NOAA: Winter Season Fourth Warmest on Record for U.S.
Warmer-than-average temperatures were widespread with twenty-seven states in the Northern Plains, Midwest, Southeast and Northeast having winter temperatures ranked among their ten warmest. Only New Mexico had winter temperatures below the 20th century average.
Statewide precipitation totals were mixed during the winter season. The western states were particularly dry with California having its second driest winter on record at 7.82 inches below average. Montana was eighth driest, and Oregon and Idaho were both tenth driest for the season. Drier-than-average conditions were also present across the Northern Plains, Southeast, and Northeast. Above-average precipitation occurred in the central United States, from the Ohio Valley into the Southern Plains.
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The warm and dry conditions during the 2011-2012 winter season limited snowfall for many locations. According to data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, snow cover extent during winter was approximately 237,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average - the third smallest winter snow cover footprint in the 46-year satellite record. Snowpack was particularly limited across parts of the West, where parts of California, Nevada, and Arizona had snowpack less than half of average.
For the winter period, NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index - an index that tracks the highest 10 percent and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones - was the ninth highest value in the 102-year period of record, with nearly one-third of the nation experiencing climate extremes as defined by this index. The elevated value was largely driven by extremes in warm daily maximum and minimum temperatures across the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Ohio Valley.
Despite a record cold January, Alaska had a near-seasonal averaged temperature at 1.4 degrees F below average, ranking as the 35th coldest winter in the 94-year record for the state. A warmer-than-average December and February balanced the very cold January temperatures, resulting in a winter temperature nearer the long-term average.
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