National Climate Report - February 2015
Maps and Graphics
Temperature and Precipitation Ranks
U.S. Percentage Areas
Supplemental February 2015 Information
- Record and near-record February statewide temperatures
- February daily temperature extremes
- Great Lakes ice cover
- Winter snowfall for select cities
- February temperature departure from average maps
- Winter temperature departures from average maps
- Winter station records and near-records
- Alaska climate divisions FAQ
- Alaska Reference Maps
Average Temperature Departures (February)
Average Temperature Departures (Dec-Feb)
This analysis of contiguous U.S. temperature and precipitation is based on data back to January 1895, resulting in 121 years of February data and 120 years of winter (December-February) data.
- Climate Highlights — February
- The February contiguous U.S. temperature was 33.1°F, 0.7°F below the 20th century average, ranking near the median value in the 121-year period of record. The average February maximum (daytime) temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 44.6°F, 0.2°F below average, while the average minimum (nighttime) temperature was 21.7°F, 1.2°F below average.
- The western U.S. was warmer than average, where eight states had a top 10 warm February. Arizona, California, Utah, and Washington each had their warmest February on record.
- Locations from the Mississippi River to the East Coast were colder than average, where 23 states had a top ten coldest February. Nine states had their second coldest February, while no state was record cold. However, several cities in the Northeast had their coldest month of any month on record including Buffalo, New York where the monthly average temperature was 10.9°F, dipping below the 11.6°F observed in February 1934. Several additional cities, including Chicago, Illinois and Cleveland, Ohio observed their coldest February on record.
- During February, there were 5,448 warm daily temperature records (2,866 daily warm maximum temperature records and 2,582 daily warm minimum temperature records) broken or tied while there were 8,281 cold daily temperature records (4,778 daily cold maximum temperature records and 3,503 daily cold minimum temperature records) broken or tied.
- The February Lower 48 precipitation total was 1.70 inches, 0.43 inch below average, and marked the 20th driest February on record and the driest since 2009.
- Most locations across the contiguous U.S. had near to below-average monthly precipitation, with the exception of Colorado which was wetter than average. No state had February precipitation totals that ranked among the 10 wettest or driest on record.
- At the local scale, several cities across the Intermountain West observed high precipitation totals. In Colorado, Boulder experienced its wettest and snowiest February in a 123-year period of record. Boulder received 3.69 inches of precipitation, 450 percent of normal, and 54.8 inches of snow, 22.7 inches greater than the previous record set in 2012. In Wyoming, Riverton, observed its wettest February on record with a total 1.28 inches of precipitation, 388 percent of normal. This February was also the second snowiest at Riverton with 17.8 inches of snowfall.
- According to analysis of NOAA data by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the February contiguous U.S. snow cover extent was 1.3 million square miles, 91,000 square miles above the 1981-2010 average. This marked the 20th largest February snow cover extent in the 49-year period of record. Below-average snow cover and snowpack was observed across much of the West, while above-average snow cover was observed in the East. The Northeast was particularly snowy, where Boston, Massachusetts had its snowiest month of any month since records began there in 1872 with 64.8 inches of snow, besting the previous record of 43.3 inches set in January 2005.
- According to the March 3rd U.S. Drought Monitor report, 31.9 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up from 28.4 percent at the beginning of February. Drought conditions worsened across parts of the Central Rockies, Southern Plains, and central Gulf Coast. Drought conditions improved in parts of the West, Southern Rockies, Midwest, and Ohio Valley. Abnormally dry conditions developed across central parts of Alaska.
- Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during February was 65 percent above average and the 10th highest in the 1895-2015 period of record. The record and near-record cold in the densely populated Northeast and Midwest contributed to the high REDTI for February.
- Climate Highlights — winter (December 2014-February 2015)
- The winter contiguous U.S. temperature was 34.3°F, 2.1°F above the 20th century average, the 19th warmest winter on record. The first half of the winter season was very warm, with the December-January 2-month temperature being the fifth highest on record. The frigid February in the eastern U.S. lowered the overall winter temperature for the contiguous United States.
- The average winter maximum temperature (daytime) was 44.4°F, 1.7°F above the 20th century average, the 20th warmest on record. The average winter minimum temperature (nighttime) was 24.3°F, 2.5°F above the 20th century average, the 15th warmest on record.
- Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Washington each had their warmest winter on record. In California, the winter temperature bested the previous seasonal record that occurred just last year by 1.5°F. An additional five states, including Alaska, from the Rockies to West Coast, had one of their 10 warmest winters on record.
- Below-average winter temperatures, driven in large part by a frigid February, were observed from the Mississippi River to the East Coast. Due to a mild first half of winter, no state had winter temperatures that ranked among their 10 coldest on record.
- The winter contiguous U.S. precipitation total was 6.12 inches, 0.67 inch below average, and the 27th driest on record.
- Below-average winter precipitation was observed across parts of the Great Basin, Upper Midwest, Mid-South, Great Lakes, and Mid-Atlantic. Above-average precipitation was observed in the Southern Rockies. No state had winter precipitation totals that ranked among their 10 driest or wettest on record.
- For the winter season (December 2014-February 2015), the contiguous U.S. snow cover extent was 62,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average.This was the 23rd largest (27th smallest) winter snow cover extent for the contiguous U.S. and the smallest since the winter of 2011/12.
- The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for winter was 15 percent above average, ranking as the 30th largest winter USCEI on record. On the national scale, the components that examine extremes in warm daily maximum and minimum temperatures and 1-day precipitation totals were much above average. Regionally, the CEI was record high for the West climate region due to extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, the spatial extent of drought, and 1-day precipitation totals. The Northwest climate region had its fourth most extreme winter due to warm maximum and minimum temperatures and 1-day precipitation totals. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record) in temperature, precipitation, and drought across the contiguous U.S.
- The REDTI for the winter season was 8 percent below average and the 51st lowest in the 120-year period of record.
Note: With this report and data release, the National Climatic Data Center added historical Alaska climate divisions to its nClimDiv dataset. The new temperature and precipitation data for the 13 Alaskan climate divisions dates back to 1925 and will be updated monthly with our contiguous U.S. nClimDiv dataset. This newly expanded dataset improves the climate services that NOAA provides to the state of Alaska. For more information please visit the Alaska Climate Divisions FAQ.
**A comparison of the national temperature departure from average as calculated by NCDC's operational dataset (nClimDiv), the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN), and the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) is available on our National Temperature Index page.**
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)
- February was an extraordinarily cold month in the Northeast. The region's average temperature of 13.5 degrees F (-10.3 degrees C) was 12.7 degrees F (7.1 degrees C) below normal. This made it the 2nd coldest February on record behind 1934, which had an average temperature of 12.0 degrees F (-11.1 degrees C). Departures for the states ranged from 14.1 degrees F (7.8 degrees C) below normal in New York and Vermont to 10.1 degrees F (5.6 degrees C) below normal in Delaware. Eight states had their 2nd coldest February on record: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. West Virginia had its 4th coldest February on record, while Maryland and New Jersey had their 6th coldest February and Delaware had its 7th coldest February. Winter was also colder than normal. The region's average temperature of 21.9 degrees F (-5.6 degrees C) was 4.0 degrees F (2.2 degrees C) below normal. Departures for the states ranged from 4.9 degrees F (2.7 degrees C) below normal in New York, making it the state's 17th coldest winter on record, to 3.0 degrees F (1.7 degrees C) below normal in West Virginia. All 35 Northeast airport climate sites ranked the month among their top 20 coldest Februarys, with 15 of those sites having their coldest February on record. February was the all-time coldest month on record at seven sites, with an additional 27 sites ranking this February among their top 20 all-time coldest months. Twenty-six sites ranked this winter among their top 20 coldest winters.
- February ended on the dry side of normal in the Northeast. The region saw 1.92 inches (48.77 mm) of precipitation, 70 percent of normal, which made it the 12th driest February on record. All states were drier than normal, with three states ranking the month among their top 20 driest: Connecticut, 11th driest; Pennsylvania, 13th driest; and Maine, 16th driest. Departures ranged from 56 percent of normal in Massachusetts to 83 percent of normal in West Virginia. Winter also ended on the dry side of normal, but barely. The region saw 8.87 inches (225.30 mm) of precipitation, 96 percent of normal. Six states were wetter than normal, while five states were drier than normal and one state was at normal. Departures for all states ranged from 79 percent of normal in Pennsylvania to 118 percent of normal in Maine. Despite the Northeast generally being drier than normal during February and winter, snowfall was above normal in most areas. See last paragraph for more details.
- According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 17 to 18 percent of the region was experiencing abnormally dry conditions throughout the month.
- Throughout February, the Northeast was affected by numerous storms, several of which dropped more than a foot (30 cm) of snow. On the 15th, strong winds from a Nor'easter caused up to 9 hours of blizzard conditions in parts of New England and on the 25th, snow contributed to the largest chain-reaction crash in Maine's history. The weight of excessive snow caused numerous roofs to collapse in Massachusetts. According to news reports, the snowstorms have cost Massachusetts' economy at least $1 billion. Across the region, the storms caused frequent school and business closures, thousands of flight delays and cancellations, and power outages. Of the region's 35 major airport climate sites, 23 sites ranked the month among their top 20 snowiest Februarys. Fourteen of those sites also ranked this February among their top 20 all-time snowiest months. Boston, MA, and Worcester, MA, set multiple records including: snowiest February, all-time snowiest month, and snowiest winter. Boston received 64.8 inches (164.6 cm) of snow during February, which is more than the city normally gets in an entire snow season. Fifteen sites ranked this winter among their top 20 snowiest winters.
- For more information, please go to the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- Midwest Region: (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
- February 2015 had some of the coldest temperatures seen in decades, tying the year 1904 as the 7th coldest February on record (1895-2015) for the Midwestern Region. The region's average temperatures for February ranged from 9.0 to 17.0 degrees F (5.0 to 9.4 degrees C) below zero across the region, averaging 15.4 degrees F (-9.2 degrees C) for the region as a whole. The coldest temperatures in February impacted the region during the last half of the month. During this time average temperatures were 17.0 to 25.0 degrees F (9.4 to 13.9 degrees C) below normal. The coldest temperatures impacted eastern Michigan and Ohio. Many record low temperatures impacted the region February 15 - 19, 2015, with additional temperature records set in eastern Michigan and northeast Ohio on February 23 and 24, 2015. All states had average temperatures that placed them in the top 20 coldest Februarys on record - with four states experiencing temperatures that placed them in the five coldest Februarys on record: Ohio had its 2nd coldest February on record with an average temperature of 17.5 degrees F (-8.1 degrees C), Michigan had its 3rd coldest February on record with an average temperature of 8.3 degrees F (-13.2 degrees C), and Kentucky and Indiana had their 5th coldest February on record with average temperatures of 26.7 degrees F (-2.9 degrees C) and 19.3 degrees F (-7.1 degrees C), respectively. The winter season across the region provided average temperatures 1.0 to 4.0 degrees F (0.5 to 2.2 degrees C) colder than normal except in Minnesota and western Iowa where average temperatures were near normal. Even colder average temperatures (5.0 to 6.0 degrees F below normal (2.8 to 3.3 degrees C)) were found in Michigan, northeast Indiana, north and central Ohio, and the Upper Peninsula region. This resulted in average temperatures for the winter season below 30 degrees F (-1.1 degrees C) as far south as the southern half of Missouri, the southern portions of Illinois and Indiana. Kentucky only averaged temperatures between 30 and 35 degrees F (-1.1 to 1.7 degrees C). While December was a warmer than normal month for the region by several degrees F, a pattern shift in January led to colder than normal average temperatures for the month of January across much of the eastern half of the region. By February, average temperature departures of 9 to 15 degrees F (5.0 to 8.3 degrees C) below normal presided over much of the region. The arctic air that moved into the eastern half of the region during January and settled in place across much of the region through February made the warm start of the winter season finish as one that was colder than average. Regionally, the 2014-2015 winter season experienced its 45th coldest winter on record with an average temperature of 22.6 degrees F (-5.2 degrees C) tying with winters 1967-1968 and 1963-1964. Michigan and Ohio were the coldest states in the region this past winter. Michigan experienced its 19th coldest winter with an average temperature of 17.7 degrees F (-7.9 degrees C) and Ohio experienced its 20th coldest winter on record with an average temperature of 25.7 degrees F (-3.5 degrees C).
- February accumulated precipitation across the region remained 0.5 to 1.25 inches (1.3 - 3.2 cm) below normal except in southeast Kentucky, northern Missouri, most of Iowa, and small areas along Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods which were only 0.25 to 0.5 inches (0.6 - 1.3 cm) above average. This resulted in a majority of the Midwest region experiencing only 50-75 percent of normal accumulated precipitation with the entire region experiencing its 28th driest February on record only observing 1.21 inches (3.1 cm), 0.51 inches (1.3 cm) below normal (70 percent of normal). Accumulated precipitation totals for February were 0.25-0.5 inches (0.6 - 1.3 cm) across much of Minnesota and Wisconsin, increasing to 0.5-1.5 inches (1.3 - 3.8 cm) heading south towards the Ohio River valley with isolated regions recording 2.0 inches (5.1 cm). Kentucky saw a majority of the precipitation across the region with 3.0 or more inches (7.6 cm) recorded across the state except in the far north near Cincinnati, and Kentucky recorded a monthly total of 3.23 inches (8.2 cm). Wisconsin was the driest state in February, placing February 2015 as its 13th driest February on record observing only 0.4 inches (1.0 cm) of precipitation. While all other states experienced below normal accumulated precipitation, placement of driest February on record ranged from 23rd driest on record (Michigan) to 62nd driest on record (Iowa). February snowfall across the region was abundant except in Minnesota and Wisconsin where snowfall and precipitation totals remained below normal. January 31 - February 2, 2015 a near-record snowfall event made its way across the central Midwest (Iowa, northern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and southern Michigan) dropping a storm total of 19.3 inches (49.0 cm) of snow at O'Hare International Airport. A second winter storm impacted the southern half of the Midwest February 15-17, 2015. Kentucky received 12.0-18.0 inches (30.5 to 45.7 cm) of snowfall from this storm resulting in a state of emergency declaration for the state. Additional winter systems moved across the region February 20-22, 2015 and February 28 - March 1, 2015. Parts of northern and far southeast Missouri measured over a foot of snowfall (30.5 cm) due to these systems, 8.0-10.0 inches (20.3 to 25.4 cm) above normal for the month. Accumulated snowfall by the end of February was greatest near the lake shores due to lake effect snow events, followed by northern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and southern Michigan. Eastern Kentucky also experienced accumulated snowfall above 15.0 inches (38.1 cm). The remaining portions of the Midwest had 10.0 or more inches (25.4 cm or more) of accumulated snowfall with southwest Missouri, much of Minnesota, and the northern two-thirds of Wisconsin having less than 10.0 inches (25.4 cm) of accumulated snowfall. By the end of the month, accumulated snowfall as a percent of normal was at 400 percent across Kentucky, and 200-300 percent across the region except in Minnesota and Wisconsin (25-100 percent of normal). The region was drier than normal during the 2014-2015 winter season in terms of total accumulated precipitation with portions of Kentucky and southwest Missouri being 3.0 to 5.0 inches (7.6 to 12.7 cm) below normal. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, remainder of Missouri, Michigan, eastern Iowa and Minnesota, along with much of Wisconsin were all 1.0 to 3.0 inches (2.5 to 7.6 cm) below normal. The Midwest region observed precipitation during winter 2014-2015 was 4.2 inches (10.7 cm), 1.5 (3.8 cm) inches below normal and the 15th driest winter on record for the Midwest. No area was 100 percent of normal for the season except a small bull's eye in north-central Iowa and due south of Lake of the Woods in Minnesota. Accumulated precipitation was heaviest during the winter season across the southeast half of the Midwest, with 4.0 inches to greater than 10.0 inches (10.2 to 25.4 cm) observed across the southern half of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and southeast Missouri. To the northwest, observed precipitation for the winter season gradually decreased to 1.0 (2.5 cm) inch or less in northwest Minnesota. Minnesota observed a total of 1.65 inches (4.2 cm) during the winter, tying for its 20th driest winter on record. Wisconsin and Michigan experienced their 16th and 17th driest winter seasons on record, respectively. Wisconsin recorded 2.29 inches (5.8 cm) and Michigan recorded 4.01 inches (10.2 cm). Accumulated snowfall for the winter season was below normal for about half of states in the Midwest. The northern halves of Illinois and Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, northeast Missouri, east-central Iowa, and areas of far southern Illinois and southeast Missouri along and near the Ohio River, experienced accumulated snowfall amounts up to 10 inches (25.4 cm) above normal while all other areas were below normal by up to 20 inches (50.8 cm) (lake effect regions in northern Michigan, the Upper Peninsula, and far northern Wisconsin were up to 40 inches (101.6 cm) below normal). Until February when most of this winter's snowfall fell, those regions with above normal accumulated snowfall were actually below normal for the season. Kentucky ended the season observing 125 percent of normal accumulated snowfall, while Ohio, the northern halves of Illinois and Indiana, and southeast Michigan were 100 percent of normal. Elsewhere states were 75-100 percent of normal for accumulated snowfall. Central Missouri, Minnesota, and much of Wisconsin saw only 25-75 percent of normal accumulated snowfall.
- Despite the greater than normal precipitation with the February snowstorm across Kentucky, long term, D0 drought conditions remained in place across much of Kentucky, primarily west of the Appalachian Mountains. Minnesota remained in D0 drought for the entire month, as little precipitation fell across the state. At the beginning of winter, much of Minnesota and far northwest Iowa were classified as Abnormally Dry on the U.S. Drought Monitor and remained classified as such through the season. Entering mid-December, western Kentucky and far southeast Missouri joined the ranks of Abnormally Dry. Conditions remained stationary till mid-January when growth of the water shortage in Kentucky spread eastward and reached Moderate Drought status in the far southwest. By January 27, 2015 the lack of precipitation across the region resulted in additional growth of drought conditions: all of Minnesota had been classified as Abnormally Dry with small isolated regions of Moderate Drought, followed by a dry region across southeast Iowa, northern Missouri, northwest Illinois, and southern Wisconsin. Abnormally Dry and Moderate Drought in Kentucky was noted across the state west of the Appalachian Mountains. Following the January 31 - February 2, 2015 winter storm across the central Midwest, drought status was removed across Missouri, Iowa, and northwest Illinois. Southern Wisconsin remained in drought status having received little snow from the event. Much of Kentucky reached Moderate drought conditions by February 17th but received relief from additional winter storms so that by March, drought status for the state had been downgraded to Abnormally dry along the northern counties near the Ohio River west of the Indiana and Ohio state line.
- On January 31-February 2, a winter storm brought heavy snow to the Midwest. Amounts of 6.0 - 12.0 inches (15.2 to 30.5 cm) were common throughout Iowa, northern Missouri and northern Illinois. Areas west of Lake Michigan were hardest hit due to lake-enhanced snowfall rates. Snowfall totals from extreme southeastern Wisconsin into northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana were in the 12.0 - 20.0 inch (30.5 to 50.8 cm) range. A blizzard warning was put into effect for the Chicago area on the 1st and a storm total snowfall of 19.3 inches (49.0 cm) was recorded at O'Hare with 19.2 inches (48.8 cm) recorded at Midway in Chicago. The snowfall total at O'Hare was ranked as the fifth highest storm total snowfall total for Chicago. The 16.2 inches (41.1 cm) that fell on February 1 was the highest total for any February day in Chicago and was the second highest single day snowfall for the city all time. Additionally, this storm system brought a large amount of precipitation to the region. Areas in Iowa and Missouri through southern Michigan received more than an inch of liquid precipitation. The storm resulted in nearly 1,300 flight cancellations and many delays in the Chicago and Midwest areas.
- Intrusion of cold, arctic air the second half of February due to the mean storm track being farther south than normal resulted in winter weather as far south as Kentucky and Tennessee that sadly resulted in the deaths of 30 individuals due to car accidents, hypothermia, and carbon monoxide. The Midwest was impacted greatest by bitter cold temperatures February 16-19, 2015, with much of the region experiencing minimum temperatures below zero on the 19th. Nearly all of Wisconsin and Minnesota were 10 degrees F below zero (-23.3 degrees C) with northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and the western U.P. of Michigan 25-35 degrees F below zero (-31.2 to -37.2 degrees C). The western Ohio Valley also saw temperatures 5-15 degrees F below zero (-20.6 to -26.1 degrees C) with wind chill advisories and warnings for wind chills of 15-30 degrees F below zero (-20.6 to -34.4 degrees C).
- Another major snowstorm impacted the Midwest late on February 28, 2015 into March 1, 2015 Over 4.0 inches (10.2 cm) of snow fell from Missouri through Ohio. The heaviest snow fell in east-central Illinois through central Indiana where snow totals of 6.0 to 9.0 inches (15.2 to 22.9 cm) were common. This was the fourth major snowstorm to impact the Midwest in 30 days.
- With temperatures for the month of February 10-15 degrees F (5.6 to 8.3 degrees C) below normal along the Great Lakes, ice cover increased quickly in the month of February. Lake Erie and Huron became almost completely ice covered. On February 18th, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory estimated ice cover on the Great Lakes to be 85.4 percent. As of March 3, 2015, ice cover estimates had reduced to 77.8 percent.
- Seasonal climate events in addition to these listed for February included reports of wind damage and a brief EF0 tornado in central Ohio Christmas Eve December 24, 2014 due to weak linear convective system ahead of a cold front On January 9, 2015, southern Michigan experienced a 190 vehicle pileup during winter weather hazards in Kalamazoo and Calhoun Counties. There was one fatality, numerous injuries, fires and spilled cargo, evacuations of homes, and closure of Interstate 94 in both directions for much of the day.
- For details on the weather and climate events of the Midwest, see the weekly summaries in the Midwest Climate Watch page.
- Southeast Region: (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)
- Mean temperatures in February were well below average across much of the Southeast region. In fact, at least one reporting station in every state across the region except Florida observed its coldest or second coldest mean temperature for February on record. The greatest departures were found across portions of Virginia, the Carolinas, northern Georgia, and northern Alabama, where monthly temperatures were 8 to 10 degrees F (4.4 to 5.6 degrees C) below average. Walhalla, SC (1897-2015) and Statesville, NC (1901-2015) observed their coldest mean temperature for February on record, while Rome, GA (1893-2015) and Lynchburg, VA (1895-2015) observed their second coldest mean temperature for February on record. In contrast, mean temperatures were above average in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during February. Guayama (1914-2015) and Coloso (1905-2015) observed their third and fourth warmest February mean temperature on record, respectively. The warmest weather occurred on the 8th and 9th, as moist tropical air was advected northward over the region ahead of an approaching cold front. During this two-day period, daily maximum temperatures exceeded 70 degrees F (21.1 degrees C) over much of the region. The coldest weather of the month occurred on the 19th and 20th, as an unusually strong Arctic high pushed southward across the region. Daily mean temperatures were at least 15 degrees F (8.3 degrees C) below average across the entire region, with some locations in North Carolina and Virginia exceeding 30 degrees F (16.7 degrees C) below average. The daily maximum temperature in Blacksburg, VA (1953-2015) on the 19th and Cape Hatteras, NC (1893-2015) on the 20th tied for the fifth coldest all time at 7 degrees F (-13.9 degrees C) and 24 degrees F (-4.4 degrees C), respectively.
- Precipitation was slightly below normal but highly variable across the Southeast during February. The wettest locations were found across portions of coastal North Carolina and central Florida, where monthly precipitation totals exceeded 150 percent of normal. Tampa, FL (1891-2015) and Cape Hatteras, NC observed their seventh wettest February on record with 6.52 inches (166 mm) and 7.34 inches (186 mm) of precipitation, respectively. In contrast, the driest locations were found across northern Virginia, western North Carolina, southern Alabama, and the western tip of the Florida Panhandle. Monthly precipitation totals were 2 to 4 inches (50.8 to 101.6 mm) below normal, or about 50 to 25 percent of normal, in these areas. Precipitation was slightly above normal for much of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Thomas (1953-2015) observed its wettest February and sixth wettest month all time with 13.35 inches (339 mm) of precipitation. Remarkably, 8.73 inches (222 mm) of precipitation (65 percent of the monthly total) was observed on the 14th, making it the second wettest day on record for any month in St. Thomas.
- Snowfall amounts in February were much greater than the preceding months of December and January. Measurable snowfall was recorded in all states with the exception of Florida during the month. The ninth all time snowiest month was recorded in Blacksburg, VA, which observed 19.4 inches (493 mm) of snowfall. Huntsville, AL (1894-2015) and Lynchburg, VA observed their snowiest February on record with 8.8 inches (224 mm) and 20.3 inches (516 mm) of snowfall, respectively. The highest monthly snowfall totals recorded in each state are as follows: 30.4 inches (772 mm) in Clintwood, VA, 46.1 inches (1,171 mm) on Mt. Mitchell, NC, 9.5 inches (241 mm) in Long Creek, SC, 8.8 inches (224 mm) in Sautee, GA, and 9.5 inches (241 mm) in Valley Head, AL.
- There were only 32 severe weather reports across the Southeast during February, and all but one of these reports were for damaging thunderstorm winds. In addition, severe weather was reported on only three days during the month. On the 2nd, a squall line produced damaging straight-line winds across southeastern Virginia, resulting in widespread downed trees. The highest reported gusts occurred near the communities of Crittenden (67 mph) and Oceana (65 mph) within the Norfolk metropolitan area. An EF-1 tornado touched down near Boca West, FL on the 5th, causing localized tree falls and damage to numerous homes. However, no fatalities or injuries were reported. On the 25th, strong winds associated with a vigorous squall line produced widespread downed trees and power lines across north-central Florida. A water main break caused by a fallen tree damaged six apartments at a residential complex in Gainesville, FL. It is also worth noting that strong non-convective wind gusts exceeding 50 mph were recorded across broad portions of North Carolina and southern Virginia on the 2nd. Some of the highest reported gusts occurred in Jefferson, NC (58 mph) and Virginia Beach, VA (64 mph).
- A modest change in drought conditions was noted for the Southeast during February. The percentage of the region under drought-free conditions (less than D1) decreased slightly from 99 percent on the 3rd to 96 percent on the 24th. Moderate (D1) drought expanded northward and eastward from the Mobile Bay area of coastal Alabama during the month, covering the entire southwestern portion of the state as well as the western tip of the Florida Panhandle. Approximately 17 percent of Alabama was under moderate drought conditions by the end of February, which is a significant increase from only 2 percent coverage at the beginning of the month. In addition, a small area of moderate drought developed in the Everglades region of southern Florida. Numerous freeze events during the latter half of the month damaged about 10 to 30 percent of the blueberry crop across portions of southern Georgia.
- 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 )
- This month, there was a large contrast in temperatures across the United States due to a ridge to the west and a trough to the east. The extreme warmth in the west was a concern due to the continued low snowpack and the cold in the east allowed for wintry weather to impact locations even in the Deep South. Because the High Plains region was on the dividing line of the warm and cold air, eastern areas were below normal, central areas were near normal, and western areas were above normal. This resulted in impressive temperature departures ranging from about 12.0 degrees F (6.7 degrees C) below normal in parts of North Dakota to about 12.0 degrees F (6.7 degrees C) above normal in parts of Wyoming. Interestingly, even with these large temperature departures, locations with long-term station histories did not set records and relatively few locations ranked in the top 20 coldest or warmest Februaries on record. As is often the case, precipitation varied across the region. Areas picking up heavy precipitation included central Wyoming and the Front Range in Colorado. Liquid equivalent precipitation totals in those areas generally ranged from 200-400 percent of normal precipitation, however isolated locations in Colorado topped 400 percent of normal. Other areas receiving ample precipitation included portions of western and southeastern Nebraska, far western Kansas, and pockets of North Dakota. These areas had precipitation totals of at least 150 percent of normal. Several locations with long station histories set new records for snowiest and/or wettest February on record. Likewise, numerous locations ranked in the top 10. There were dry areas of the region as well, including South Dakota, southern Kansas, southwestern Wyoming, and portions of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Colorado where precipitation totaled 50 percent of normal, at best. A few isolated areas received little to no precipitation and ranked in the top 10 driest Februaries on record. At this time of the year, precipitation does not contribute a large percentage of the annual total; however dry areas will need to be monitored this spring when deficits can grow more quickly.
- Extreme temperatures were a common theme this winter and February was no exception. For the High Plains region, being on the dividing line between the warm and cold air made for an impressive range of temperature departures. Despite these large departures, the warmth to the west and cold to the east was not generally record breaking across the region, although a few isolated locations may have set new records. What was more widespread was the list of locations which ranked in the top 20 warmest/coldest Februaries on record. Some examples on the cool side included Minot, North Dakota (9th), Lincoln, Nebraska (16th), and Topeka, Kansas (20th). Examples on the warm side included Rawlins, Wyoming (5th) and Grand Junction, Colorado (11th).
- A look at the daily values shows that hundreds of daily records were set this month, the majority of which were record highs. Even locations in eastern Colorado and western Kansas were flirting with their highest all-time February temperatures from the 6th through the 10th. February 7th was a particularly warm day and Colorado Springs, Colorado came close to its all-time February maximum temperature with a high of 74 degrees F (23.3 degrees C). This tied for the 2nd warmest February day on record in Colorado Springs, but was just shy of the highest value of 76 degrees F (24.4 degrees C), which occurred on February 5, 1963 (period of record 1894-2015). The 7th was a warm day for other locations too as Denver, Colorado and Goodland, Kansas tied for their 6th warmest February day on record with 74 degrees F (23.3 degrees C) and 79 degrees F (26.1 degrees C), respectively. The graph above shows the extreme warmth that occurred this past month, especially during the second week of February in Colorado Springs.
- After a fairly dry January, precipitation returned for some areas of the High Plains region, especially along the Front Range in Colorado, areas of central Wyoming, and portions of Kansas, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Other areas of the region were fairly dry and drought conditions expanded across western Colorado and into southwestern Wyoming, which is uncommon for this time of the year. The following takes a look at some local examples of extremes experienced across the region this month. Areas along the Front Range received hefty amounts of snow this month, with many locations ranking in the top 10 snowiest Februaries on record. One very impressive record occurred in Boulder, Colorado, which broke its previous February total snowfall record by over 20 inches (51 cm)! The new record February total of 54.8 inches (139 cm) of snow completely smashed the old 2012 record of 32.1 inches (82 cm) (period of record 1893-2015). Some other locations in Colorado also had their snowiest February on record including Denver and Pueblo. On the drier end of the spectrum, little precipitation fell across South Dakota. For instance, Pierre, South Dakota had its 7th least snowiest February on record with only 1.5 inches (4 cm) of snow (period of record 1893-2015). Although snowfall over the past couple of months has been lacking in Pierre, the seasonal total is just above normal. In a follow-up to last month's summary, it was mentioned that Fargo, North Dakota had yet to have its first 1-inch (3 cm) snowfall. That streak was broken on February 10th with 3.5 inches (9 cm) and the new record was officially set. Prior to this season, the latest 1-inch (3 cm) snowfall to have occurred was January 27, 1944 (period of record 1885-2015). Even with slightly above normal snowfall in February, the seasonal snowfall totals were still lagging in Fargo with 15.6 inches (40 cm) received through the end of the month. This was only 41 percent of normal. The dryness across South Dakota and eastern North Dakota may prove to be a benefit as flood risk is reduced with a low snowpack. Additionally, in recent years, fields have been quite wet in the spring, which has been a difficulty for farmers in the planting season. The possibility of drier soils this spring could be a welcome sight in both regards.
- Although typically a quiet time of the year for drought developments/improvements in the High Plains Region, drought conditions expanded over the past month, according to the latest releases of the U.S. Drought Monitor. The total area in drought (D1-D4) increased from about 12 percent to just over 20 percent with moderate drought conditions (D1) expanding across western Colorado and into southern Wyoming. A combination of unseasonably warm weather and a low snow water equivalent in the mountain snowpack has led to this depiction on the U.S. Drought Monitor. For the region as a whole, this expanded the total D1 coverage from about 7 percent to 15 percent. The remaining severe (D2) and extreme (D3) drought conditions in portions of eastern Colorado and western and southern Kansas remained unchanged. Meanwhile, abnormally dry conditions (D0) expanded into central Colorado, southwestern Wyoming, and west-central South Dakota. In areas receiving heavy rain and snow, such as northeastern Kansas and southeastern Nebraska, D0 was eliminated. As more data are collected and analyzed, drought impacts are still being realized in some parts of the region. According to a study by the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Survey, the spruce beetle epidemic has expanded due to a combination of factors, one of which is drought. Southwestern areas of the state have experienced the most rapid expansion of the infestation. On a related matter, the mountain pine beetle epidemic has slowed, most likely due to a lack of live trees.
- For more information, please go to the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- Southern Region: (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)
- February was a cold month for all six states in the Southern Region. In Texas and Oklahoma, temperatures averaged between 2 to 5 degrees F (1.11 to 2.78 degrees C) below normal. Elsewhere, temperatures were even colder, ranging between 5 to 10 degrees F (2.78 to 5.56 degrees C) below normal. Further to this, stations in northern Tennessee reported average temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees F (5.56 to 8.33 degrees C) below the monthly normal. The state-wide average temperatures are as follows: Arkansas averaged 36.20 degrees F (2.33 degrees C), Louisiana averaged 47.50 degrees F (8.61 degrees C), Mississippi averaged 41.80 degrees F (5.44 degrees C), Oklahoma averaged 38.10 degrees F (3.39 degrees C), Tennessee averaged 31.40 degrees F (-0.33 degrees C), and Texas averaged 48.40 degrees F (9.11 degrees C). Both Arkansas and Tennessee recorded their eighth coldest February on record (1895-2015). For Mississippi it was the eleventh coldest February, while Louisiana posted its fourteenth coldest February on record (1895-2015). All other state rankings fell within the two middle quartiles.
- With the exception of western Tennessee, the month of February was a drier than normal month. Conditions were especially dry throughout central Texas, where most stations received half (or less) of the normal precipitation for the month. Similar shortfalls were observed across central Louisiana, southwestern Oklahoma, and southern Mississippi. Elsewhere, precipitation totals ranged between 70 to 90 percent of normal, except for in western Tennessee, where most stations reported values that were near normal to slightly above normal. The state-wide average precipitation totals for the month of February are as follows: Arkansas averaged 3.09 inches (78.49 mm), Louisiana averaged 2.91 inches (73.91 mm), Mississippi averaged 4.09 inches (103.89 mm), Oklahoma averaged 1.07 inches (27.18 mm), Tennessee averaged 4.29 inches (108.97 mm), and Texas averaged 1.06 inches (26.92 mm). For Louisiana, it was their twenty-seventh driest February on record (1895-2015). All other state rankings fell within the two middle quartiles.
- Drought conditions in the Southern Region changed only slightly from the previous month. In southwestern Texas, below normal precipitation led to an introduction of extreme drought. Similarly, persistent dryness in southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi has resulted in an area of moderate drought along the north central Gulf of Mexico coast. Above normal precipitation in western Tennessee has alleviated drought conditions there, however, much of the area is still considered abnormally dry. Elsewhere, conditions have not changed much, with a bulk of the counties in northwestern Texas and western Oklahoma still experiencing severe, extreme and exceptional drought.
- In terms of severe weather, snow, ice, and freezing temperatures plagued much of the northern half of the Southern Region, causing airport closures/flight cancellations, school closures, power outages, and fatalities. According to TimesFreePress.com, over the period of February 16 to February 25, approximately 30 fatalities occurred in Tennessee due to winter weather. Most of the deaths were the result of hypothermia or vehicle accidents. (source: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2015/feb/25/tennessees-winter-storm-death-toll-hits-30/290124/).
- A snow storm at the end of the month caused havoc in the Dallas area and over much of Northern Texas. The storm dumped several inches of snow, and Highway US 75 was closed in both directions just north of Dallas.
- In Texas, winter wheat and pecans are doing well across the state. Dairy production has increased 2% from the summer months and the number of cattle have increased after hitting a 48-year record low in 2014. Cotton is expected to have a large reduction due to the cold weather, so many farmers have turned to growing sorghum instead. Soil moisture fared better in the South Plains than in the Panhandle where the soil moisture was short to adequate. The counties of Hale and Swisher now have adequate soil moisture after previously suffering from drought conditions. Ecologically, there were more snow geese found in the state than in previous years. Unseasonably warm temperatures for a portion of the month brought out sand bass and other fish for early season fishing. Statewide reservoirs rose nearly a full percent from the beginning of the month, going from 65.0% to 65.9%. In east Texas, most reservoirs are at or near capacity. In the panhandle, north Texas, and southcentral Texas, reservoir levels are running on the low side, which has prompted experts in Austin and Amarillo to deliberate further water conservation solutions (Information provided by the Texas Office of State Climatology).
- For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)
- February was the 3rd consecutive month of widespread above normal temperatures in the West, and the 15th consecutive month for the state of California. Record February temperatures were observed in the Sierra Nevada, Great Basin, and Central Rockies. Precipitation varied widely, having no recognizable pattern across the West, with record February totals in areas of the central and southern Rockies and drier than normal conditions in central and southern California as well as large areas of the Great Basin.
- Strong and persistent high pressure anchored over the West this month resulted in a large number or record temperatures. Some of the greatest departures from normal were observed in the northeastern Great Basin and Central Rockies. Idaho Falls, Idaho, with records from 1948, logged its warmest February on record at 36.9 F (2.7 C), 12.9 F (7.2 C) above normal. Salt Lake City, Utah also recorded its warmest February in an 88-year record, averaging 43.9 F (6.5 C), 9.7 F (5.4 C) above normal. Elsewhere in the Great Basin, Elko, Nevada had its warmest February in a 126-year record with an average 40.1 F (4.5 C), 10.2 F (5.6 C) above normal. Bishop, California also set a record for warmest February at 50.3 F (10.2 C); records there began in 1895. Other western locations also experienced a record warm February. In eastern Oregon, Ontario recorded its warmest February in a 71-year record at 43.3 F (6.3 C), 10 F (5.5 C) above normal. Bakersfield, California, set a record for warmest February with an average of 58.9 F (14.9 C); records there date from 1937. Las Vegas, Nevada also set a record for warmest average February temperature in its 68-year record at 60.0 F (15.6 C), 7.1 F (3.9 C) above normal.
- Following a warm and dry start to the month, the second half of February brought cold and snowy conditions to the central and southern Rockies. Riverton, Wyoming observed its wettest February on record with a total 1.28 in (33 mm) precipitation, 388% of normal. This February was also the second snowiest at Riverton with 17.8 in (45 cm) of snowfall. Records for Riverton began in 1907. Further south, Boulder, Colorado experienced its wettest and snowiest February in a 123-year record. Boulder received 3.69 in (94 mm) of precipitation, 450% of normal and 54.8 in (140 cm) of snow, 22.7 in (58 cm) greater than the previous record set in 2012. Continuing south, Pueblo, Colorado also saw a wet and snowy February. Precipitation totaled 1.13 in (29 mm), the second wettest in a record that began in 1954. Snowfall totaled 23.5 in (60 cm), shattering the previous February record of 14.4 in (37 cm) set in 1965. A series of storms in early February brought beneficial precipitation to northern California and areas of the Pacific Northwest, helping to improve drought conditions in these areas. At the end of the month, severe to exceptional drought persisted in 67% of California, 48% of Nevada, and 34% of Oregon. At month's end, snowpack remained meager in the Cascades, with many locations < 25% of normal snow water equivalent (SWE). The Sierra Nevada fared slightly better thanks to a cold storm at the end of the month and had SWE values 20-40% of normal. Throughout the Rockies, basin average SWE values ranged from roughly 80-110% of normal.
- Warm conditions were observed across Western and Southcentral Alaska as well as the North Slope. In western Alaska, Kotzebue noted an average temperature of 10.2 F (-12.1 C) for the month, 11.1 F (6.2 C) above average and the 3rd warmest February since records began in 1897. Precipitation was highly variable across the state, though generally below normal in the Southcentral and Southeast regions and parts of the Interior. For the snow season to-date (since July 1), Anchorage has only received 20.5 in (52 cm), making this season the 2nd least snowy on record so far. Normal snowfall at Anchorage by the end of February is 60.3 in (153 cm). The famed Iditarod sled race was altered to accommodate the warmth and dryness. Further south, drier than normal conditions prevailed for much of Hawaii. Hilo and Honolulu recorded 55% and 43% of normal, respectively. Lihue, Kauai recorded its 5th driest February on record at 0.75 in (19 mm). At month's end, 50% of the state was experiencing moderate drought.
- February 6-8: Storms impact northern California: A series of two storms brought 1-3 in (25-76 mm) precipitation to the San Francisco Bay Area, 4-8 in (102-203 mm) to northern California, and 5-10 in (127-254 mm) to the Sierra foothills and crest. These storms had generally high snow levels; roughly 10-15 in (25-38 cm) of snow accumulated above 8000 ft (2400 m) with mostly rain below. Strong winds knocked out power to more than 60,000 people in the Bay Area and 5,000 in western Nevada. The storms resulted in cancellation of roughly 250 flights out of SFO. Downed trees, localized flooding, and vehicle accidents associated with the storm were reported in northern California and western Nevada.
- February 6: Round Fire near Bishop, California: The Round Fire began during a period of 50-75 mph (80-120 kph) winds event and rapidly burned 7,000 acres (2,800 hectares. The fire destroyed 40 residences and damaged 5 others in the communities of Swall Meadows and Paradise.
- February 6-7: Mudslide, flooding in Brinnon, Washington: Following heavy rains, flooding occurred along the Duckabush River, inundating a number of homes. A mudslide also occurred partially closing two roads in the area. Three people were rescued after their truck was swept away by the river.
- For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.