in 1893; and Newark, New Jersey's 6.7 inches (17.0 cm) on the 27th topped the 6.5 inch (16.5 cm) record set in 1894. Six cities saw their snowiest January on record: Bridgeport, Connecticut (42.0 inches, 106.7cm); Hartford, Connecticut (57.0 inches, 144.8 cm); Newark, New Jersey (37.4 inches, 95.0 cm); Central Park, New York (36.0 inches, cm); Islip, New York (34.3 inches, 87.1 cm); and LaGuardia Airport, New York (32.6 inches, 82.8 cm). The first month of 2011 averaged cooler than normal in the Northeast. January's regional temperature average was 21.6 degrees F (-5.8 degrees C). This was 1.4 degrees F (0.8 degrees C) below normal and 3.3 degrees F (1.8 degrees C) cooler than January 2010.

As explained by the High Plains Regional Climate Center, precipitation varied across the region this month. Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas were generally drier than normal with some isolated areas receiving above normal precipitation.

The temperatures this January were full of ups and downs. The year started off with extreme cold across Colorado and Wyoming. In the middle of the month, after a brief warm up, the High Plains region experienced some of the coldest temperatures of the month. The warmest temperatures of the month occurred about 10 days later. These warm temperatures did not last long as a blast of cold Arctic air plunged south into the Region at the very end of the month. Overall, temperatures were slightly warmer than normal across much of Wyoming, central Colorado, western Kansas, and the western edge of the panhandle of Nebraska and cooler than normal in the northern and eastern areas of the region.

With the cold temperatures came abundant snow. Enough snow fell in the higher elevations in western Wyoming to eliminate the moderate drought conditions which have been in place for months. Several rounds of snow impacted the northern and eastern portions of the region this month. Many locations in northeast Nebraska and southeast South Dakota had snowfall totals that ranked in the top 10 snowiest Januaries on record and a few even broke monthly records. A long-standing January snowfall record was broken in Oakdale, Nebraska where 23.2 inches (59 cm) of snow fell this month. The previous record was 17.6 inches (45 cm) and occurred in 1936 (period of record 1893-2011). Interestingly, two days this month ranked as top one-day January snowfalls for Oakdale. The fifth highest one-day snow total occurred on January 23rd with 7.0 inches (18 cm) and the second highest one-day snow total occurred on January 10th with 9.5 inches (24 cm). January 2011 was also the second snowiest month of all time in Oakdale. Only March of 1911 had more snow (27.0 inches/69 cm).

The U.S. Drought Monitor remained largely unchanged since last month. In western Wyoming, a good snow pack and high precipitation caused the moderate drought conditions (D1) to be eliminated and the abnormally dry conditions (D0) to be trimmed slightly. The D0 in the southwest corner of Colorado was also eliminated. However, severe drought conditions (D2) remained over south-central Colorado and western Kansas. D1 across eastern Colorado, western and southeastern Kansas, and the panhandle of Nebraska was also unchanged.

As noted by the Wyoming State Climate Office, the climate of January 2011 was characterized by significant drying in many parts of Wyoming, but it was also marked by high spatial variability in precipitation. Generally speaking, mountain snowpack remained high compared to much of the previous decade, yet many observing stations in the valleys and basins were dry for the month. Similarly, over a distance of 50 miles one might go from a site that received more than 200 percent of its historical average precipitation for the month to a location that received less than 5 percent. Generally speaking, southwestern Wyoming was quite dry during the month of January, whereas the northeast tended toward wetness. In Evanston (far southwest Wyoming), for example, the entire month passed with only 0.01 inch of precipitation recorded. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Wyoming remained nearly drought free through the month of January 2011. In fact, the state was now enjoying its smallest area in drought since late 2009. However, given precipitation deficits that have developed at some lower-elevation sites over the past 30 days, it will be essential to monitor for the potential of drought onset in coming weeks and months.

As summarized by the Western Regional Climate Center, precipitation was below to well below normal throughout most of the West except for portions of northwest Washington and northeast Montana. Glasgow, Montana, set a new all time monthly snowfall record going back 95 years with 41.6 inches (105.7 cm) shattering the old record of 32.9 (83.6 cm) inches set in January 2004. It was also the second wettest January in Glasgow. Much of the desert Southwest received no precipitation at all.

Mountain snowpack dropped significantly in the Sierra Nevada from January 1st to February 1st, with snowpack dropping from 215 percent of normal to 130 percent of normal around Lake Tahoe. Although mountain snowpack remained fairly healthy throughout the West, many locations lost snow during the dry January. The Pacific Northwest and the mountains of the Southwest were below normal even though precipitation in the Northwest was above normal for the winter as snow levels have been relatively high for many storm events. Crater Lake, Oregon, received only 17.5 inches (44.4 cm) of snow, its 2nd lowest January total (record, 9 inches / 22.9 cm in 1985, average about 90 inches / 229 cm) during what is normally the snowiest month. The snow depth on the ground there decreased from 100 inches (254 cm) on January 1st to a mere 66 inches (168 cm) on the 31st, normally increasing from 65 inches (165 cm) to 93 inches (236 cm) during that span.

Temperatures were near normal throughout the West except for isolated basins and valleys where strong inversions persisted through the month keeping temperatures well below normal. Vernal, Utah, in the snow covered Uinta Basin, was nearly 8 degrees F below normal for January as a strong inversion remained solid for most of the month, while nearby mountain locations 3000 feet higher averaged 10-15 degrees F (6-10 C) warmer. In California's Central Valley frequent fog kept average maximum temperatures mostly below normal while coastal and mountain locations basked in sun and above normal temperatures.

As described by the Arizona State Drought Monitoring Technical Committee, January was quite dry everywhere in the state. Especially dry were the higher elevations of eastern and southeastern Arizona which had less than 70 percent of average winter precipitation. Only the northwestern quarter of the state received more than normal precipitation so far this winter. The next two months were forecast to continue drier than average, so improvement across the southern watersheds was unlikely.

The La Niña circulation has diverted winter storms from southeast and east central Arizona, leaving these parts of the state well below normal winter precipitation levels. Northern and western Arizona were in a transition region, where the effects of La Niña were less consistent; this region has been visited by several winter storms. The upper Gila watershed has dried out substantially, during the dry early winter of 2010-11, which was in sharp contrast with the wetter early winters of some previous years. Last winter, although quite wet, did not make up for the water deficits across the southern watersheds. The outlook was for continued dry conditions through spring, so the situation was not likely to show much improvement in April when the Arizona long term drought status will be updated by the Arizona State Drought Monitoring Technical Committee.

Upper Colorado River Basin: As reported by the Colorado Climate Center, the February 1st NIDIS (National Integrated Drought Information System) assessment for the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) indicated that precipitation varied across the basin during January. The San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountains received below to near average precipitation, but the rest of the basin was wetter with near to above average precipitation. SNOTEL station water year precipitation ranked in the wet percentiles for most of the UCRB. Streamflow levels decreased compared to previous months but were still in the near normal range. For the month of January, the majority of the UCRB ended up with temperatures below average.

All reservoirs in the UCRB had decreases in January, except for Lake Dillon. Dillon volume slightly increased for month of January to bring its levels back to above average. Lake Granby volume decreased by nearly 25,000 ac-ft for the month of January, which is likely to keep it from spilling this summer. Most reservoirs had above average levels for this time of year, with the exception of McPhee and Green Mountain which were slightly below average. This is a normal time of year for reservoir decreases, except for McPhee. McPhee storage has decreased this past month, but usually its levels are increasing during this time of year. Lake Powell has decreased a total volume of 604,000 ac-ft for the month of January and was 75% of average and 57% of capacity.

Pacific Islands: According to reports from National Weather Service offices, the Pacific ENSO Applications Climate Center (PEAC), and partners, conditions varied across the Pacific Islands.

Several cold fronts during the month of January brought wet conditions to portions of Hawaii from Kauai to Maui. Existing drought areas in leeward Maui County received above normal rainfall but remained under severe drought, or the D2 category in the U.S. Drought Monitor map, since pastures have not yet recovered from the previous dry spell. The Big Island, which received much needed rainfall in December, received below normal rainfall in January. Thus, extreme drought, or D3 category conditions, persisted in the Pohakuloa area. A band of moderate drought, or D1 category, also continued from south point and ocean view estates in the Kau district northwestward to leeward Kohala.

Some drought impacts in Hawaii include the following:

  • There were no drought impacts to report on Oahu. Water levels in the Waimanalo reservoir continued to increase over the past month. The State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture once again eased water use restrictions for farmers on the Waimanalo system, going from a mandatory 20 percent cutback to a 10 percent cutback on January 20th.
  • On Molokai, no significant changes since January 6th. Water levels in the Kualapuu reservoir continued to increase slowly but it was not enough to warrant any easing of the 30 percent cutback in irrigation water consumption.
  • No significant changes on Lanai since January 6th. In 2010, drought conditions forced cattle ranchers to ship feed from off-island which resulted in financial impacts.
  • No significant changes since January 6th on Maui. Despite mid-January heavy rainfall, pastures in leeward Maui have not recovered enough to fully support cattle ranching operations. Water supply levels remained sufficient for upcountry Maui. However, as a precaution, the Maui County department of water supply continued to request a 5 percent reduction in water use by upcountry residents. A 10 percent reduction in water use by central and south Maui residents also remained in effect.
  • On the Big Island, pastures in the lower slopes of the south Kohala district and the southern portion of the Kau district improved during December but have not yet fully recovered. One rancher in south Kohala reported only 40 percent of his pastures available for grazing. Some ranchers were still hauling water to support livestock. Ranchers have cited a need for additional rainfall in the coming months to produce a full drought recovery.

On other Pacific Islands, drought conditions continued near the equator, extending eastward from about 150 E longitude to beyond the international date line. This area includes Kapingamarangi Atoll, Nauru, and the atolls of western Kiribati. The equatorial drought area has been gradually weakening at its westernmost extent between 150 E and 160 E longitude.

In the Federated States of Micronesia, adequate rainfall has occurred for most of Pohnpei state, with January 2011 precipitation 98 percent of normal and the last six months (August-January) 87 percent of normal. But drought conditions remained at Kapingamarangi Atoll. The atoll was extremely dry last year, with some minor relief in January. Kapingamarangi received 2.27 inches of rain in January, which is 22 percent of normal. Their August-January total was 10.08 inches or only 23 percent of normal. The overall persistence of the La Niña event, along with computer forecast models and past climate history, suggest that this dry pattern will improve very slowly during the next month or two. Continued implementation of water conservation measures on Kapingamarangi was encouraged. Fresh water should be used only for drinking and cooking. Some wells and solar stills were still producing water for drinking and cooking. Some damage to food crops has likely occurred on Kapingamarangi Atoll as a result of the drought. The health of food crops should be closely monitored, and food assistance will likely be necessary if damage to the plants or fruit was irreversible.

Rainfall at Nukuoro and the other islands of Pohnpei state was adequate, although subnormal. Nukuoro recorded 4.34 inches of rain in January, which is 35 percent of normal, and the August-January total was 66 percent of normal. At Kosrae, 11.81 inches of rain fell in January, or 80 percent of normal, for a November-January total that was 77 percent of normal and an August-January total that was 79 percent of normal. Extremely dry conditions persisted from Kapingamarangi eastward all the way across to the international date line. This includes Nauru and the Atolls of Western Kiribati such as Butaritari, Tarawa and Arorae. Drought in these areas will likely last into March at least.

January precipitation was above normal at Koror, Yap, Kwajalein, Pago Pago, Guam, and Saipan, but below normal at Chuuk (8.08 inches, or 76 percent of normal). Majuro was near normal for January. Rainfall was below normal for the last 3 months (November-January) at Chuuk (75 percent of normal) and Pohnpei (89 percent), and slightly below normal at Saipan (96 percent) and Guam (97 percent).

[top]


State/Regional/National Moisture Status
A detailed review of drought and moisture conditions is available for all contiguous U.S. states, the nine standard regions, and the nation (contiguous U.S.):

States
alabama arizona arkansas california colorado connecticut
delaware florida georgia idaho illinois indiana
iowa kansas kentucky louisiana maine maryland
massachusetts michigan minnesota mississippi missouri montana
nebraska nevada new hampshire new jersey new mexico new york
north carolina north dakota ohio oklahoma oregon pennsylvania
rhode island south carolina south dakota tennessee texas utah
vermont virginia washington west virginia wisconsin wyoming

Regional
northeast u. s. east north central u. s. central u. s.
southeast u. s. west north central u. s. south u. s.
southwest u. s. northwest u. s. west u. s.

National
Contiguous United States

[top]


Drought Indicators
The following indicators illustrate the drought conditions this month:

[top]


Contacts & Questions
For additional, or more localized, drought information, please visit:

Global Snow & Ice

NH Snow Cover Extent

Data were provided by the Global Snow Laboratory, Rutgers University. Period of record is 1967-2011 (45 years).

The Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during January 2011 was much above average, marking the sixth largest January snow cover extent, and the tenth largest monthly snow cover extent, on record for the hemisphere. The January 2011 snow cover extent for the Northern Hemisphere was 1.76 million square km (0.68 million square miles) above the long-term average of 46.7 million square km (17.6 million square miles). This marks the fourth consecutive January with above-average snow cover extent for the Northern Hemisphere. Both the North American and Eurasian land areas had snow cover extent which was above average. According to a satellite analysis by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, above-average snow cover was observed over eastern North America, central Europe, and central and eastern Asia. Below-average snow cover was observed over the mountains of western North America, far western Europe, and western Asia.

During January 2011, the North American snow cover extent was above average, ranking as the fourth largest on record. This marks the fifth consecutive January with above-average snow cover extent for the continent. The monthly average snow extent was 0.86 million square km (342,000 square miles) above the long-term average of 17.5 million square km (6.8 million square miles). This is the largest January North American snow cover extent since 1985. According to data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, Canada, the contiguous U.S., and Alaska all had above-average snow coverage for the month. Cooler than normal conditions dominated the eastern U.S. and numerous storms affected the region, contributing to the U.S. having much-above average snow cover for the month. Several U.S. cities broke January monthly snowfall records — please see the January 2011 U.S. snow report for additional information.

Eurasian snow cover extent during January 2011 was also above average, ranking as its 11th largest on record. This is the fourth consecutive January with above-average snow cover extent for Eurasia. The January 2011 Eurasian snow cover extent was 0.9 million square km (347,000 square miles) above the long-term average of 29.2 million square km (11.3 million square miles).

[ top ]


Sea Ice Extent

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent — which is measured from passive microwave instruments onboard NOAA satellites — averaged for January 2011, was 13.55 million square km (5.23 million square miles), 8.7 percent below the 1979-2000 average. This is the smallest January Arctic sea ice extent since records began in 1979, the 15th consecutive January with below average Arctic ice extent, and the second consecutive month (along with December 2010) with a record low monthly ice extent. The January 2011 ice extent was 50,000 square km (19,300 square miles) smaller than the previous record low January extent in 2006. Arctic sea ice during January was below average on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Arctic, particularly in the Sea of Okhotsk, Hudson Bay, and the Labrador Sea. Hudson Bay was not completely ice covered until mid-January, the latest date on record. Hudson Bay is typically completely ice covered by early December. The Labrador Sea which is typically ice covered by mid-January was still mostly ice free by the end of the month. Northern Hemisphere ice extent for January has decreased at a rate of 3.3 percent per decade.

The record low January ice extent was partially attributable to the record low December extent and average ice growth during January. Above-average temperatures across Eastern Canada and Greenland also limited ice growth over the Atlantic side of the Arctic. Air temperatures over much of the Arctic were 2-6°C (4-11°F) above normal in January. Over the eastern Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Baffin Bay, and Labrador Sea temperatures were at least 6°C (11°F) warmer than average.

The January 2011 Southern Hemisphere sea ice extent was also below average for the month — 7.5 percent below the 1979-2000 average. This is the second consecutive January with below-average sea ice extent for the Southern Hemisphere. January Antarctic sea ice extent has increased at an average rate of 1.6 percent per decade. Antarctic sea ice usually expands during the cold season to a September maximum, then contracts during the warm season to a March minimum.

For further information on the Northern and Southern Hemisphere snow and ice conditions, please visit the NSIDC News page.

[ top ]

Upper Air

Contents of this Section:


Note: Beginning in December 2010, all lower troposphere, middle troposphere, and lower stratosphere satellite data are reported here with respect to the 1981–2010 base period. Prior to December 2010, data were reported with respect to the 1979–1998 base period. Remote Sensing Systems continues to provide data to NCDC with respect to the 1979–1998 base period; however, NCDC readjusts the data to the 1981–2010 base period so that the satellite measurements are comparable.


Note: Effective with the Janaury 2011 report, Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) transitioned to a new version (3.3) of the RSS MSU/AMSU atmospheric temperature datasets. Information about the differences between version 3.2 and 3.3 is available.


Upper Air Highlights


  • University of Alabama Huntsville satellite analyses report a lower troposphere January 2011 temperature equal to the 1981–2010 average, the 17th coolest (17th warmest) since satellite records began in 1979.

  • Remote Sensing Systems satellite analyses report a lower troposphere January temperature anomaly of 0.03°C (-0.06°F) below average, the 16th coolest (18th warmest) on record.

  • University of Alabama Huntsville satellite analyses report a January 2011 mid troposphere temperature anomaly of 0.14°C (0.25°F) below average, the eighth coolest (26th warmest) such period on record. When these analyses are adjusted to remove stratospheric influence, the anomaly decreases to 0.10°C (0.18°F) below average, the 13th coolest (21st warmest) on record.

  • Remote Sensing Systems satellite analyses report a January 2011 mid troposphere temperature anomaly of 0.09°C (0.16°F) below average, the 13th coolest (21st warmest) such period on record. When these analyses are adjusted to remove stratospheric influence, the anomaly decreases to 0.05°C (0.09°F) below average, the 17th coolest (17th warmest) on record.

  • For the lower stratosphere, both University of Alabama Huntsville and Remote Sensing System satellite analyses report that January 2011 was the 16th coolest (18th warmest) January since satellite records began in 1979.

  • Troposphere

    Temperatures above the Earth's surface are measured within the lower troposphere, middle troposphere, and stratosphere using in-situ balloon-borne instruments (radiosondes) and polar-orbiting satellites (NOAA's TIROS-N). The radiosonde and satellite records have been adjusted to remove time-dependent biases (artificialities caused by changes in radiosonde instruments and measurement practices as well as changes in satellite instruments and orbital features through time). Global averages from radiosonde data are available from 1958 to present, while satellite measurements date back to 1979.

    Lower Troposphere

    Current Month

    These temperatures are for the lowest 8 km (5 miles) of the atmosphere. Information on the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) sources of troposphere data is available.

    January Anomaly Rank
    (out of 33 years)
    Warmest Year on RecordTrend
    UAH low-trop +0.00°C/+0.00°F 17th warmest 2010 (+0.55°C/+0.99°F)* +0.13°C/decade
    RSS low-trop -0.03°C/-0.06°F 18th warmest 2010 (+0.48°C/+0.86°F)* +0.14°C/decade

    Mid-troposphere

    Current Month

    These temperatures are for the atmospheric layer centered in the mid-troposphere (approximately 3–10 km [2–6 miles] above the Earth's surface), which also includes a portion of the lower stratosphere. (The Microwave Sounding Unit [MSU] channel used to measure mid-tropospheric temperatures receives about 25 percent of its signal above 10 km [6 miles].) Because the stratosphere has cooled due to increasing greenhouse gases in the troposphere and losses of ozone in the stratosphere, the stratospheric contribution to the tropospheric average, as measured from satellites, may create an artificial component of cooling to the mid-troposphere temperatures. The University of Washington (UW) versions of the UAH and RSS analyses attempt to remove the stratospheric influence from the mid-troposphere measurements, and as a result the UW versions tend to have a larger warming trend than either the UAH or RSS versions. For additional information, please see NCDC's Microwave Sounding Unit page.

    Satellite data have been adjusted by the Global Hydrology and Climate Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). An independent analysis is also performed by Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) and a third analysis has been performed by Dr. Qiang Fu of the University of Washington (UW) (Fu et al. 2004) to remove the influence of the stratosphere on the mid-troposphere value. Global averages from radiosonde data are available from 1958 to present, while satellite measurements began in 1979.

    Satellite measurements indicate that for January 2011, temperatures were above average, resulting in the second warmest—behind 1998—January since satellite records began in 1979.

    January Anomaly Rank
    (out of 33 years)
    Warmest Year on Record Trend
    UAH mid-trop -0.14°C/-0.25°F 26th warmest 1998 (+0.48°C/+0.86°F) +0.02°C/decade
    RSS mid-trop -0.09°C/-0.16°F 21st warmest 1998 (+0.45°C/+0.81°F) +0.08°C/decade
    UW-UAH mid-trop -0.10°C/-0.18°F 21st warmest 1998 (+0.57°C/+1.03°F) +0.08°C/decade
    UW-RSS mid-trop -0.05°C/-0.09°F 17th warmest 1998 (+0.53°C/+0.95°F) +0.14°C/decade

    [ top ]


    Stratosphere

    Current Month

    The table below summarizes stratospheric conditions for January 2011. On average, the stratosphere is located approximately 16–23 km (10–14 miles) above the Earth's surface. Over the last decade, stratospheric temperatures have been below average in part due to the depletion of ozone. The large positive anomaly in 1982 was caused by the volcanic eruption of El Chichon in Mexico, and the sharp jump in temperature in 1991 was a result of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. In both cases the temperatures returned to pre-eruption levels within two years.

    January Anomaly Rank
    (out of 33 years)
    Coolest Year on Record
    UAH stratosphere -0.17°C (-0.31°F) 16th coolest 2006 (-0.57°C/-1.03°F)
    RSS stratosphere -0.14°C (-0.26°F) 16th coolest 2006 (-0.58°C/-1.05°F)

    [ top ]


    For additional details on precipitation and temperatures in January, see the Global Analysis page.


    References

    Christy, John R., R.W. Spencer, and W.D. Braswell, 2000: MSU tropospheric Temperatures: Dataset Construction and Radiosonde Comparisons. J. of Atmos. and Oceanic Technology, 17, 1153-1170.

    Free, M., D.J. Seidel, J.K. Angell, J. Lanzante, I. Durre and T.C. Peterson (2005) Radiosonde Atmospheric Temperature Products for Assessing Climate (RATPAC): A new dataset of large-area anomaly time series, J. Geophys. Res., 10.1029/2005JD006169.

    Free, M., J.K. Angell, I. Durre, J. Lanzante, T.C. Peterson and D.J. Seidel(2004), Using first differences to reduce inhomogeneity in radiosonde temperature datasets, J. Climate, 21, 4171-4179.

    Fu, Q., C.M. Johanson, S.G. Warren, and D.J. Seidel, 2004: Contribution of stratospheric cooling to satellite-inferred tropospheric temperature trends. Nature, 429, 55-58.

    Lanzante, J.R., S.A. Klein, and D.J. Seidel (2003a), Temporal homogenization of monthly radiosonde temperature data. Part I: Methodology, J. Climate, 16, 224-240.

    Lanzante, J.R., S.A. Klein, and D.J. Seidel (2003b), Temporal homogenization of monthly radiosonde temperature data. Part II: trends, sensitivities, and MSU comparison, J. Climate, 16, 241 262.

    Mears, CA, FJ Wentz, 2009, Construction of the RSS V3.2 lower tropospheric dataset from the MSU and AMSU microwave sounders. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 26, 1493-1509.

    Mears, CA, FJ Wentz, 2009, Construction of the Remote Sensing Systems V3.2 atmopsheric temperature records from the MSU and AMSU microwave sounders. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 26, 1040-1056.

    Mears, Carl A., M.C. Schabel, F.J. Wentz, 2003: A Reanalysis of the MSU Channel 2 tropospheric Temperature Record. J. Clim, 16, 3650-3664.

    [ top ]

    Wildfires


    Updated: 4 February 2011

    January is not considered to be part of the U.S. wildfire season, with fire activity typically being slow during the month. January 2011 was below-average in terms of number of fires, acres burned, and acres burned per fire. The majority of the fire activity during the month was confined to the southern and southeastern U.S., where conditions were drier than normal. Conditions were also dry across the western regions, but above-average precipitation during December helped limit wildfire activity. Please see the monthly temperature and precipitation discussion. On the 7th of the month, there were six large wildfires burning across the U.S. — three in Florida, two in Arkansas, and one in Texas. On the 14th, rainfall across Florida lowered the fire danger there, while dry conditions across the Southern Plains intensified. There were three large fires burning in Oklahoma and one fire in Mississippi. By the 28th, there were three large fires in Florida, and one each in Oklahoma and New Mexico.

    2011 Wildfire Statistics

    (Source: NIFC)
    Year–To–Date Totals as of January 28th Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
    01/28/2011 1,526 17,352
    01/28/2010 1,081 19,052
    01/28/2009 2,481 57,150
    01/28/2008 1,380 40,804
    01/28/2007 387 4,597
    01/28/2006 3,166 322,197
    01/28/2005 1,740 15,386
    01/28/2004 1,964 18,818
    01/28/2003 1,120 10,721
    01/28/2002 1,383 10,079
    01/28/2001 1,231 44,334
    01/28/2000 2,796 40,757
    5–yr average
    (2006 – 2010)
    1,767 90,410
    10–yr average
    (2001 – 2010)
    1,683 55,040

    According to statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), between January 1st and January 28th, approximately 17,352 acres (5,403 hectares) were burned across the United States, which is 31.5 percent of the 2001–2010 average of 55,040 acres (22,274 hectares). A total of 1,526 new wildfires were reported for the month, which is 241 fires below the 2001–2010 average of 1,767. The average acreage burned per fire was 11.4 acres (4.6 hectares), — 13.0 acres (5.2 hectares) below the 2001–2010 average of 24.4 acres (9.9 hectares).

    According to the U.S. Drought Monitor during the month of January, the spatial extent of drought across the contiguous U.S. remained generally unchanged. However, there was regional variability across the U.S., with some regions experiencing improvement in drought and others experiencing deteriorating conditions. Beneficial precipitation across the Great Basin during the end of December ended the abnormally dry conditions there as well as in western Wyoming. Dry conditions across southern Arizona and New Mexico led to the development of severe drought conditions. Northern Texas and Oklahoma also received beneficial precipitation during the month, prompting drought conditions to be improved one category. Rainfall across the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana improved drought conditions there by one category from extreme drought to severe drought. The rest of the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi River Valley experienced little to no change in drought during the month. Dry conditions for the interior Mid-Atlantic states led to the expansion of moderate drought in North Carolina and Virginia. Drought conditions for the rest of the contiguous U.S. remained generally unchanged. In Hawaii, rainfall reduced the drought footprint there. Across Alaska, no change was observed in drought conditions, with abnormally dry conditions persisting along the southern coasts of the state.

    According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Wildland Fire Assessment System, at the beginning of the year, the only location in the country experiencing high fire danger was southern Texas. By the 15th, dry conditions across the Southeast and Southern California increased fire danger in those regions. The highest fire danger was reported in southern Mississippi and eastern Georgia. Rainfall in the Southeast improved the fire danger there by the 31st, but high fire danger developed across western Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

    According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Wildland Fire Assessment System, at the beginning of January, low fuel moistures of all categories (10-hour, 100-hour and 1,000 hour) were confined to the southern tier of the country. Low 10-hour fuel moistures were reported for the Southwest, the Southern Plains, and most of Florida. Low 100-hour and 1,000-hour fuel moistures were confined to the Southern Plains. By the 15th, the footprint of low 10-hour, 100-hour, and 1,000-hour fuel moistures increased across the Southwest and Southern Plains, while low 10-hour fuel moistures expanded across the Southeast and coastal Mid-Atlantic. The last two weeks of January brought rainfall to the Southeast, increasing 10-hour fuel moistures there, with the exception of Florida. 10-hour fuel moistures dried across western Texas, the Great Basin, the interior Northwest and the Southwest. 100-hour and 1,000-hour fuel moistures dried across western Texas, the Southwest, and the Great Basin.

    According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Wildland Fire Assessment System, at the beginning of the month the location of high Keetch–Byram Drought Index (KBDI), values was consistent with the location of drought conditions — the Southern Plains, the Southeast, and the Florida peninsula. By, the 15th, there was little change in the spatial pattern of high KBDI values across the country. However, by the end of the month, the high KBDI values in the Southeast decreased due to widespread precipitation, with the exception of extreme southern Florida. High KBDI values persisted across the Southern Plains, and high KBDI values developed in southwestern Arizona.


    Citing This Report

    NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate for January 2011, published online February 2011, retrieved on July 24, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/2011/1.