A couple weeks ago, NOAA released their recap of the 2009-10 Winter. Not surprisingly, they found that Winter was colder than normal across much of the country, especially in the South. The wintry weather across the South was well-documented throughout the season and, frankly, was well-predicted before the season even began. The development of an El Nino in the equatorial Pacific was the primary cause for the shift in the Northern Hemisphere jet stream to the South over the US. This resulted in a southern storm track that brought multiple snow events to Texas and the Deep South as well as the mid-Atlantic.
What I did find surprising was the extent of colder-than-normal temperatures to the North, especially across the Central Plains. When we look back at NOAA’s Winter Outlook, they predicted precisely the opposite:
Yikes. Temperatures were above normal in the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest, but they weren’t exactly in the predicted “hotspot” for the season. If you’re curious, Hawai’i was actually slightly above normal all three Winter months. Alaska was above normal for the season, although Fairbanks and Barrow were below normal for the month of January. (Of course, if your mean temperature hovers around or below zero, are colder temperatures really going to make it much worse?)
Here are some other temperatures notes from NOAA’s press release:
- For the winter season, 63 percent of the country experienced below normal temperatures. In contrast to this national trend, Maine experienced the third warmest winter.
- February’s average temperature was 32.4 degrees F, which is 2.2 degrees below the long-term average.
- Florida had its fourth coldest February, Louisiana its fifth coldest, and Alabama, Georgia and Texas each had their sixth coldest. It was the seventh coldest February in Arkansas, while both Mississippi and South Carolina experienced their eighth coldest.
The precipitation side of NOAA’s prediction was much better. In fact, it was almost perfect.
NOAA predicted wetter-than-normal conditions across the southern part of the country, with drier conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio/Mississippi River Valleys. “Equal chances” were predicted across the Northern Plains and Northeast, so I suppose we can’t fault NOAA regardless of what occurred there.
Some other precipitation-related highlights:
- Several seasonal snowfall records were set: (previous record)
- Baltimore: 79.9 inches (62.5 inches, 1995-96)
- Washington (Dulles): 72.8 inches (61.9 inches, 1995-96)
- Washington (National): 55.9 inches (54.4 inches, 1898-1899)
- Wilmington, Del.: 66.7 inches (55.9 inches, 1995-96)
- Philadelphia: 71.6 inches (65.5 inches, 1995-96)
- Atlantic City, N.J.: 49.9 inches (46.9 inches, 1966-67)
- In several eastern cities, February was the snowiest month on record: (previous record)
- Washington (Dulles): 46.1 inches (34.9 inches, February 2003)
- Central Park, N.Y.: 36.9 inches (30.5 inches, March 1896)
- Pittsburgh: 48.7 inches (40.2 inches, January 1978)
Quite a memorable Winter along the East Coast. If only someone had an inclination that Winter would be so extreme across the megalopolis. Oh wait… someone totally had that inclination. Got ego boost?