National Climate Report - February 2017
- Climate Highlights — February
February Average Temperature Departures
February Percent of Average Precipitation
- The February temperature was 41.2°F, 7.3°F above the 20th century average. This ranked as the second warmest February in the 123-year period of record. Only February 1954 was warmer for the nation at 41.4°F.
- Most locations across the contiguous U.S. were warmer than average during February. Thirty-nine states from the Rockies to the East Coast were much warmer than average, with 16 states across the South, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast record warm. Nearly one-quarter of the U.S. was record warm. Below- to near-average temperatures were observed for the Northwest, with no state ranking record cold.
- The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during February was 52.1°F, 7.3°F above the 20th century average, the second warmest on record. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed for most locations east of the Rockies. Thirty-six states had maximum temperatures that were much above average, with 19 states in the Southern Plains, Midwest, and along the East Coast having record warm maximum temperatures. Below-average maximum temperatures were observed across the Northwest.
- The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during February was 30.2°F, 7.4°F above the 20th century average, the warmest on record. This surpassed the previous record of 29.6°F set in 1998. Compared to the maximum temperatures, more of the nation experienced much warmer than average minimum temperatures during February — 41 states — but there were less states that set a record. Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia had a record warm February minimum temperature. The Northwest had below-average February minimum temperatures.
- A notable number of station-level temperature records were broken during February, including numerous cities setting warm daily and monthly temperature records. There were 11,743 daily warm temperature records broken or tied (6,309 warm maximum temperatures and 5,434 warm minimum temperatures), compared to 418 daily cold records (290 cold maximum temperatures and 128 cold minimum temperatures). Of those, 1,151 daily records (709 warm maximum temperatures and 442 warm minimum temperatures) also broke the warmest temperature record ever observed during February, compared to just 2 cold records (one cold maximum temperature and one cold minimum temperature).
- Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during February was zero, compared to the 1895-2016 average of 49, reflecting much-below-average energy use.. This was the first time that REDTI has been zero during February in the 123-period of record. The record-low REDTI was driven in large part to warm temperatures across the densely populated portions of the contiguous United States.
- The February precipitation total was 2.21 inches, 0.08 inch above the 20th century average, and ranked near the median value in the 123-year period of record. Above-average precipitation across the West offset below-average precipitation in the Midwest and along the East Coast.
- Most of the western United States was wetter than average, with heavy precipitation causing widespread flooding and mudslides in California and Nevada forcing area residents to evacuate impacted areas. Above-average precipitation was also observed in parts of the Southern Plains and Great Lakes. Five states in the Northwest and Northern Rockies were much wetter than average. Above-average snowpack was observed for most mountain locations in the West at the end of the month, with record snowpack in parts of the Central Rockies and Sierra Nevada Mountains.
- Below-average precipitation was observed in the Midwest stretching into the Southeast and coastal Northeast, where 10 states were much drier than average. The above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation were accompanied by a marked lack of snow for many locations in the East. However, several winter storms early in the month blanketed parts of the Northeast and New England with snow.
- According to the February 28 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 14.1 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down 0.5 percent compared to the end of January. Drought improved by several categories across California and Nevada, where a series of Pacific storms dumped heavy rain and snow with most reservoirs reaching capacity. Long-term drought conditions persisted across southern California. Drought also improved across parts of the Southern Plains and Northeast. Drought conditions deteriorated across the Mississippi River Valley, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast. Drought developed on Hawaii's Big Island, which had been drier than average for several months.
- Climate Highlights — winter (December 2016-February 2017)
Dec-Feb Average Temperature Departures
Dec-Feb Percent of Average Precipitation
- The December-February average temperature across the contiguous U.S. was 35.9°F, 3.7°F above average, the sixth warmest on record.
- Much-above-average temperatures were observed from the Southern Rockies and Southern Plains to East Coast. Thirty-six states were much warmer than average, with Louisiana and Texas having their warmest winter on record, with temperatures 6.8°F and 5.7°F above average, respectively.
- Near- and below-average winter temperatures were observed along the West Coast, Great Basin and Northern Rockies. Four states in the Northwest and Northern Rockies had winter temperatures that were cooler than average. No state was record cold.
- The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during winter was 45.9°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, the 12th warmest on record. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed for most locations east of the Rockies. Thirty-five states had maximum temperatures that were much above average. Below-average maximum temperatures were observed across Northwest, Great Basin, and Northern Rockies.
- The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during winter was 25.9°F, 4.2°F above the 20th century average, the fourth warmest on record. Above-average minimum temperatures were observed for most of the country, except the Northwest and Northern Rockies. Most states across the Southwest and from the Great Plains to East Coast had much warmer than average minimum temperatures. Texas had the warmest winter minimum temperature on record.
- Based on REDTI, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during winter was 93 percent below average and the fourth lowest on record. Only the winters of 2016, 2012, and 2002 had lower REDTI values.
- The winter precipitation total was 8.22 inches, 1.43 inches above average, the eighth wettest on record. This was the wettest winter since 1998 for the Lower 48.
- Above-average precipitation spanned most of the West into the Northern Plains and Great Lakes, where 10 states were much wetter than average. Areas of above-average precipitation were also observed in the Central and Southern Plains, Southeast and Ohio Valley. Nevada and Wyoming had their wettest winter on record, with precipitation totals 194 percent and 179 percent of average, respectively. In contrast to recent winters, California had its second wettest December-February with 184 percent of average precipitation. Only the winter of 1969 was wetter for the state.
- Below-average precipitation was observed in the Mid-Mississippi River Valley and parts of the Mid-Atlantic and coastal Northeast. Missouri was much drier than average, but no state was record dry for winter.
- The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) ) for the winter was 75 percent above average and the seventh highest value on record. On the national scale, extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, one-day precipitation totals and days with precipitation were much above average. Extremes in warm minimum temperatures were record high. 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 United States.
- On the regional scale, the CEI was above much above average for the Northeast, Upper Midwest, Ohio Valley and Southeast. In each of these regions extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures were much above average. In the Northeast, the number of days with precipitation was the third highest on record. In the Upper Midwest, the spatial extent of wetness was the fourth highest. In the South, extremes in one-day precipitation totals were the sixth highest. In the Southeast, the spatial extent of drought was much above average.
**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 Centers for Environmental Information.
- Northeast Region: (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)
- The Northeast had its warmest February since 1895. The region's average temperature of 32.8 degrees F (0.4 degrees C) was 6.6 degrees F (3.7 degrees C) above normal. State departures ranged from 3.1 degrees F (1.7 degrees C) in Maine to 8.0 degrees F (4.4 degrees C) in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Six states had a record warm February: Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Rankings for the other six states were third warmest in Connecticut, fourth warmest in Massachusetts and Vermont, fifth warmest in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and 12th warmest in Maine. Nineteen of the Northeast's 35 major climate sites had their warmest February on record. In addition, seven major climate sites had their warmest February day on record on the 24th or 25th. Each month of winter was warmer than normal for the Northeast, so the season averaged out to be warmer than normal, as well. The region's average temperature of 30.6 degrees F (-0.8 degrees C) was 4.7 degrees F (2.6 degrees C) above normal, making it the fifth warmest winter since recordkeeping began. State departures ranged from 3.3 degrees F (1.8 degrees C) above normal in Maine to 5.5 degrees F (3.1 degrees C) above normal in West Virginia. All twelve states ranked this winter among their top ten warmest on record: second warmest in West Virginia; fourth warmest in Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont; fifth warmest in Connecticut, Delaware, and Massachusetts; sixth warmest in New Jersey; and eighth warmest in Maine. Dulles Airport, Virginia had its warmest winter on record. In addition, eight major climate sites had their warmest winter day on record on February 24th or 25th.
- The Northeast wrapped up February with 2.45 inches (62.23 mm) of precipitation, which was 90 percent of normal. Eight states were drier than normal, with precipitation ranging from 41 percent of normal in Maryland to 87 percent of normal in Pennsylvania. Five states ranked this February among their top 20 driest on record: Maryland, eighth driest; Delaware, ninth driest; New Jersey, 11th driest; Connecticut, 12th driest; and West Virginia, 18th driest. For the wetter-than-normal states, precipitation ranged from 101 percent of normal in New Hampshire to 121 percent of normal in New York. The Northeast averaged out to be wetter than normal during winter, receiving 10.03 inches (254.76 mm) of precipitation, or 109 percent of normal. Six states were drier than normal, five were wetter than normal, and one was at normal, with winter precipitation ranging from 77 percent of normal in Delaware to 121 percent of normal in Maine..
- The U.S. Drought Monitor released on February 2 indicated 35 percent of the Northeast was in a moderate, severe, or extreme drought, with another 26 percent being abnormally dry. Conditions improved in portions of New York, New England, northern Pennsylvania, and northern New Jersey, but deteriorated in portions of Delaware, Maryland, southern New Jersey, southern Pennsylvania, and the Panhandle of West Virginia. The U.S. Drought Monitor released on March 2 indicated 27 percent of the Northeast was in a moderate, severe, or extreme drought, with another 20 percent being abnormally dry. February average streamflow ranged from much below normal in portions of the Mid-Atlantic to much above normal in portions of New York and Vermont. Groundwater and reservoir levels increased slowly during February, returning to near normal in some areas, but remaining below normal in other areas. In early February, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority continued to urge its customers to conserve water as the Quabbin Reservoir lingered just below normal capacity since mid-November. On February 14, Wallingford, Connecticut ended their Water Supply Alert, which had been issued in early December 2016. According to a press release from the town's Water Division, the average reservoir storage has been greater than 80.0% of the historical average for a minimum of sixty (60) calendar days. As of February 15, seven public water suppliers in Pennsylvania had restrictions in place. Worcester, Massachuetts' reservoir system increased from 56 percent of capacity on January 1 to 72.6 percent on February 1, but was still below normal February 1 capacity of 91.4 percent. By March 1, the system had increased to 83.2 percent of capacity, but was still below the average of 94.1 percent. The New York City reservoir system was 10.8 percent below normal capacity on January 31, but increased to 1.7 percent above normal capacity by March 2. At the state level, effective February 1, western and central Massachusetts improved to a Drought Watch, while northeastern Massachusetts improved to a Drought Advisory. In Mid-February, six Pennsylvania counties improved to a Drought Watch, while eleven improved to normal status. The Drought Watch for central Maryland was continued as of February 14.
- February's above-normal temperatures contributed to Baltimore, Maryland and Huntington, West Virginia receiving only a trace (less than 0.1 inches, 0.3 cm) of snow during the month, with both sites tying their records for least snowy February. From February 2 to 4, up to 76 inches (193 cm) of snow fell east of Lake Ontario. A state of emergency was declared for northeastern Oswego County, New York. According to a National Weather Service report, road crews ran out of places to put the snow because there was already a deep snowpack in place. A storm brought up to two feet (61 cm) of snow and wind gusts of up to 70 mph (31 m/s) to the region from February 9 to 10. Blizzard conditions occurred for several hours at twelve sites in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The intense system produced snowfall rates of 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) per hour, as well as thundersnow in several locations in New York and New England. More than 90,000 customers lost power in the region. Travel was severely impacted, with hundreds of vehicle crashes and thousands of flight cancellations. A few days later, from February 12 to 13, another storm dropped more than a foot (30 cm) of snow on much of northern New England, with the greatest totals of up to 40 inches (102 cm) in Maine. Preliminary data indicated that there was at least one location in every Maine county that saw at least two feet (61 cm) of snow. Wind gusts of up to 72 mph (32 m/s) contributed to thousands of power outages and led to whiteout conditions in the region. A third storm, from February 15 to 16, dropped up to 21 inches (53 cm) of snow on northern New England. More than 54,000 customers lost power in Maine. In the 10-day span from February 7 to 16, up to 60 inches (152 cm), or 5 feet (1.5 m), of snow fell in portions of Maine. According to the National Weather Service office in Gray, the second greatest one-day snow depth on record for Maine occurred on February 16 in Andover, which had 79 inches (201 cm), or 6.6 feet (2 m), of snow on the ground. Severe weather downed hundreds of trees and damaged dozens of structures in the region on February 25. Four tornadoes touched down: an EF-2 in northeastern Pennsylvania, an EF-1 in southern Pennsylvania, an EF-1 in southern Maryland, and an EF-1 in western Massachusetts. According to the Taunton National Weather Service office, there has never been a tornado during the month of February since official tornado statistics have been kept, dating back to 1950 in Massachusetts. Thunderstorm winds of up to 100 mph (45 m/s) and quarter to golf ball-sized hail also occurred in the region.
- For more information, please go to the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- Midwest Region: (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
- February temperatures in the Midwest were much above normal and record-breaking in many states. The Midwest as a whole ranked second warmest on record (1895-2017) with an average temperature of 35.6°F (2.0°C) which was 9.1°F (5.1°C) above normal. Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio had their warmest February on record (1895-2017), while all other Midwest states ranked among the ten warmest on record. Major Midwestern cities, including Indianapolis, IN (1871-2017), Des Moines, IA (1878-2017), St. Louis, MO (1874-2017, Cleveland, OH (1871-2017) and Milwaukee, WI (1871-2017) had their warmest February on record. In addition, thousands of daily highest maximum and highest minimum temperature records were broken in the region. Many monthly records for warmest one-day February temperature were also broken, sometimes on multiple occasions, between the dates of February 17-23. The winter season was warmer than normal across the entire Midwest. The December through February temperature of 29.6°F (-1.3°C) ranked among the ten warmest on record (1895-2017). Most of this warmth occurred in January and February. Milwaukee, WI tied its warmest January through February on record (1871-2017).
- February precipitation in the Midwest varied from very dry conditions across much of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky to wetter than normal conditions across northern Iowa, Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, and Upper Michigan. Overall, the Midwest had 1.25 inches (32 mm) of precipitation, which was about 70 percent of the normal amount. Missouri and Illinois ranked among the 10 driest years on record (1895-2017), while Indiana and Kentucky received only around half the normal amount. Snowfall in the region was lower than normal across most of the region for the month. A snowstorm on February 23-24 brought the only significant amount of snowfall to Iowa and southern Minnesota. The only other areas with near- to above-normal snowfall were in extreme northern Minnesota and the U.P. of Michigan. Most of Kentucky and Missouri received no snowfall in February. For the winter season, precipitation was near normal for the region. Areas of northern Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota received more than one and a half times the normal amount of precipitation. However, less than half the normal amount fell in Missouri and most of Illinois, with some areas receiving less than a quarter of normal. Snowfall was also sparse during the winter, with most of southern Iowa, Missouri, southern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky receiving less than a quarter of the normal amount. Near- to above-normal snowfall fell across most of Wisconsin, Minnesota, northern Iowa and Michigan.
- Dry weather across Missouri contributed to expansion of moderate drought in February. The month began with less than 10 percent of the state in drought (January 31 US Drought Monitor) and drought expanded during the month to cover nearly two-thirds of the state (February 28 US Drought Monitor). Outside of Missouri, only a small part of west-central Illinois was in drought during February.
- Several days of convective severe weather occurred in the Midwest in February. While most of the reports occurred in the last week of February, an EF-0 tornado occurred near Cadiz, KY on February 8. Scattered wind and hail reports were common on February 24 in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. A significant severe weather event occurred during the evening and overnight hours of February 28. Hundreds of wind, hail and tornado reports were reported. Tornadoes in Illinois and Missouri killed four people. These were the first tornado fatalities in the Midwest since April 2015 (NCEI Storm Events Database.
- For further details on the weather and climate events in the Midwest, see the weekly and monthly reports at the Midwest Climate Watch page.
- Southeast Region: (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)
- Temperatures were well above average across the Southeast region, with numerous record-breaking extremes observed during February. Mean temperature departures ranged from 3 to as much as 10 degrees F (1.7 to 5.6 degrees C) above average across the region, with the greatest departures found in broad portions of Alabama, the Carolinas, and Virginia. At least 47 long-term (i.e., period of record equaling or exceeding 50 years) stations across the region, with all but six located in the Carolinas and Virginia, observed their warmest February mean temperature on record. It is especially outstanding that multiple stations in every state recorded February mean temperatures that were well above their 30-year (1981-2010) mean temperature for March, including Montgomery, AL (+1.9 degrees F above its March mean temperature, +1.1 degrees C above its March mean temperature), Pensacola, FL (+3.2 degrees F, +1.8 degrees C), Atlanta, GA (+1.8 degrees F, +1.0 degree C), Charlotte, NC (+2.3 degrees F, +1.3 degrees C), and Norfolk, VA (+2.1 degrees F, +1.2 degrees C). The persistence of unseasonable daytime warmth was exceptional for many locations during the month. At least 51 long-term stations observed their highest count of February days with a maximum temperature at or above 70 degrees F (21.1 degrees C), including Savannah, GA (1874-2017; 21 days), Jacksonville, FL (1872-2017; 25 days), Charleston, SC (1939-2017; 20 days), Greensboro, NC (1903-2017; 11 days), and Charlottesville 2 W, VA (1895-2017; 9 days). Raleigh, NC (1887-2017) recorded its highest count of February days (3) with a maximum temperature at or above 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C), while Augusta, GA (1875-2017) tied its highest count of February days (5) with a maximum temperature at or above 80 degrees F. Temperatures were above average across much of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during the month, as San Juan, PR (1899-2017) observed its third warmest February mean temperature on record. Across the Southeast, the warmest weather of the month occurred on the 12th and 24th, as unseasonably warm, moist air surged northward ahead of a cold front. Daytime maximum temperatures exceeded 75 degrees F (23.9 degrees C) across much of the region, with several locations in every state recording at least 80 degrees F. On these two days, eighteen long-term stations in the Carolinas and Virginia observed or tied their highest daily maximum temperature on record for February, including Greenville-Spartanburg, SC (1896-2017; 81 degrees F, 27.2 degrees C), Greensboro, NC (1903-2017; 81 degrees F), Norfolk, VA (1874-2017; 82 degrees F, 27.8 degrees C), and Cape Hatteras, NC (1893-2017; 76 degrees F, 24.4 degrees C). In contrast, the coldest weather of the month occurred on the 4th and 10th, as Canadian high pressure systems ushered in seasonably cold air from the northwest. Nighttime minimum temperatures fell below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) across much of the region north of Florida, with numerous locations in Virginia and western North Carolina reaching 10 to 20 degrees F (-12.2 to -6.7 degrees C).
- Precipitation was well below normal across much of the Southeast, with several extremes recorded. The driest locations were found across much of Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia, as well as portions of western Alabama and the Florida Peninsula. Monthly precipitation totals were 10 to 50 percent of normal in these areas. At least 25 long-term stations, with one or more located in every state, observed February precipitation totals that were ranked within the three lowest values on record. Greensboro, NC (1903-2017) observed its driest February on record, with only 0.49 inches (12.4 mm) of precipitation. Several stations observed their second driest February on record, including Mobile, AL (1871-2017; 1.28 inches, 32.5 mm), Raleigh, NC (1887-2017; 0.66 inches, 16.8 mm), and Roanoke, VA (1912-2017; 0.54 inches, 13.7 mm). Very little snowfall was recorded across the region during the month, with several ski resorts in northern Virginia having to shorten their daily hours of operation. Only 0.6 inches (15.2 mm) of snowfall was observed at Washington Dulles International Airport, VA (1963-2017), which is 6.7 inches (170 mm) below its average for February. Mt. Mitchell, NC (1980-2017) observed its third lowest snowfall total on record for February, with only 3.8 inches (96.5 mm) during the month. Precipitation was generally below normal across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during the month, as Roosevelt Roads, PR (1948-2017) tied its driest February on record with only 0.56 inches (14.2 mm) of precipitation.
- There were 164 severe weather reports across the Southeast during February, which is about 60 percent greater than the median monthly frequency of 103 reports during 2000-2015. Over half (93 of 164) of the reports were recorded during a severe weather event on the 7th, which affected much of northern Florida as well as southern portions of Alabama and Georgia. Strong thunderstorm winds caused 1 fatality and 6 injuries in Florida and accounted for over 75 percent (125 of 164) of all severe weather reports across the region. On the 7th, thunderstorm wind gusts up to 87 mph were observed near Destin, FL, as a powerful squall line moved across the Florida Panhandle. A few condominiums and businesses sustained significant roof damage, and an EMS worker was injured on Okaloosa Island. As the squall line continued into northeastern Florida, strong winds caused trees to fall onto multiple homes in Camp Blanding, resulting in 5 injuries. On the 12th, a squall line produced straight-line wind gusts of 65 and 58 mph at Washington Reagan National Airport, VA and Washington Dulles International Airport, VA, respectively. A total of 8 tornadoes (2 EF-0s, 5 EF-1s, 1 EF-2) were confirmed across the region during the month, which is near the median frequency of 7 tornadoes observed during February. On the 9th, an EF-2 tornado tracked over 10 miles across Bulloch and Effingham Counties in southeastern Georgia. Several mobile homes were severely damaged or destroyed, resulting in 7 injuries. On the 9th, non-convective wind gusts of 40 to nearly 60 mph were recorded at numerous locations across North Carolina and Virginia, as a nor'easter cyclone rapidly intensified off the Atlantic coast.
- Drought conditions began to reintensify across the interior portion of the region during February. The coverage of moderate-to-extreme (D1-D3) drought across the Southeast increased from 21 percent on January 31st to 30 percent on February 28th. Areas of extreme drought expanded in portions of central Alabama and northern Georgia, and severe-to-extreme (D2-D3) drought reemerged across much of the western Carolinas. A narrow corridor of moderate-to-severe drought developed east of the Shenandoah Valley in northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area, while a broader area of moderate drought emerged across parts of central and southern Florida. Streamflows, lake levels, and soil moisture remained extremely low across the interior portion of the region during February, due to unseasonably warm temperatures, below-average precipitation, and earlier-than-normal groundwater consumption by vegetation. Over 50 percent of the USGS gages in Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia recorded well below normal (i.e., less than the 10th percentile) streamflows at the end of the month. During mid-February, high winds and low humidity contributed to the development of a 5,000-acre wildfire in Polk County, FL, which destroyed a dozen homes. Pasture conditions continued to improve across portions of the region recovering from drought, with limited livestock grazing reported for the first time since last summer in parts of Alabama, Georgia, western North Carolina, and southwestern Virginia. However, a significant shortage of hay persisted in many areas, as livestock producers maintained a supplemental feeding for their herds. An exceptional lack of accumulated chill hours during February (and the winter season) could significantly diminish fruit and nut yields across the region. Premature budding and blooming of several crops (e.g., blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and pecans) were observed as far north as Virginia, which increases their vulnerability to damaging late frosts or freezes. Well-above-average temperatures ended the harvesting of maple sap unusually early for many syrup producers in western Virginia.
- 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 biggest weather story of the month was unseasonably warm temperatures across the majority of the High Plains. Temperature departures ranged from 2.0-10.0 degrees F (1.1-5.6 degrees C) above normal throughout the region. Numerous top 10 records for warmest February were set. The abnormal warmth was not confined to the High Plains; most of the contiguous U.S. experienced above-normal temperatures as well, and it even reached 100.0 degrees F (37.8 degrees C) in parts of Texas. While February was especially warm in the High Plains, December and January were cooler, and only a few locations in North Dakota and Kansas had a top 10 warmest winter on record.
- Most of the High Plains were dry during February, with the exception of the Rockies and a swath of higher precipitation across much of Wyoming, southern South Dakota, and northern Nebraska. Unfortunately, drought-stricken areas of eastern Colorado and Kansas received very little precipitation during February, which caused drought to remain or intensify. Meanwhile, ample precipitation in the Rockies helped snowpack continue to build in Colorado and Wyoming, and these areas are on pace to have a very high snowpack year. As for precipitation during the winter season, it was wet in parts of the region. Locations across Colorado, Wyoming, and North Dakota had their wettest winters on record.
- While the late-winter warmth allowed for a welcomed break from typical wintertime temperatures, it has caused some negative impacts and concerns around the region. For example, plants broke dormancy early, putting them at risk for freezes later in the spring. Insects and pests have emerged early; for instance, alfalfa weevil larvae are already present in some areas of Kansas. Producers in Kansas and Nebraska are concerned about the winter wheat crop emerging early due to warm temperatures, and the lack of snow cover during cold snaps may have led to winterkill. Warm temperatures have also melted snow and ice rapidly, causing ice jams and flooding along rivers in Wyoming.
- The warmth of February contributed to impressive temperature departures across the region. The northern and western High Plains experienced temperatures that ranged from 2.0-6.0 degrees F (1.1-3.3 degrees C) above normal, while temperature departures in eastern and southern areas exceeded 6.0 degrees F (3.3 degrees C). Kansas, eastern Nebraska, and the eastern Dakotas were especially warm with temperature departures greater than 8.0 degrees F (4.4 degrees C). The warmth led to many daily maximum temperature records being broken, and some locations even had their highest February temperature on record.
- The highest temperatures of the month occurred on the 10th and 11th. On the 10th, for example, Denver, Colorado reached 80.0 degrees F (26.7 degrees C), which was its highest February temperature and earliest 80-degree day on record by over a month (the next earliest 80-degree day occurred March 16, 2015). On the 11th, the temperature soared to 90.0 degrees F (32.2 degrees C) in Liberal, Kansas, which was its highest winter temperature and earliest 90-degree day on record (period of record 1893-2017).
- The late-winter warmth has caused impacts around the region. Parks and Recreation in Sioux Falls, South Dakota closed their outdoor ice rinks for the season on February 10th, which was several weeks earlier than normal. Prolonged above-freezing temperatures caused trees and plants to break dormancy early, which leaves them vulnerable to freeze damage because the average last spring freeze does not typically occur until April or May throughout most of the region. In Wyoming, ice jams occurred on several rivers and caused minor to moderate flooding.
- February yielded a mix of wet and dry conditions across the High Plains. It was dry throughout much of Kansas, eastern Colorado, southern Nebraska, and the Dakotas. While it is not unusual to be dry this time of year, some areas received less than 5 percent of normal precipitation. This February made the top 5 driest on record at the following locations: Akron, CO (tied for driest), Topeka, KS (4th driest), Goodland, KS (4th driest), and Dodge City (tied for 5th driest). It was so dry in Akron, it recorded only a trace of precipitation the entire month. The dryness in Kansas and eastern Colorado prevented these areas from seeing any drought relief during February; in fact, drought began to spread across eastern Kansas.
- Similar to January, warmer temperatures contributed in part to below-normal snowfall in February in some locations. For instance, Wichita, Kansas received no snowfall the entire month, tying three other years for the least snowiest February on record. Huron, South Dakota had its 2nd least snowiest February and recorded only 0.3 inches (1 cm) of snowfall, which was 7.1 inches (18 cm) below normal. Both of these locations experienced temperature departures of approximately 9.0 degrees F (5.0 degrees C) above normal, so some of their precipitation fell as rain. The lack of snowfall has implications for winter wheat, which is especially a concern in Kansas and Nebraska, because snow is needed to insulate and protect the crop from damaging freezes and wind.
- Meanwhile, wetter conditions prevailed across most of Wyoming, southern South Dakota, and northern Nebraska. Precipitation exceeded 150 percent of normal across these areas. The wetness was due to persistent storm systems crossing the area. On February 7th, a winter storm accompanied by high winds toppled power poles in northwestern Wyoming, knocking out power to several communities. Jackson Hole Mountain Ski Resort was out of power for 5 days, which shut down the resort during a crucial time of the season. A winter storm struck northern Nebraska and southeastern South Dakota February 23rd-24th, creating some impressive snow totals across this region along with blowing and drifting snow. For example, the Alliance 1WNW (Nebraska) COOP station recorded 22.1 inches (56 cm) of snowfall the 23rd-24th, 17.3 inches (44 cm) of which fell on the 24th. This was the highest 1-day and 2-day total snowfall ever recorded at this station (period of record 1894-2017).
- The Rockies in Colorado and Wyoming continued to experience an ample snowpack in February, despite above-normal temperatures throughout the month. It was very wet in western Wyoming, as this region received more than 200 percent of normal precipitation. Despite most of Colorado experiencing drier than normal conditions during February, the central part of the state where the highest elevations exist had above-normal precipitation. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) above Fort Peck Dam was 97 percent of average at the end of February, which was a notable increase from the previous month. Snowpack continued to build between Fort Peck and Garrison Dams, as SWE increased to 132 percent of average, surpassing the snowpack on this date in 2011. Normally by March 1, about 79 percent of the peak mountain SWE has occurred in both reaches.
- Drought conditions did not change drastically during February, which is common for this time of year when impacts tend to be minimal. The area in abnormal dryness or drought (D0-D4) on the U.S. Drought Monitor decreased slightly from 38 percent to 35 percent in February. The area in drought (D1-D4) changed very little. However, there were some improvements and degradations in drought conditions in the region.
- The persistent area of drought stretching from the Black Hills of South Dakota into northeastern Wyoming received some relief during February. A snowstorm brought beneficial moisture to western South Dakota and western Nebraska, which led to the trimming of moderate drought (D1) on the eastern edge of the area and the removal of abnormal dryness (D0) from parts of the Nebraska panhandle.
- As for degradations, D1 was introduced to eastern Kansas during February. This area has been contending with dryness since December. February did not offer any relief, as temperatures in this region were more than 8.0 degrees F (4.4 degrees C) above normal and precipitation was less than 25 percent of normal. The February 27th USDA Kansas Crop Progress and Condition Report stated that over half of the state's topsoil and subsoil moisture was short or very short, and nearly a quarter of the winter wheat crop was rated poor or very poor. Concerns are growing over the possibility of additional drought development, so producers will be watching the weather closely during March.
- 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 warmer than normal month for all six states in the Southern Region. In fact, the temperature rankings for each state are in the top three, with four of the states having their warmest February on record. For the region as a whole, it was the warmest February on record. Temperatures generally averaged between 6 to 9 degrees F (3.33 to 5.00 degrees C) above normal in all of the southern region states. The central portion of the region also exhibited temperature anomaly lusters of 9 to 12 degrees F (5.00 to 6.66 degrees C) above normal. The statewide monthly average temperatures were as follows: Arkansas reporting 52.30 degrees F (11.28 degrees C), Louisiana reporting 61.70 degrees F (16.50 degrees C), Mississippi reporting 57.40 degrees F (14.11 degrees C), Oklahoma reporting 50.30 degrees F (10.17 degrees C), Tennessee reporting 48.70 degrees F (9.28 degrees C), and Texas reporting 58.50 degrees F (14.72 degrees C). The state-wide temperature rankings for February are as follows: Arkansas (first warmest), Louisiana (first warmest), Mississippi (second warmest), Oklahoma (third warmest), Tennessee (second warmest), and Texas (first warmest). All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2017.
- Precipitation values for the month of February varied spatially across the Southern Region. Precipitation totals in Texas and Oklahoma ranged between 130 to over 200 percent of normal. By contrast, conditions were quite dry across much of Louisiana, Southern Mississippi, and Tennessee with most stations reporting between 25 to 70 percent of normal. In Arkansas precipitation values were mixed in that there were clusters of normal, below normal and above normal levels of precipitation values, ranging between 25 to 130 percent of normal. This was also the case in Northern Mississippi. The state-wide precipitation totals for the month are as follows: Arkansas reporting 2.68 inches (68.07 mm), Louisiana reporting 2.35 inches (59.69 mm), Mississippi reporting 3.04 inches (77.22 mm), Oklahoma reporting 2.01 inches (51.05 mm), Tennessee reporting 2.28 inches (57.91 mm), and Texas reporting 1.67 inches (42.42 mm). The state precipitation rankings for the month are as follows: Arkansas (thirty-ninth driest), Louisiana (sixteenth driest), Mississippi (twenty-second driest), Oklahoma (thirty-fourth wettest), Tennessee (fourteenth driest), and Texas (fifty-seventh wettest). All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2017.
- Over the month of February, 2017, drought conditions remained similar to January. There were a few areas that went from normal to abnormally dry, including eastern Arkansas, and much of western Tennessee. Areas of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee are still exhibiting severe and extreme drought conditions.
- On February 7, 2017, there were a dozen tornadoes reported in southeast Louisiana and central Mississippi, which caused 31 injuries and damaged over 70 homes. There were many wind and hail reports in these areas as well.
- On February 14, 2017, seven tornadoes touched down in Southeastern Texas with one tornado injuring six people. The tornadoes snapped many large trees and limbs, with damages to multiple homes. There were multiple reports of flipped over RVs in Matagorda, Texas and wind reports of over 80 mph (128.75 kph). In Fort Bend, Texas, there was a tornado that rated as an EF-2 and damaged over 40 homes.
- On February 19, 2017, four tornadoes were reported in Texas ranging from EF-0 to EF-1. There were 44 severe wind reports in Oklahoma and Texas. There was a wind report of 138 mph (222.09 kph) which injured two people and caused significant damage to many farm buildings and mobile homes.
- On February, 20, 2017, four wind events were reported in Louisiana. As a result, there were many reports of trees down with wind gusts of up to 50 mph (80.47 kph).
- On February 27, 2017, thirteen hail events were reported in Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi. There was large egg-sized hail reported in Fannin, Texas along with many reports of golf ball sized hail with damage to windshields.
- On February 28, 2017, there were several tornadoes and dozens of wind and hail reports scattered over northern Arkansas and western Tennessee. According to KATV News in Little Rock, Arkansas, several people were injured as a result of a Tornado in White County, Arkansas. Dozens of homes were also reported damaged.
- 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 a wetter than normal month for much of the West, rounding out an anomalously wet meteorological winter for the region. Temperatures were above normal across most of the region, with some of the greatest anomalies within and east of the Rockies. Only Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana saw well below normal temperatures.
- The Northwest observed abundant precipitation this month, with many locations attaining record monthly totals. In eastern Washington, Spokane recorded 4.39 in (112 mm) precipitation, 330% of normal and it's second wettest February in a 137-year record. In the Idaho Panhandle, Bonners Ferry saw a record wet February at 7.06 in (179 mm), 455% of normal. Records for Bonners Ferry began in 1907. In southeastern Idaho, February precipitation in Pocatello totaled 3.10 in (79 mm), 320% of normal and the wettest in a 79-year record. Storms continued to batter central and northern California this month, with the greatest anomalies observed in a wide swath paralleling the Interstate-80 corridor. Many long-record stations in this area saw February precipitation totals among the top-20 on record. North of San Francisco, Venado had its wettest February on record at 37.45 in (951 mm), breaking the previous record of 19.24 in (489 mm) set in 2000. Portola, in the northern Sierra Nevada, observed its wettest February on record at 12.36 in (314 mm), 319% of normal and experienced major flooding. Records for Portola began in 1915. Elsewhere in the Sierra, Tahoe City observed its second wettest February in a 115-year record at 16.66 in (423 mm), 293% of normal. Several other scattered locations in the West observed above normal precipitation as well. Castle Hot Springs, Arizona, recorded 5.20 in (132 mm), 251% of normal, the 8th wettest since records began in 1916. In eastern Nevada, Ely logged 1.73 in (44 mm), 231% of normal and the 7th wettest in a 130-year record.
- February ended with a healthy snowpack across the West. For areas south of Washington and Montana, snowpack was well above normal. The Sierra Nevada saw end of February SWE values of 150-200+% of normal, and the southern Cascades were in the 125-140% of normal range. The central and southern Rockies boasted end of February SWE values in the 150-200% of normal range. Snowpack in the northern Cascades and northern Rockies trailed values seen in other regions, with many basins just shy of or slightly over normal for the end of February.
- Precipitation across California this month furthered drought amelioration in the central and southern parts of the state. At the end of the month, only 9% of the state had any drought designation, compared to 51% at the start of the month. Portions of Nevada, eastern Oregon, western Utah and small areas of Montana and western Arizona also saw abnormally dry conditions disintegrate this month. A few locations, mainly east of the Rockies, developed abnormally dry conditions during February.
- High pressure over the inland West during the first two-thirds of the month produced well above normal temperatures. Elko, Nevada, reported a February average temperature of 36.3 F (2.4 C), 6.4 F (3.5 C) above normal. In central Idaho, Stanley observed an average temperature of 22.9 F (-5 C), 7.1 F (4 C) above normal and the 6th warmest in a 102-year record. In the Southwest, Clayton, New Mexico, had its warmest February with complete data since records began in 1896. Temperatures averaged to 45.6 F (7.5 C), 8.1 F (4.5 C) above normal. Temperatures were well above normal in Colorado; Grand Junction observed an average temperature of 41.7 F (5.4 C), 7.2 F (4 C) above normal, the 4th warmest February since records began in 1900. In the southeastern portion of the state, La Junta had its second warmest February since records began in 1945 at 44.2 F (6.8 C), 9.7 F (5.4 C) above normal. In contrast, eastern Washington observed well below normal temperatures with several locations experiencing one of their bottom-10 coldest Februaries. Moses Lake reported an average temperature of 26.7 F (-2.9 C), 8.6 F (4.8 C) below normal and the second coldest February since records began in 1949.
- Several windward locations in the southeastern Hawaiian Islands observed below normal precipitation this month. Kaneohe, Oahu, and Hilo, Big Island, reported 0% and 64% of normal, respectively. In contrast, Honolulu, Oahu, observed 7.12 in (181 mm) for the month, 358% of normal and the 4th wettest February in a 78-year record. Further north, temperatures were near normal across much of Alaska, with the exception of areas north of the Brooks Range. Utqia'vik recorded an average temperature of -6.2 F (-21.2 C), 8 F (4.4 C) above normal and the 7th highest since records began in 1901. Some areas in the western part of the state saw below normal temperatures; Bethel observed an average temperature 4.3 F (-15.4 C), 6.8 F (3.8 C) below normal. Precipitation was near to above normal across much of the state, with the greatest departures from normal in the interior and northern portions of the state. Fairbanks logged 1.24 in (31 mm), 295% of normal and the 7th wettest February since records began in 1929.
- February (all month): Winter storms cause flooding, slope failures in California: Persistent rain on saturated soils led to slope failures that resulted in temporary or permanent closure of many major routes throughout the state. Interstate 80 was at one point closed on both sides of the Sierra Nevada due to debris flows. In Southern California, Interstate 15 near Cajon Pass suffered a lane collapse. The Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge on Highway 1 in Big Sur is collapsing due to landslides. Flooding along a creek in San Jose resulted in mandatory evacuation of 14,000 people and major flood damage.
- February (first half of month): Flooding in northern Nevada: Storms with high snow levels produced rain on existing snow, resulting in melting and widespread flooding. Along the Humboldt River, flooding damaged homes and roadways, and the failure of an earthen dam near Wells also caused significant flooding for rural areas.
- For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.