Since meteorological winter ended last week, it makes this a good time to look back at temperatures from the 2013-14 season to see how they stack up against the long-term average. Overall, winters had been getting warmer in most of the continental U.S., especially since 1970, but it hasn't been a straight line. Some winters have been warmer than others. In our area, this winter has come in as one of the top 10 for our region.
So where does this winter stand? Significantly colder? Significantly warmer? Pretty much in the middle? The answer is…all of the above.
In the nation’s midsection, this was clearly one of the coldest winters on record—a record that goes back in many places for more than a century. Cities as far north as Duluth, MN, as far south as Mobile, AL, and from Denver in the West to Detroit in the East racked up near-record average lows for the months of December, January and all but the last few days of February.
On the other hand, in much of the West and Southwest —Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento— as well as in south Florida, it was unusually warm. In fact, some of these cities experienced one of their warmest winters on record.
From the Northeast down into the Carolinas, meanwhile, people could have sworn (and often did) that they were suffering through one of the most frigid winters in memory. But the numbers from New York, Philadelphia, Boston and other places show, surprisingly, that it was pretty much a middling year in terms of temperature. One possible, though unproven, explanation: people in this region, including those of us at Climate Central, have gotten soft after a series of warm winters.
We’ve also been complaining about snow and ice, and that part has been genuinely bad. Toledo, OH just recorded its snowiest winter on record; Philadelphia’s ranked in the top 5, and New York cracked the top 10. For Atlanta and other cities in the Southeast, the problem was not one, but two devastating rounds of snow and ice.
But in the Southwest—and especially in California—the story this winter was drought. 2013 was the driest year on record In California, and despite some welcome recent rains, 2014 looks like it’s not going to be a whole lot better.