National Overview - December 2008


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:


December Most Recent 3 Months Most Recent 6 Months
Most Recent 12 Months Year-to-Date US Percent Area Very Wet/Dry/Warm/Cold
Annual Summary for 2008

PLEASE NOTE: All 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.  As final data become available, the most up-to-date statistics and graphics will be available on the Climate Monitoring Products page and the U.S. Climate at a Glance Web site.

For graphics covering periods other than those mentioned above or for tables of national, regional, and statewide data from 1895—present, for December, last 3 months or other periods, please go to the Climate at a Glance page.

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National Overview:


Temperature Highlights
  • For the contiguous United States, the average temperature for December was 32.5°F (0.3°C), which was 0.9°F (0.5°C) below the 20th century mean and ranked as the 35th coolest December on record, based on preliminary data.
  • Using the Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI - an index developed at NOAA to relate energy usage to climate), the nation's residential energy demand during December was approximately 1.2% above average consumption and ranked as the 48th highest in 114 years.
Precipitation Highlights
  • This was the 43rd wettest December in the 1895—2008 record. An average of 2.5 inches (64 mm) of precipitation fell across the contiguous U.S. during the month, which is 0.2 inches (5 mm) above average.
Other Items of Note
  • La Niña conditions strengthened in the tropical Pacific Ocean through December. Negative equatorial sea-surface temperature anamolies began to strengthen across portions of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. According to the Climate Prediction Center, nearly all of the dynamical and statistical models were forecasting La Niña conditions to continue during the next several months. A developing La Niña may result in wetter than normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and drier than normal conditions in the southwestern and southeastern U.S., as well as above average temperatures in the south-central and southwestern U.S. For additional information on ENSO conditions, please visit the NCDC ENSO Monitoring page and the latest NOAA ENSO Advisory.
Alaska:
  • Alaska had its 30th warmest December since records began in 1918, with a temperature 0.9°F (0.5°C) above the 1971—2000 average.

  • Alaska had its 27th coolest October—December on record, with a temperature 2.3°F (1.3°C) below the 1971—2000 average.

  • Alaska had its 40th coolest January—December on record, with a temperature 0.7°F (0.4°C) below the 1971—2000 average.

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

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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 | Midwest | Southeast | High Plains | Southern | Western

Northeast Region: (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)
  • Despite some significant temperature swings during the month in the Northeast, December's average temperature was exactly normal or 28.4°F (-2.0°C). Only three states had temperatures that averaged below normal: Maine (-1.9°F, 1.1°C); New Hampshire and New York (-0.1°F, -0.1°C). Departures among the remaining states ranged from normal in Connecticut to 2.1°F (1.2°C) above normal in Delaware.

  • The Northeast's average precipitation total was 4.90 inches (12.45 cm), making this month the tenth wettest December since 1895. Among the states in the region, it was the third wettest in Pennsylvania, the 9th wettest in Connecticut and the 10th wettest in New Jersey. Precipitation totals ranged from 117% of normal in Maine to 164% of normal in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In spite of the wet conditions in the Northeast, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicated that portions of northwest Pennsylvania remained abnormally dry and the southern half of West Virginia continued to experience moderate drought conditions as of December 30, 2008.

  • The Northeast experienced a season's worth of winter weather in December. The first major event was an ice storm on the 11th and 12th that left over a million homes and businesses without power in portions of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Conditions were most severe in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where downed trees and power lines closed over 300 state and local roads, shelters housed over 3000 and states of emergency were declared by President Bush. While ice was coating northern and interior locations, 3 to 5 inches of rain drenched the coastal plain from Maryland to Massachusetts as well as eastern Pennsylvania. Highway and river flooding were reported in the areas of heaviest rainfall.

    A week later, a series of storms brought snowy conditions to the northern half of the region, including areas still recovering from the ice storm. About 26,000 residents in Massachusetts were still without power when the first winter storm warning was issued on the 19th. By the time the snow ended on the 22nd, 6 to 24 inches of snow blanketed the northern half of the Northeast.

    Cold temperatures and high winds postponed New Year's Eve celebrations in New Bedford, MA and Baltimore, MD, but did not keep the crowds away from Times Square. Wind speeds of 20 to 25 mph and gusts of 35 to 40 mph yielded a wind chill near zero as the crowd greeted the new year.
For more information, please go to the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Midwest Region: (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
  • December was a cold and wet month for most of the Midwest. Temperatures were below normal across the entire region, ranging from only slightly below normal in southeastern Ohio to 9°F (5°C) below normal in northwestern Minnesota. Temperature departures were generally more than 3°F (1.7°C) below normal north of a line from Kansas City, MO to Detroit, MI. Subzero readings were frequent the first half of the month across the northern Midwest where snow cover was persistent. Temperature extremes across the Midwest ranged from -35°F (-37°C) at Babbit and Brimson, MN on December 17 to 75°F (24°C) at Henderson, KY on December 29.

  • Precipitation ranged from near normal in southwestern Missouri to much above normal in the upper Midwest. Precipitation was generally 150 to 200 percent of normal north of a line from Sioux City, IA to Louisville, KY. The largest departures above normal were found in northwestern Minnesota, southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and much of Michigan. Based on preliminary data, this was the second wettest December on record for Michigan; the fourth wettest for Ohio and Wisconsin; the seventh wettest for Indiana and Minnesota; and the eighth wettest for Illinois. In Kentucky, December was the first month since July with above normal precipitation, which helped to alleviate the drought conditions that have persisted in the state. December snowfall ranged from 200 percent of normal to more than 400 percent of normal north of a line from Kansas City, MO to Detroit, MI. South of this line December snowfall was less than 60 percent of normal. In Iowa this was the fourth snowiest December among 122 years of state snow records.

  • There were frequent freezing rain events across the central Midwest during the month. The storms produced widespread power outages and hazardous travel. In Indiana alone, 16 deaths occurred in traffic accidents due to the ice and many injuries resulted from falls on the ice covered ground. Long sections of interstate highways were closed at times due to numerous accidents and slide offs. High winds slowed utility crews from restoring widespread power outages after a storm on December 18. An ice storm in Kentucky on December 23 resulted in four deaths due to traffic accidents. Strong southerly winds ahead of a strong storm system on December 27-29 brought much warmer air and heavy rain to the Midwest, causing rapid snow melt. The rapid snow melt along with the heavy rain brought flooding to many rivers across southeastern Iowa, northern Illinois, and northwestern Indiana. The flooding from the rain and snow melt was exacerbated in some areas by ice jams on rivers. At the end of the month most of the flooding had subsided, but moderate flooding was still occurring on the Illinois River in central Illinois.
For details on the weather and climate events of the Midwest during December, see the weekly summaries in the MRCC Midwest Climate Watch page.

Southeast Region: (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)
  • In contrast to recent trends, average temperatures for December 2008 were above normal across the region, with exception to a small portion of southern FL and northern VA. More than three-quarters of the region displayed temperatures that were 2.0°F (1.1°C) or more above normal. Portions of SC and extreme eastern GA displayed mean temperatures more than 6.0°F (3.3°C) above normal. Most notably, Augusta, GA recorded a mean temperature of 54.3°F (12°C), which was the 4th warmest December in a 60-yr record. In most of the region, the coldest temperatures were observed in the first half of the month. There were only 44 record lows set during the month and more than half of these records occurred in FL. Most notably, Lake City, FL recorded a minimum temperature of 25°F (-4°C) on the 13th of the month. The cold air did not have a significant impact on agricultural interests in the region. At least 213 record high temperatures were set across the region. Augusta, GA recorded a high temperature of 82°F (28°C) on the 18th, which tied with dates from several years for being the warmest daily high for December. Mean monthly temperatures were average to slightly below average across Puerto Rico.

  • There was much variability in the monthly precipitation totals across the region. Precipitation totals were below normal across most of FL southeastern GA, SC and NC as well as small portions of northern VA, central GA and southern AL. The area of greatest precipitation deficits included much of FL and southeastern portions of GA, SC, and NC, which received less than half of the normal precipitation for the month. In contrast, precipitation totals were above normal over portions of northwestern and southeastern AL, northern and southwestern GA, western SC, western NC and southern VA. Several locations within this region recorded monthly totals that exceeded 200% of normal. Nearly 12 inches (300 mm) of precipitation fell in Huntsville, AL, making it the 5th wettest December on record. Much of the precipitation for the month was associated with low pressure systems tracking across the Midwest and Great Lakes and pushing cold fronts through the area. An exceptionally strong low developed along a stalled front and tracked northeastward from the Gulf Coast across the eastern slopes of the Appalachians on the 10th and 11th of the month. Many locations in the western and northern portions of the region received more than 2 inches of rain over this two day period. Berry and Moulton AL received over 5 inches (130 mm) of rain on the 10th and several stations in the western panhandle of Florida reported two day precipitation totals exceeding 6 inches (150 mm). This rainfall produced some minor flooding along small rivers and streams. Most of Puerto Rico recorded precipitation totals that were below normal for the month. Relatively little snow was reported across the Southeast, and what fell was largely confined to the mountains. The greatest monthly snowfall total was a mere 8.4 inches (213 mm), which was recorded in Nora, VA.

  • Above normal precipitation during the month contributed to a slight lessening of the drought persisting across northwestern SC extreme NE GA and extreme western NC. Drought intensity lowered from the exceptional to the extreme category in this region. This marked the first time in six months that no area in the Southeast experienced exceptional drought conditions. Moderate drought conditions disappeared across NE AL but continued across southwestern VA, portions of western NC, and west-central FL. There were very few reports of severe weather across the region during the month. Wind damage was reported in a few places across northern FL in connection with the cyclone on the 10th and 11th. Also, wind gusts exceeding 60 mph were reported in several mountainous areas of western NC on the 31st of the month.
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)
  • While November was warmer than normal across the region, December was below normal for most of the region. The monthly average temperature departures from normal generally ranged from -2°F to -6°F (-1.1°C to -3.3°C), however several locations exceeded 8°F (4.4°C) below normal. Many stations recorded average temperatures that ranked in the top 10 for coldest Decembers on record. Record setting locations include Grand Forks International Airport, ND, Redfield, SD, Cody Municipal Airport, WY, and Lincoln, NE. With the 4th coldest December on record, Grand Forks International Airport had an average temperature of 5.1°F (-14.9°C). Redfield had an average temperature of 9.8°F (-12.3°C) which was the 5th coldest December on record. Cody Municipal Airport recorded its 8th coldest December on record with an average temperature of 18.5°F (-7.5°C) and Lincoln recorded its 9th coldest December with an average temperature of 23.0°F (-5°C).

  • Precipitation varied quite a bit across the region this month as there were widespread areas of both above and below normal precipitation. Dry locations which received less than 50% of normal precipitation included much of Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas, and pockets of eastern South Dakota and north central North Dakota. Areas experiencing drought did not get any relief this month as drought conditions have remained largely unchanged across the region. For instance, the Rawlins Municipal Airport in Wyoming recorded no precipitation and tied the record for driest December (last set in 2001). Areas that received at least 150% of normal precipitation include North Dakota, South Dakota, the western half of Colorado, the northwestern part of Wyoming, and small pockets of Nebraska. Extreme locations in North Dakota and Colorado received above 400% of normal precipitation. Many locations in North Dakota broke December snowfall records. Most interestingly, Bismarck not only recorded the record December snowfall, but also the total snowfall for any one month. Bismarck recorded 33.3 inches (84.58 cm) of snow in December breaking the previous record of 21.7 inches (55.12 cm) set in 1916. Bismarck December snowfall also set the record snowfall for any month by beating the previous record of 31.1 inches (78.99 cm) set in March 1975.

  • A blizzard struck North Dakota and South Dakota December 13-14. Snowfall totals ranged from 1-14 inches (2.54-35.56 cm). Strong winds gusting over 50 mph (80.5 km/h) accompanied the snow which reduced visibilities to zero and created wind chills from -30°F to -50°F (-34.4°C to -45.6°C). I-90 was closed in South Dakota, I-94 was closed in North Dakota, and I-29 was closed from South Dakota to the Canadian border.
For more information, please go to the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Southern Region: (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)
  • During the month of December, average temperatures in the Southern Region were generally within 0 to 2°F (°0-1°C) of normal. Temperatures in Arkansas were only slightly below normal. Similar conditions were observed in eastern Oklahoma, western Tennessee, and parts of northeast Texas. Elsewhere, temperatures were only slightly above the monthly norm, with the exception of southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi; where temperatures averaged between 4-6°F (2-3°C) above normal.

  • In December, precipitation in the Southern Region was well below normal in the western states of Texas and Oklahoma, near-normal to slightly below normal in the central states of Arkansas and Louisiana, and well above normal in Tennessee and northern Mississippi. The driest area of the Southern Region included a large portion of north central Texas, where most stations reported less than 0.1 inches (2.54 mm). In fact, a majority of stations in Texas climate division 2 (Low Rolling Plains) did not record any precipitation for the entire month. Throughout Texas, most stations reported 50% or less of the monthly average. Similar conditions occurred in western and central Oklahoma. In Arkansas, only the eastern counties received near-normal precipitation. Conditions in the remainder of the state were dry, with most stations reporting between 50-90% of the monthly normal. In Louisiana, conditions were dry in the south and northwestern portions of the state. Central parishes did observe near-normal precipitation. In Mississippi, precipitation was generally well above normal, particularly in the central and northern counties. Within those regions, precipitation totals varied from 130 to over 200% of normal. In Tennessee, similar conditions were observed with much of the state enjoying a very wet month for a change, including the eastern counties where drought has been persistent for many months.

  • Drought conditions in the Southern Region have changed slightly over the past month. Below normal precipitation totals in south central Texas has led to a slight deterioration of drought conditions. Specifically, the area of exceptional drought in south central Texas has expanded slightly from last month. Conversely, above normal precipitation in Tennessee has led to a significant improvement in drought conditions. For example, the eastern portion of the state has seen drought conditions change from extreme drought to just moderate drought. In addition, central counties in the state that were observing moderate to severe drought are now drought-free.
For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Regional Climate Center)
  • Temperatures throughout the west were mostly below normal except for New Mexico, eastern Arizona and isolated pockets of the Rockies. Parts of eastern Montana were 8°F (4.5°C) below normal, the coldest December in 12 years. This followed on the heels of a very warm November where eastern Montana was 8°F(4.5°C) above normal. Seattle and Spokane, WA, and Pendleton, OR, recorded their coldest Decembers since 1990. On the opposite end of the extreme, Barrow, AK, recorded their second warmest December in 60 years of observations.

  • Precipitation was a very mixed bag with no discernable pattern. Much of the southwest and northern plains were well above normal with the Pacific northwest being below normal as well as most of Wyoming and southern New Mexico. Although precipitation was only 60-75% of normal in NW Washington this was the snowiest months in 13 years at lower elevations. Spokane measured 61.5 inches (156 cm) of snow, the greatest monthly total ever with records dating back 113 years. Through December Spokane had already measured 63 inches (160 cm) of snow so far this winter, roughly 140% of their annual average. Crater Lake National Park recorded 13.86 inches (352 mm) of precipitation and 169.9 inches (432 cm) of snow, with the snow depth climbing from 0 on the 7th to 74 inches (188 cm) on the 29th. The 3.38 inches (86 mm) of rain in San Diego was the second greatest December total in the past 25 years. In Palm Springs 1.62 inches (41 mm) of rain fell on the 17th leading to the wettest December in 42 years. Winter finally reached the Sierra Nevada mid-month. Through December 12th, New Orleans LA had measured more snow than Lake Tahoe (Tahoe City) CA, but that changed quickly. By the end of the month, the Sierra Nevada snowpack had risen from 3% of normal on the first to 85% of normal on the 31st. Most of Hawaii had an extremely wet month with Hilo recording its wettest December since 1971 (30.38 inches, 772 mm).

  • Western snowpack ranged from over 200% percent of normal in parts of the Southwest on January 1, 2009, to slightly below normal in the Sierra of California (85%) and the Pacific Northwest (90%) to near normal in the Intermountain west (90-110%).
For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Alaska: (Information provided by Audrey Rubel at NOAA NWS Alaska Region Headquarters.)
  • Barrow experienced a very warm December. Over an 88 year timeframe, Barrow's December 2008 average maximum temperature of 7.9°F was the warmest; average monthly temperature of 0.5°F was the second warmest; and average minimum temperature of -7.0°F was the third warmest. Barrow also experienced several daily record high temperatures: 29°F on the 13th, beating the old record of 26° F set in 1932; 30°F on the 14th, beating the old record of 23°F set in 1932; 26°F on the 15th, beating the old record of 24°F set in 1984; and 29°F on the 19th, tying the old record set in 1990. On the 18th, Nome experienced its warmest minimum temperature ever on this date, 31°F, breaking the record of 30°F set in 1986. On the 16th and 17th, Cold Bay tied the record high minimum temperature of 40°F set in 1983 and 1984 respectively. King Salmon hit a record high temperature of 45°F on the 4th, breaking the old record of 43°F, set in 2002. Bethel's average monthly temperature was 5.2°F above normal. In the Southeast, high and low temperatures were well below normal. Juneau and Yakutat were 6.4 and 4.1°F, respectively, below normal for the month.

  • On the 6th, Fairbanks airport recorded 2.8 inches of snow, breaking the old snowfall record of 2.2 inches set for this date in 1991. Also on the 6th, the Fairbanks airport recorded .21 inches of precipitation, breaking the old record of .11 inches set for that date in 1918. On the 17th, Nome received .32 inches of precipitation, much of it rain, breaking the old record of .30 inches for the date set in 1929. Bethel received 171% more precipitation than normal. Snow totals for Southeast were well above normal, ranging from 57% above normal in northern locations, to as much as 170% above normal for the southern panhandle. Total precipitation was uniformly below normal with deficits ranging from 28% to 55% in Yakutat.

See NCDC's Monthly Extremes web-page for weather and climate records for the month of December. For additional national, regional, and statewide data and graphics from 1895-present, for December, the last 3 months or other periods, please visit the Climate at a Glance page.

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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 Climate Monitoring Products page and the Climate at a Glance page as they become available.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: National Overview for December 2008, published online January 2009, retrieved on October 21, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/2008/12.