National Climate Report - February 2020
- The average contiguous U.S. temperature during February was 36.2°F, 2.4°F above the 20th century average. This ranked among the warmest one-third of the 126-year period of record.
- Much-above-average temperatures were observed across parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast as well as portions of California and Florida. New Jersey and Rhode Island ranked third warmest, while Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut ranked fifth warmest.
- Below-average temperatures were observed across portions of the central Rockies to western Texas during February. No state ranked below average for the month.
- The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during February was 47.1°F, 2.3°F above the 20th century average, ranking among the warmest one-third of the record. Much-above-average to record-warm maximum temperatures were observed across parts of the West, Florida, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Below-average daytime temperatures occurred from the northern Rockies to central Texas.
- The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during February was 25.2°F, 2.4°F above the 20th century average, ranking among the warmest one-third of the record. Much-above-average minimum temperatures were observed over a broad swath along the East Coast. Below-average minimum temperatures were observed across portions of the West and central Rockies.
- The Alaska February temperature was 1.5°F, 3.3°F below the long-term average. This ranked among the coldest one-third of the 96-year period of record for the state and was the coldest February since 1999.
- The North Slope had its coldest February in 31 years.
- It was the coldest February since 1984 in Utqiaġvik (Barrow).
- Utqiaġvik had seven days in February with low temperatures as cold or colder than −40°F — the most in any February since 1984 and in any calendar month since January 1989.
- Cold temperatures across the region were a catalyst for rapid ice growth across the Bering Sea in February, where sea ice extent expanded to 100% of average for the month. This was the first February since 2013 where the Bering Sea ice extent was not below average.
- As of March 10, there were 2,838 record warm daily high (1,438) and low (1,400) temperature records in February, which was more than double the 1,385 record cold daily high (669) and low (716) temperature records.
- Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during February was 50 percent below average and the 18th lowest value in the 126-year period of record.
- The February precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.40 inches, 0.27 inch above average and ranked among the wettest one-third of the historical period of record.
- Much-above-average to record wet conditions were present across much of the Southeast during February, as flooding rainfall on multiple days caused landslides and severe damage to roads and other infrastructure.
- In Jackson, Mississippi, the Pearl River crested at its highest level since 1983, inundating many homes. Several other rivers across Alabama and Mississippi were near-to or above flood stage.
- The Cumberland River at Pineville, Kentucky crested at more than 17 feet above flood stage; the highest level since the record flood in 1977.
- For the month, Georgia ranked second wettest, while Alabama and North Carolina ranked third wettest.
- After a dry January across southwestern California, February brought little to no relief, with many locations reporting less than 5 percent of average rainfall. California ranked driest on record for February with 0.20 inch of precipitation, besting the previous record of 0.31 inch set back in 1964.
- Stations across the San Francisco Bay area and interior parts of northern California tied or set records for driest February on record. San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland and many other stations received no precipitation during the month, setting local records for the driest February.
- Air temperatures during the winter were warm enough across the Great Lakes to keep surface water temperatures above freezing across a large portion of the basin. As a result, enhanced lake-effect snow events occur much later in the season than on average, which lead to higher seasonal snowfall totals. This was indeed the case during February 27–29, as heavy lake effect snowfall impacted portions of the Tug Hill Plateau region of upstate New York. Cold and blustery winds blew across the length of Lake Ontario, over the relatively warm waters, lifting moisture and dumping several feet of snow along the downwind communities. Carthage, New York, received 48 inches of snowfall from this event while Croghan and Redfield observed 42.5 inches and 31.2 inches, respectively. Other communities south of Buffalo received between one and two feet of snow from this event and lesser amounts across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
- According to the March 3 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 11.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up slightly from 11.0% at the end of January. With the extremely dry conditions during January and February across California, moderate drought blossomed across 34% of the state over the last three weeks and expanded across Oregon and into Nevada. In Texas, the drought footprint contracted, yet intensified as extreme drought expanded across parts of south Texas. Drought conditions improved across Hawaii as well as the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
- The winter (December-February) average contiguous U.S. temperature was 36.0°F, 3.8°F above average, ranking sixth warmest winter on record.
- The Arctic Oscillation (AO) was strongly positive for most of the winter, particularly in January and February. Twice in February, it set all-time records for its highest values.
- The positive phase of the AO is associated with enhanced troughing of the upper-air jet stream in the Arctic and enhanced ridging of the jet stream in the midlatitudes. This strengthens the jet stream and traps the colder temperatures in the Arctic, leaving warmer conditions to the south, including across the contiguous U.S.
- During January, February and the latter half of December, the jet stream was stronger than normal and upper-air troughs were strongest near Siberia, Alaska and Greenland, leading to persistently cold anomalies in those regions. The ridges were strongest over Europe, East Asia and the northeastern Pacific, allowing warmer anomalies to persist.
- As a result of this positive AO, winter temperatures were above average across most of the contiguous U.S. and much-above-average across the eastern U.S. West Virginia and Rhode Island each had their fourth warmest December–February on record. Twenty-two additional states had a top 10 warmest winter.
- The Alaska December–February temperature was 0.7°F, 2.9°F below the long-term average, ranking among the coldest one-third of the 95-year record and the coldest winter in 21 years. Much-below-average temperatures were concentrated in parts of the Central Interior region with below-average temperatures across much of mainland Alaska. Above-average temperatures were present across portions of the Panhandle.
- For the first time in 21 years, Fairbanks remained below freezing during all of climatological winter (December–February).
- The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during December-February was 46.1°F, 3.4°F above the 20th century average, ranking tenth warmest. Much-above-average conditions were observed across parts of the West, central and southern Plains as well as from the Great Lakes and Florida up the East Coast. Below-average daytime temperatures were seen across the central Rockies.
- The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during December-February was 26.0F, 4.2°F above the 20th century average, ranking fourth warmest. Much-above-average temperatures were observed across most of the eastern third of the Lower 48 and across portions of the Plains and West. Only small areas of below-average nighttime temperatures can be seen in parts of the central Rockies.
- The winter precipitation total was 7.71 inches, 0.92 inch above average, and ranked among the wettest one-third of the 125-year period of record.
- Much-above-average to record precipitation was observed from the Southeast into the Great Lakes. Alabama and Georgia ranked wettest on record for winter precipitation, while South Carolina ranked second wettest. Parts of the West and northern Rockies received below-average precipitation for the season.
- Much of the Rockies, northern Plains, western Great Lakes and northern New England received average to above-average snowfall during winter. The Sierra Nevada Mountains, the southern Great Lakes and from the Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic region and into the Northeast saw below-average to near-record low snowfall totals for the season. This was due in part to the northward deviation of the polar jet stream, which brought colder air to the West and warmer air across much of the eastern U.S. As a result, very few cold winter storms traversed the south-central portions of the Lower 48 and up the East Coast during the winter season.
- Climatologically speaking, winter is the wet season in California and across much of the West. If March and April do not produce adequate precipitation to make up for the dry conditions experienced during winter, there will be increased concerns regarding sufficient water resources to get through the dry season (summer) and also for the increased potential for wildfires this coming fall.
- Portions of Southwestern Alaska and the Alaskan Panhandle were wetter than average. Petersburg, Alaska, received 40 inches of precipitation — its wettest winter since 2006–2007.
The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the winter was 16 percent above average and ranked in the upper third of the 110-year period of record. Despite the near-average national value, there were elevated extremes in the spatial extent of warm maximum and minimum temperatures as well as wet conditions and the number of days with precipitation. In fact, this winter had the most extreme wet conditions on record. 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 Northeast and the Ohio Valley had a CEI value that ranked in the top 10 for the season. The Ohio Valley CEI value was the fourth highest and the Northeast ranked tenth highest on record due to extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, the spatial extent of wet conditions and the number of days with precipitation. In contrast, the Southwest and the West had below-average extremes with regional CEI values ranking in the lowest third of their record.
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 11th warmest February since 1895 with an average temperature of 30.1 degrees F (-1.1 degrees C), 3.9 degrees F (2.2 degrees C) above normal. All twelve Northeast states ranked this February among their 20 warmest on record: New Jersey and Rhode Island, third warmest; Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland, fifth warmest; Massachusetts, sixth warmest; Pennsylvania, 10th warmest; Maine and New York, 15th warmest; New Hampshire and Vermont, 16th warmest; and West Virginia, 18th warmest. State departures ranged from 2.5 degrees F (1.4 degrees C) above normal in Maine to 5.8 degrees F (3.2 degrees C) above normal in New Jersey. This winter was the seventh warmest on record for the Northeast with an average temperature of 30.1 degrees F (-1.1 degrees C), 4.1 degrees F (2.3 degrees C) above normal. It was also one of the ten warmest winters on record for all twelve Northeast states: Rhode Island, fourth warmest; Maryland and West Virginia, fifth warmest; Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, sixth warmest; New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, seventh warmest; New York, eighth warmest; and Vermont, 10th warmest. In addition, Allentown, Pennsylvania, had its warmest winter on record.
- The Northeast had a wetter-than-normal February with 3.29 inches (83.57 mm) of precipitation, which was 121 percent of normal. State precipitation amounts ranged from 99 percent of normal in Rhode Island to 166 percent of normal in West Virginia, making it the state’s 10th wettest February. Winter was also wetter than normal in the Northeast. The region received 10.49 inches (266.45 mm) of precipitation, 114 percent of normal. All twelve states saw above-normal precipitation with totals ranging from 102 percent of normal in Maine to 140 percent of normal in West Virginia, which was the state’s 14th wettest winter.
- The U.S. Drought Monitor released on February 6 showed 2 percent of the Northeast was abnormally dry. This included a small area in eastern Maryland and southern Delaware. Enough rain fell during the following week to erase the dryness. In mid-February, the Northeast became free of abnormal dryness for the first time since July 2019.
- Back-to-back storms from February 5 to 8 brought an extreme mix of weather conditions to the Northeast. A rare tornado outbreak occurred on February 7 in Maryland where five tornadoes touched down: an EF-0 and four EF-1s. This was the state’s largest winter tornado outbreak. Prior to this, there had only been four February tornadoes in Maryland between 1950 and 2019. For Cecil, Montgomery, and Carroll counties, it was the first February tornado on record. The tornadoes downed trees, destroyed outbuildings, and damaged roofs and siding of some buildings. Portions of Delaware, southeastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey also saw damaging severe thunderstorms. To the west, West Virginia saw flood-inducing heavy rain, with the greatest totals approaching 4 inches (102 mm). There were road closures, some evacuations, and reports of water in houses. Meanwhile, northern locations received heavy snow, with the greatest totals of more than 12 inches (30 cm) in New York and northern New England. Thundersnow and snowfall rates of 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) per hour were reported in central New York, where several roads were shut down due to accidents. Some parts of New York and New England also saw 0.25 to 0.50 inches (6 to 13 mm) of ice accumulation. As the storm rapidly strengthened, it set the record for the lowest February air pressure in Hartford (based on preliminary data) and produced damaging wind gusts of up to 80 mph (36 m/s), particularly in coastal areas. The strong winds downed trees and wires, knocked out power to more than 86,000 customers in Massachusetts, and caused whiteout conditions in northern Maine. A major lake effect snow event occurred from February 27 to March 1. The greatest snow totals were 48 inches (122 cm) east of Lake Ontario and 34.5 inches (87.6 cm) east of Lake Erie. A site near South Rutland, NY, received 44.6 inches (113.3 cm) of snow from February 28 to 29, making it the site’s third largest two-day snowfall on record. Snowfall rates of up to 3 inches (8 cm) per hour and thundersnow were reported. Wind gusts of up to 60 mph (27 m/s) created blizzard conditions east of Lake Ontario, led to lakeshore flooding along both Ontario and Erie’s shorelines, and resulted in power outages. February’s warmth contributed to low snowfall totals in southern and eastern parts of the region. Twelve of the 35 major climate sites had their least snowy February on record. It was the first time in Baltimore, Maryland’s 128 years of recordkeeping that that site saw no snow during February. Winter was unusually mild in the Northeast, with a third of the major climate sites having one of their five warmest winters on record. The coldest temperature observed this winter in Washington, D.C. was 22 degrees F (-6 degrees C) and at Dulles Airport was 15 degrees F (-9 degrees C), which were the warmest minimum temperatures for winter on record. Buffalo, New York, did not record a single-digit temperature until February 14, the second latest date on record. The mild winter affected winter recreation businesses, transportation budgets, private snow removal and landscaping companies, and others. Some areas also saw an early start to spring. The USA Phenology Network estimated that spring leaf out occurred 24 days earlier than usual in Washington, D.C. and New York City and 16 days early in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- For more information, please visit the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
Midwest Region (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
- February precipitation for the Midwest was near normal with drier conditions in the northwest and wetter conditions in the southeast. Regionwide precipitation was 1.97 inches (50 mm) which was 0.07 inches (2 mm) above normal. Areas of Iowa, northern Missouri, northern Minnesota, northern Illinois and northern Wisconsin received less than half the normal amount in February, with some areas in Iowa and Minnesota receiving less than 25 percent. Much wetter conditions were observed across the Ohio River Valley, with southeastern Kentucky picking up more than 200 percent of normal. Winter precipitation was well above normal for the Midwest. December-February precipitation for the region was 7.28 inches (185 mm) which was 1.58 inches (40 mm) above normal. This ranked as the 10th wettest December-February on record (1895 to 2020 period of record). Storms often tracked through southern Missouri and the Ohio River Valley, while heavy precipitation also fell in northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan. An area encompassing much of Iowa, southwestern Wisconsin, northwestern Illinois, and northern Missouri was the only area where below-normal winter precipitation was widespread.
- Temperatures in February were largely near normal across the Midwest. Average temperature for the region was 27.1 degrees F (-2.7 C) which was 0.6 degrees F (0.4 C) above normal. Areas of the Upper Midwest were slightly colder, while the Ohio River Valley and Lower Michigan were slightly warmer. Most of Missouri and Illinois were within a degree F (0.6 C) of normal. Extreme warmth peaked during the first week of the month, when more than 390 daily high temperature records were broken. Two colder weeks followed before near-normal temperatures were observed in the final week of the month. More than 460 daily low temperature record were recorded during the cold stretch mid-month. Winter was very warm across the Midwest. Average temperature for the December-February period was 28.4 degrees F (-2.0 C) which was 3.6 degrees F (2.0 C) above normal. This ranked as the 10th warmest December-February on record (1895 to 2020). Nearly all of the region was above normal for both December and January.
- Snowfall across the Midwest varied as several different storm tracks brought heavy snow. Amounts in the 8 to 12 inch range (20 to 30 cm) were common from southern Minnesota through Wisconsin and Michigan. Areas in central Illinois, northern Indiana and northern Ohio had 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 cm) for the month. Lake-effect snowfall in the U.P. of Michigan led to amounts exceeding 30 inches (76 cm). However, areas in the Ohio River Valley, Iowa, northern Minnesota, and northern Wisconsin had less than half their normal snowfall for the month.
- Winter conditions as measured by the Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index (AWSSI) showed a mild or moderate winter for cities in the southern two-thirds of the Midwest through the end of February. Some stations in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Upper Michigan ranked as average or above. Marquette, MI was in the highest category, extreme, through the end of February as heavy snow and snow depths of more than 24 inches (61 cm) were prevalent throughout the winter. Louisville, KY and Lexington, KY were considered record mild through the end of February, with most stations in the Ohio River Valley in the mild category.
- Flooding impacted the Ohio River Valley and Kentucky throughout February. In eastern Kentucky, heavy rain in early February flooded many locations. Harlan County, KY was one of the hardest hit areas. Floodgates in the county were shut, with people trapped in their homes as waters quickly rose. Minor to moderate flooding also occurred throughout Indiana and Kentucky in mid-February. Heavy rain from several storms, along with near-saturated soils caused rivers and streams to rise throughout the Ohio River Valley.
- According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the Midwest has been drought-free throughout the month of February. The drought-free status extends for 16 straight weeks, since early November. The region also has been free of abnormally dry conditions for seven consecutive weeks, since early January.
- 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 above average across the Southeast and Puerto Rico for the month of February. Monthly mean temperatures were over 5 degrees F (2.8 degrees C) above normal in approximately 20 percent of the 184 long-term (i.e., period of record equaling or exceeding 50 years) stations across the region. None of the stations reported below average mean temperatures for the month. Roosevelt Roads, PR (1931-2020) observed its warmest February on record, while San Juan, PR (1898-2020) observed the third warmest on record. While maximum temperatures were generally 3 to 6 degrees F (1.6 to 3.3 degrees C) warmer than average, minimum temperatures throughout the region ranged from around 6 to 9 degrees F (3.3 to 5 degrees C) above average. Daily temperature minimums were exceptionally high over parts of the region, as a persistent influx of subtropical moisture suppressed nighttime cooling during the month. San Juan, PR (1898-2020) also observed its warmest February for average monthly minimum temperature at 74.2 degrees F (23.6 degrees C), while Greenville, NC (1875-2020) observed the second warmest at 41.3 degrees F (5.4 degrees C). The warmest weather of the month occurred on the 11th-13th, as unusually warm and humid air surged northward ahead of an approaching cold front. Daytime maximum temperatures reached or exceeded 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C) across portions of every state, except Virginia. Savannah, GA (1871-2020) reported a daytime maximum temperature of 86 degrees F (30 degrees C), which surpassed the previous daily record of 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C) set in 2013. In contrast, the coldest weather of the month occurred on February 21st – 22nd, as a continental high pressure system ushered in unseasonably cold air from the northwest. Daily minimum temperatures fell below 25 degrees F (-3.9 degrees C) across portions of every state, except Florida. Columbia, SC (1887-2020) and Wilmington, NC (1871-2020) both reported a daily minimum temperature of 23 degrees F (-5 degrees C). Charleston, SC (1938-2020) reported a daily minimum temperature of 24 degrees F (-4.4 degrees C), surpassing the previous daily record of 25 degrees F (-3.9 degrees C) set back in 1947.
- Precipitation was well above normal in most of the Southeast this February. A region of above normal precipitation stretched from southern Virginia, southward through North Carolina, South Carolina, northern Georgia, and northern Alabama. Precipitation in this region was generally 150 to 200 percent of normal. There were 37 long-term stations that observed more than 10 inches (254 mm) of precipitation for February, including Highlands, NC (1893-2020; 1st wettest February) at 17.44 inches (450 mm), Tuscaloosa, AL (1948-2020; 1st wettest February) at 15.49 inches (393 mm), and Birmingham, AL (1895-2020; 3rd wettest February) at 13.26 inches (337 mm). Puerto Rico also reported above normal precipitation, with San Juan, PR (1898-2020; 1st wettest February) observing 8.23 inches (209 mm) of rain. On February 6th, a slow-moving low pressure system produced over 5 inches (127 mm) of rainfall across portions of western North Carolina and South Carolina. As a result, Greenville/Spartanburg, SC (1884-2020) and Hickory, NC (1949-2020) observed their 1st wettest maximum daily precipitation for February at 5.36 inches (136 mm) and 5.31 inches (134 mm), respectively. In contrast, unusual dryness was found across most of Florida, where the precipitation values ranged from 90 to less than 50 percent of normal. Pensacola, FL (1879-2020) only reported 2.87 inches (73 mm) of precipitation for the month, which was about 2 inches (51 mm) below normal. A strengthening area of low pressure moving well offshore, combined with a cold high pressure to the northwest led to several hours of light to moderate snow across North Carolina and southern Virginia, on February 20th. As a result, parts of eastern North Carolina received snow, including Bath 1.6 SSE COCORAHS station in Beaufort County, NC at 4.3 inches of snow. Raleigh, NC measured 2.5 inches of snowfall from this storm, and Danville, Virginia measured 1.6 inches. Mount Mitchell, NC recorded the highest snowfall total in the region for the month at 23.7 inches. In contrast, the Washington, DC area has only reported a trace of snowfall this month, and only 0.6 inches for the entire winter season, which ranks it as the 4th lowest snowfall total for a winter season.
- There were 283 severe weather reports across the Southeast during February, which is over 300 percent of the median monthly frequency of 92 reports during 2000-2018. There were 19 confirmed tornadoes reported for the month (6 EF-0, 10 EF-1, and 3 EF-2), more than double the monthly average of 8. About 15 of these tornadoes were associated with a line of thunderstorms that developed ahead of a cold front, which moved across the region on February 6th. The most damaging tornado was rated an EF-2 with winds of 130 mph (58 m/s) and occurred in Cleveland County, SC. Numerous trees were uprooted and snapped along the path of the tornado, and a couple of high tension electrical transmission towers were blown down. No injuries were reported with this tornado. An EF-1 tornado with winds of 110 mph (49 m/s) was reported in Marengo County, AL the same day. This tornado heavily damaged four manufactured homes, resulting in one injury and one fatality. There were 3 reports of hail for the month, with the largest being half-dollar sized (1.25 inches) in Wake County, NC. There were 261 wind reports for the month, which is more than triple the average of 71 reports. Strong winds were observed across the region on February 6th, with the strongest reported gust at 76 mph (34 m/s) in Duval County, FL. In York County, SC, one fatality was associated with the straight-line winds, after a tree fell onto their car while driving. Another fatality occurred in Gaston County, NC that same day, when a vehicle hydroplaned.
- Moderate to heavy rain fell during the month of February across much of the Southeast, saturating soils and causing rivers to reach much-above or near-record high flows in the northern half of Alabama, Georgia, most of South Carolina, western North Carolina, and southern Virginia. In contrast, drought conditions intensified across portions of Florida. A pocket of severe drought (D2) developed, ringed by an area of moderate drought (D1) and dry conditions (D0), in the north-central Florida Panhandle. Abnormally dry conditions (D0) also expanded through north-central Florida. A pocket of abnormally dry conditions (D0) developed in the northwest portion of Puerto Rico. Strawberry growers in Florida reported higher than normal fungal disease pressure and pest pressure due to the warmer temperatures this month. Tomato and potato farmers also reported pest pressure. Citrus groves are running irrigation due to the abnormally dry conditions. Farmers reported seeing color break on late variety oranges and signs of early bloom throughout the month. Most of Alabama received excess rainfall, saturating cropland and pastures. As a result, some wheat fields were under water and nitrogen applications were delayed. Consistent rains kept producers out of onion fields in Georgia, where they would normally be making fertilizer and fungicide applications, leading to disease pressure. Wet conditions have caused disease problems for vegetable growers, as well. In many areas, the wet weather led to insufficient winter grazing, and saturated pastures made providing hay to cattle difficult. Fruit trees have begun to bloom prematurely, which increases concern for their vulnerability to spring freezes.
- For more information, please visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
High Plains Region (Information provided by the High Plains Regional Climate Center)
- February 2020 was a variable month for the High Plains region, with western and southern areas experiencing generally cooler and wetter conditions and northern and central areas generally experiencing warmer and drier conditions. The largest temperature departures occurred in portions of Colorado and Wyoming where some locations ranked in the top 25 coolest Februarys on record. Meanwhile, above-normal precipitation was observed in western and southern portions of the region where totals were in excess of 150 percent of normal. Much of this precipitation fell in the form of heavy snow, especially in Colorado and Wyoming. A storm system towards the end of the month did bring impressive snowfall to portions of central Kansas as well. Elsewhere, across much of the region, below-normal precipitation was observed throughout the month. Large portions of the region received less than 25 percent of normal precipitation for the month of February, with several locations ranking in the top 10 driest Februarys on record.
- There continues to be many concerns across the region in regards to long-term wetness. For instance, due to the wet soil conditions in North Dakota, there are concerns about an increase in wheat midge populations. Another concern related to wet soil conditions is the ability to get into the fields for spring planting activities. Luckily, drier conditions for much of the central and northern portions of the region observed in February were helpful in preventing a heavier snowpack from developing and from adding additional moisture to already saturated soils. Conditions should continue to be monitored through the spring, though, as several rivers have a greater than 50 percent chance of minor, moderate, or major flooding through May. As of the end of February, parts of the James River continued to be above flood stage. This is highly unusual for this time of the year. In fact, the James River has now gone over 350 consecutive days above flood stage, which is a new record.
- Temperatures varied across the High Plains during the month of February. Overall, the majority of the region was within 2.0 degrees F (1.1 degrees C) of normal. However, a large part of western North Dakota and pockets of Nebraska, South Dakota, and southern Colorado had monthly departures in the 2.0-6.0 degrees F (1.1-3.3 degrees C) above normal range. On the other end of the spectrum, most of Colorado and Wyoming had monthly temperature departures of 2.0-6.0 degrees F (1.1-3.3 degrees C) below normal. An area stretching from northwestern Colorado through north-central Wyoming had larger departures of up to 12.0 degrees F (6.7 degrees C) below normal. Although these were rather large departures, these cooler conditions did not result in widespread records, with most locations in this area ranking in about the top 25 coolest Februarys on record. One location that ranked in the top 25 coolest Februarys on record was Riverton, Wyoming. Riverton had an average February temperature of 13.0 degrees F (-10.6 degrees C), which was 11.2 degrees F (6.2 degrees C) below normal. This ranked as Riverton’s 8th coolest February on record (period of record 1907-present). The coolest February in Riverton’s history occurred in both 1936 and 1973 with 7.6 degrees F (-13.6 degrees C). Casper, Wyoming also had a cool month, recording its 14th coolest February on record, with 21.5 degrees F (-5.8 degrees C). With records going back to 1939, this was a far cry from the 1989 record of 11.9 degrees F (-11.2 degrees C). Additional temperature data, including departures, may be found by accessing the CLIMOD system: http://climod.unl.edu.
- February precipitation was characterized by extremes on both ends of the spectrum, with some areas having a top 10 wettest February and other areas having a top 10 driest February. Above-normal precipitation occurred across central Colorado, northwestern Wyoming, the Black Hills, and central and southern Kansas where precipitation totals were in excess of 150 percent of normal. Isolated areas were in excess of 400 percent of normal. Much of the remainder of the region was quite dry, with many locations receiving less than 25 percent of normal precipitation. Dry conditions at this time of the year do not translate into large deficits, however. With above- to well above-normal precipitation being observed over parts of western sections of the region, several locations across the region ranked in the top 10 snowiest Februarys on record, including Casper, WY (snowiest); Boulder, CO (2nd snowiest); Evergreen, CO (3rd snowiest); Steamboat Springs, CO (4th snowiest); and Colorado Springs, CO (8th snowiest). In contrast, there were also several locations in the High Plains that ranked in the top 10 driest Februarys on record, including Laramie, WY (2nd driest); Omaha, NE (3rd driest); Fargo, ND (8th driest); Grand Junction, CO (8th driest); Grand Island, NE (9th driest); and Aberdeen, SD (10th driest).
- The month of February started off snowy across western portions of the region with several snowstorms impacting Colorado and Wyoming. Further east, relatively quiet and mild conditions were observed at the start of February. A series of storm systems tracked across the higher elevations of central Colorado and the northern half of Wyoming throughout the month. The track the storm systems took was favorable for producing heavy snow across much of the Front Range in Colorado and higher elevations in Wyoming. During the last week of the month, another storm system tracked across Kansas bringing a very narrow, but impressive band of heavy snow to central portions of the state on the 25th. Within the snow band, snow totals were as high as 13.0 inches (33 cm); however, locations just a few miles outside of this heavy snow band had very little or no snow at all. This same system was also responsible for producing very intense snow squalls on the 24th across central Colorado, creating brief periods of white-out conditions along I-70 west of Denver. A ground blizzard also created significant travel issues across North Dakota on the 12th and resulted in the closure of I-29 from the South Dakota border to Canada.
- Mountain snowpack remained in generally good shape this month across Colorado and Wyoming. By the end of February, snowpack continued to be at or slightly above normal for most basins in Colorado and Wyoming. Only three basins were in the 70-89 percent of median range. This included the Belle Fourche and Sweetwater Basins in Wyoming and the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan Basin in Colorado. Across the Upper Missouri Basin, mountain Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) was still slightly above normal. As of March 1st, mountain SWE was 104 percent of normal above Fort Peck and 105 percent of normal in the reach from Fort Peck to Garrison, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Across the Plains, much of the snowpack was confined to eastern areas of North Dakota and South Dakota, where SWE was in the 2.00-4.00 inch (51-102 mm) range.
- Drought conditions continued to gradually improve across western portions of the High Plains region through February. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the area experiencing drought (D1-D4) in the High Plains region decreased slightly from around 12 percent in late January to around 10 percent as of February 25th. The area of the High Plains that had the largest improvement in drought conditions was Colorado, with an 8 percent areal reduction. This month, there was a reduction in abnormally dry conditions (D0), largely due to appreciable snow that fell across western and southern areas. Nearly all of the D0 conditions were removed in Wyoming and only a small portion remained in western Kansas. Moderate drought (D1) also decreased in coverage across southern and western portions of the High Plains region. In Kansas, the small area of D1 conditions across the central portion of the state was removed, with reductions in D1 in Colorado as well. Severe drought (D2) conditions remained unchanged across Colorado through the month of February. Meanwhile, slight improvements occurred over southwestern Kansas by the end of the month, with a small reduction of severe drought (D2) conditions across this area. Exactly 1 percent of the region remained in D2 as of late February. The remainder of the region continued to remain free of drought. In fact, Nebraska and South Dakota have been drought-free since the end of 2018.
- For more information, please visit the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.
Southern Region (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)
- Temperatures for the month of February varied spatially across the Southern Region, with warmer than normal temperatures in the east and cooler than normal temperatures in the west. Parts of western Oklahoma as well as northern and western Texas experienced temperatures 2 to 4 degrees F (1.11 to 2.22 degrees C) below normal, while parts of northeastern, central, and western Oklahoma; northern, western, central, southern, and eastern Texas; western, central, and northeastern Arkansas; and northwestern and central Louisiana experienced temperatures 0 to 2 degrees F (0.00 to 1.11 degrees C) below normal. Conversely, parts of eastern Oklahoma, eastern and southern Texas, southern, central, northern, and eastern Arkansas; central, northern, and southwestern Louisiana; northern and southern Mississippi, and western Tennessee experienced temperatures 0 to 2 degrees F (0.00 to 1.11 degrees C) above normal. Parts of eastern Texas, eastern and northeastern Arkansas, northern and southeastern Louisiana, northeastern, central, and southern Mississippi; and central and eastern Tennessee experienced temperatures 2 to 4 degrees F (1.11 to 2.22 degrees C) above normal. The statewide monthly average temperatures were as follows: Arkansas – 44.40 degrees F (6.89 degrees C), Louisiana – 54.30 degrees F (12.39 degrees C), Mississippi – 51.00 degrees F (10.56 degrees C), Oklahoma – 41.70 degrees F (5.39 degrees C), Tennessee – 43.20 degrees F (6.22 degrees C), and Texas – 49.40 degrees F (9.67 degrees C). The statewide temperature rankings for February were as follows: Arkansas (forty-ninth warmest), Louisiana (fortieth warmest), Mississippi (thirty-fourth warmest), Oklahoma (fifty-seventh warmest), Tennessee (thirty-sixth warmest), and Texas (sixty-first coldest). All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2020.
- Precipitation values for the month of February were primarily above normal across the Southern Region, but dry regions were present. Parts of central and southwestern Oklahoma as well as northern, western, and southern Texas received 50 percent or less of normal precipitation. Parts of southern Texas received 25 percent or less of normal precipitation, while parts of southern Texas received 2 percent or less of normal precipitation. In contrast, western, central, and eastern Texas; northern Louisiana, central and southern Arkansas, northern and central Mississippi, and central and eastern Tennessee received 150 percent or more of normal precipitation, while parts of eastern Texas, southwestern Arkansas, northeastern Louisiana, central and northern Mississippi, and central and eastern Tennessee received precipitation 200 percent or more of normal. The statewide precipitation totals for the month were as follows: Arkansas – 5.80 inches (147.32 mm), Louisiana – 5.72 inches (145.29 mm), Mississippi – 9.44 inches (239.78 mm), Oklahoma – 1.80 inches (45.72 mm), Tennessee – 8.69 inches (220.73 mm), and Texas – 1.83 inches (46.48 mm). The state precipitation rankings for February were as follows: Arkansas (seventeenth wettest), Louisiana (fortieth wettest), Mississippi (fifth wettest), Oklahoma (forty-fifth wettest), Tennessee (eighth wettest), and Texas (forty-seventh wettest). All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2020.
- At the end of February, drought conditions both improved and deteriorated across the Southern Region. Extreme drought conditions persisted across southern Texas, with areas expanding along the southern border and new areas developing in the southeastern part of the state. Severe drought classifications were still present in southern Texas and extreme western Oklahoma, while new areas developed across southern Texas. However, severe drought conditions were removed in eastern and southeastern Texas, reducing the total area experiencing these conditions. Moderate drought classifications decreased across southwestern Oklahoma as well as southeastern and southern Texas, with moderate drought conditions removed completely from central Texas, southwest Arkansas and northwestern Louisiana. There was a decrease in the overall area experiencing abnormally dry conditions, due to the removal of abnormally dry conditions across southwestern Arkansas, northwestern and southwestern Louisiana, and northern Oklahoma. Additionally, the area experiencing abnormally dry conditions decreased across southwestern Oklahoma, southeastern Louisiana, coastal Mississippi, and western, central, northern, and eastern Texas.
- In February, there were approximately 127 storm reports across Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. There were 27 tornado reports, 42 hail reports, and 58 wind reports. Mississippi tallied the most tornado reports (20), Louisiana tallied the most hail reports (21), and Tennessee tallied the most wind reports (34). Mississippi tallied the most reports (51) while Oklahoma did not tally a single report. Two states (Mississippi and Tennessee) reported tornadoes, four states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) had at least 1 hail report, and every state except for Oklahoma had at least 1 wind report. 108 of the 127 storm reports occurred on two days (February 5 and February 12) and all 127 occurred on six days.
- On February 5, 2020, there were approximately 82 storm reports across Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee. There were 24 tornado reports across Mississippi and Tennessee, with one injury reported near Lawrenceburg, Tennessee corresponding with an EF-1 tornado. Additionally, one person was injured in New Orleans due to strong winds. A wind gust of 61 mph (98.17 kph) was reported near Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, while a wind gust of 58 mph (93.34 kph) was reported near Mandeville, Louisiana on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.
- On February 9, 2020, there were reports of hen-egg sized hail near Ashdown, Arkansas and Tollette, Arkansas.
- On February 10, 2020, there were two tornado reports near Piave, Mississippi and Phoenix, Mississippi.
- On February 12, 2020, there were 26 storm reports across Tennessee. An EF-0 tornado was reported near Minor Hill, Tennessee. Additionally, there were 25 wind reports, several of which detailed damage to trees, power lines, and buildings.
- On February 23, 2020, a wind gust of 60 mph (96.56 kph) was reported near Lake McClellan, Texas.
- On February 24, 2020, a wind gust of 60 mph (96.56 kph) was reported near Stinnett, Texas.
- For more information, please visit the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.
Drought and Severe Weather
Western Region (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)
- A second consecutive month of warm and dry conditions across California led to continued deterioration in snowpack conditions across the Sierra Nevada as well as the emergence of drought-related impacts affecting the agricultural sector including decreased water allocations, decreased stock weights, water hauling, and poor rangeland conditions. Statewide, California experienced its driest February on record and its second driest January-February on record. In Arizona and New Mexico, basin-level snowpack conditions declined to below-normal levels by the end of month while further to the north in the central and northern Rockies, mountain snowpack conditions were near-to-above normal with areas of central Colorado experiencing record-breaking snowfall for the month. In Alaska, below-normal temperatures prevailed for a second consecutive month with the state experiencing its coldest February since 1999.
- In California, precipitation was well-below normal across the state with areas of central and northern California experiencing record-breaking dryness as a persistent area of high pressure situated over the eastern Pacific Ocean continued to steer storm tracks away from the state. In central and northern California, numerous locations broke records for the driest February including Fresno, Oakland, Redding, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Stockton—all received no measurable precipitation for the month. Monthly average temperatures were above- normal across most of the state with the greatest departures observed in the Northern Coast Ranges, Klamath Mountains, and the lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada where the Blue Canyon Airport reported an average temperature of 45.2°F (7.3°C), 5.9°F (3.3°C) above-normal and sixth warmest February on record. By the end of the month, snowpack conditions were at 46% of normal statewide with the regional snow-water equivalent (SWE) breakdown as follows: Northern Sierra/Trinity 51%, Central Sierra 45%, and Southern Sierra 43%. Despite poor snowpack conditions, California’s major reservoirs remained near-normal to above-normal with the state’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake, at 91% and 106% of average, respectively.
- In the Pacific Northwest, wetter-than-normal conditions were observed across central Idaho, northeastern Oregon, southeastern Washington, and in the Cascades of western Washington— while the remainder of the region was generally drier-than-normal. In southern and central Oregon and south-central Washington, precipitation was less than 25% of normal. In southwestern Oregon, the observing station in Brookings reported 2.37 in (60 mm; 21% of normal) for the month while Bend, Oregon received a scant 0.04 in (1 mm; 4% of normal). The dry pattern in southern and central Oregon led to declines in SWE with the Klamath Basin dropping from 82% of median at the beginning of February to 64% by the end of the month while the Deschutes Basin dropped from 89% to 75% of median. In the basins of Washington and Idaho, SWE ranged from 90% to 115% of median by the end of February. Average temperatures for the month were near-normal in western portions of both Oregon and Washington while central parts of those states were a few degrees above-normal. In east-central Idaho, average temperatures were below-normal with Idaho Falls observing an average temperature of 14.4°F (-9.8°C), representing a -9.9°F (5.5°C) departure from normal.
- In the Intermountain West, drier-than-normal conditions were observed across most of Utah, northern Arizona, and southwestern Colorado—while wetter-than-normal conditions prevailed across most of Montana and Wyoming, central and eastern Colorado, and southern New Mexico. As of the end of February, region-level (two-Digit HUC) SWE percentage of 1980–2010 median conditions were as follows: Upper Colorado 107%, Lower Colorado 81%, Rio Grande 90%, and Missouri 116%.
- In Alaska, colder-than-normal temperatures prevailed across the state in February with the greatest temperature anomalies observed in the North Slope climate division that had its eighth coldest February on record. On the North Slope, the village of Utqiaġvik observed an average temperature of -26.1°F (-32.3°C), 11.9°F (6.6°C) below-normal. Precipitation was above-normal across much of the state including Southeast Alaska where the Juneau Airport observed its fifth wettest February on record with 7.78 in (196 mm; 188% of normal).
- In the Hawaiian Islands, precipitation was generally near-to-above normal across Kauai, Maui, Oahu, and most of the Big Island—with the exception of the windward side that was drier than normal with Hilo Airport logging 5.62 in (143 mm) for the month, 59% of normal. On Maui, the observing station at the Hana Airport reported 10.37 in (263 mm; 211% of normal). Average temperatures for the winter months (DJF) were above-normal across most of the island chain with Hilo (74.7°F, 23.7°C) and Lihue (74.7°F, 23.7°C) having their warmest winters on record while Honolulu (76°F, 24.4°C) registered its second warmest on record.
- Record-breaking snowfall in central Colorado: In the Tenmile Range of central Colorado, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain ski areas both broke their February maximum snowfall records with Breckenridge logging 120 in (3048 mm) and Copper Mountain reporting 95 in (2413 mm).
- February Arctic sea ice extent below average: According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, the February sea ice extent (5.67 million sq mi; 14.68 million sq km) ranked as the thirteenth lowest in the satellite record. February’s cold temperatures, however, led to expansion of sea ice in the Bering Sea bringing its February extent to normal for the first time since 2013.
Citing This Report
NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: National Climate Report for February 2020, published online March 2020, retrieved on October 28, 2020 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/202002.