Monday, March 11, 2019

Overview of February 2019 and Winter 2018-2019

How "bad" was the winter of 2018-2019? To be sure, winter is not yet over for some parts of the country no matter what the calendar says. As usual, though, how bad the winter was really depends on where you live.

February, the last month of climatological winter, was a cold one for the northwest half of the country, and very warm in the southeastern U.S. Montana experienced it's second coldest February on record as did North Dakota. Florida experienced its second warmest February on record.

February 2019 average temperature, departure from normal, and state ranking.

The cold across the northern tier was especially persistent. Great Falls, MT recorded nine days when the temperature didn’t rise above zero, and there were 23 nights when it dropped to zero or below. The longest stretch of subzero readings was 13 days, from February 3-15.The only days above freezing were February 1 and 2, when the high was 55°F and 49°F, respectively. The average February temperature in Great Falls was an astounding 27.5°F below normal!

The brutally cold weather continued into the first week of March, with a number of Montana locations setting all-time low temperature records for the month. Great Falls finally rose above freezing on March 7th for the first time in 32 days when the temperature reached a relatively balmy 36°F.

This was the second wettest February on record for the lower 48 states. Precipitation was much above normal in the much of the western U.S. west of the Rockies, the upper Midwest, and the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. In the west, the only exception to the wet weather was an area from northwestern Oregon through much of Washington state. Tennessee recorded its wettest February on record. Many Tennessee CoCoRaHS observers reported double-digit precipitation totals during the month, with the highest 18.49 inches reported by the observer at Bells 2.5 NE in Crockett County (TN-CK-4).

February 2019 accumulated precipitation, percent of normal, and state rankings.
Speaking of being wet, the U.S. did record its wettest climatological winter in 125 years. It was also the wettest December-February in Tennessee. In terms of actual precipitation during the winter, the highest amounts were in California where a number of locations measured more than 50 inches. The California CoCoRaHS observer in Honeydew 3.2 SSE (Humboldt County, CA-HM-70) measured a whopping 89.84 inches, with more than half of that amount (45.14 inches) falling in February. 

Accumulated precipitation, percent of normal, and state ranks for December 2018-February 2019.

Winter temperatures were near to below normal across the northwestern half of the lower 48 states, and near to above normal across the southeastern half. The very cold weather in the northern Rockies and Plains in February was tempered by a warmer than normal December and January. The central and southern Plains and Midwest did endure several Arctic outbreaks, but they were generally short-lived.

Average temperature, departure from normal, and state ranks for the period December 2018-February 2019.

The snow season is far from over for many portions of the western U.S. (there is a reason the snow season runs from July 1 to June 30). As of the end of February, most of the U.S. had seen snow. Snow has been above normal from the central Plains through much of the northern Midwest, a small portion of the central Appalachians, and far northern New England. The Cascades and the Sierra Nevada were the big "winners", piling on the snow particularly in February. Some locations in northern California received more than 25 feet of snow in February alone.

At the end of February much of the southern half of the U.S. was without snow cover. Snow was still deep over the western mountains, the upper Great Lakes, and northern New England.

Additional details on the 2018-2019 snow season will be the subject of a future post.

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