Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:11 PM GMT on February 08, 2006
As expected, January 2006 was by far the warmest January in the U.S. since record keeping began in 1895. According to data released by the National Climatic Data Center yesterday, the country's average temperature for the month was 39.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 8.5 degrees above average, and a full 2.2 degrees above the old record of 37.3 degrees set in January 1953. The 3-month period November through January was the third warmest such 3-month period on record. Temperatures over the past 6 months (August-January) were the warmest on record, and temperatures for the past year (February - January) were the fifth warmest on record.
Every state recorded above average temperatures, and 15 states recorded their warmest January ever (Figure 1). Temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees above normal were common across much of the northern Plains (Figure 2), and only a few small pockets in the Western states saw below normal temperatures.
Figure 1. How each state ranked in terms of record warm temperatures for January 2006. A rank of 112 means it was the warmest January on record for the past 112 years.
Figure 2. Temperature departure from normal for January 2006.
Precipitation for January 2006 was above average, ranking 29th wettest (Figure 3). However, regions of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and surrounding states had much below precipitation, contributing to severe drought conditions. Phoenix, Arizona, has not had precipitation since October 18--a stretch of 113 days--breaking its old record for longest dry stretch, 101 days in 1993. There's no rain in sight for Arizona, and the current La Nina pattern is likely to bring below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures to the region for the next few months. Current dryness levels in Arizona forests are typical of those in late July, and we can expect one of Arizona's worst fire seasons on record this year.
Residents of Arizona may want to consider moving to Olympia, Washington, which set a new record for the most consecutive days with precipitation--35 (their old record was 31 days in 1953). Washington had its 2nd wettest January ever.
Figure 3. Precipitation departure from normal for January 2006.
January statistics for the rest of the globe will not be available until late next week. I'll report then on whether January 2006 was the warmest month on record globally, as well. Given the severe cold seen in Asia, I'd be surprised.
Figure 4. Visible satellite image from 1330 GMT February 8, 2006. Image credit: Naval Research Laboratory.
A large cold-cored non-tropical low pressure system spinning off the coast of Africa near the Canary Islands has gained a bit of deep convection over the past 24 hours, and has about a 10% chance of becoming Subtropical Storm Alberto in the next few days. Waters temperatures are a cool 20 - 22 C over the region, and the low is forecast to drift towards the coast of Africa and gradually dissipate by the end of the week.
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