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January 2010: extremes and monthly summary

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:33 PM GMT on February 19, 2010

The globe recorded its fourth warmest January since record keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies rated January 2010 as the 2nd warmest January on record, behind January 2007. January 2010 global ocean temperatures were the 2nd warmest on record, next to 1998. Land temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere were the warmest on record, but in the Northern Hemisphere, they were the 18th warmest. The relatively cool Northern Hemisphere land temperatures may have been due to the well-above average amount of snow on the ground--January 2010 snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere was the 6th highest in the past 44 years. Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the warmest on record in January, according to both the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) and RSS data sets. This was the second time in the past three months that the UAH data set has shown a record high global atmospheric temperature.

Figure 1. Departure of surface temperature from average for January 2010. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center.

A few notable global weather highlights from January 2010:

According to the United Kingdom's Met Office, the U.K. as a whole had its coolest January since 1987 and the eighth coolest January since records began in 1914. Scotland had its coolest January since 1979. During the first two weeks of January, the Irish Republic experienced a spell of extreme cold weather that began in mid-December, resulting in the most extreme cold spell over Ireland since early 1963, according to the Irish Meteorological Service. Most places of the Irish Republic had its coolest January since 1985 and the coolest January since 1963 in the Dublin area.

A rare summer snowfall occurred on January 18th in the town of Bombala, New South Wales, Australia. The town received a light dusting of accumulation, marking the first summer snow in the high terrain of southeast Australia since records began in 1965. The town has an elevation of around 3,000 feet (900 meters) above sea-level. Forecasters said that snow at such low elevations is unusual at any time of year, especially summer. Six days before the snow, temperatures had hit 37°C (99°F) in Bombala.

Eleven inches (28 cm) of snow fell in Seoul, South Korea on the 3rd, marking the greatest snowfall amount for that city since records began in 1937 (Source: BBC).

Central Beijing, China received 3 inches (8 cm) of snow on the 2nd, the most for a single day since January 1951, while suburbs of the city reported 13 inches (33 cm). Over 90 percent of flights at Beijing.s International Airport were affected. On January 6th, temperatures in Beijing dropped to -16.7°C (1.9°F), the lowest minimum temperature in the first ten days of January since 1971.

Figure 2. An unusual sight: Virtually all of Britain was covered by snow on January 7, 2010. Image credit: NASA.

January 2010: near-average temperatures in the U.S.
For the contiguous U.S., the average January temperature was 0.3°F above average, making it the 55th coolest January in the 115-year record, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The U.S. has been on quite a roller coaster of temperatures over the past four months--the nation recorded its third coldest October on record, followed by its third warmest November, followed by its 14th coolest December, followed by an average January. The coolest January temperature anomalies were in Florida, which had its 10th coldest such month. The Pacific Northwest was very warm, with Oregon and Washington recording their 4th warmest January on record. Seattle experienced its warmest January since records began in 1891.

Figure 3. Ranking of temperatures by state for January 2010. Florida had its 10th coldest January on record, while Washington and Oregon had their 4th warmest. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center.

U.S. drought
Precipitation across the U.S. was near average in January. Notably, Arizona had its 5th wettest January and New Mexico its 7th wettest. The only state much drier than average was Michigan, which had its 8th driest January. At the end of January, 3% of the contiguous United States was in severe-to-exceptional drought, a decrease of 4% from the previous month. This is the lowest drought footprint for the country since detailed drought statistics began in 1999.

U.S. records
A few notable records set in the U.S. during January 2010, courtesy of the National Climatic Data Center::

All-time low pressure records were set across most of California, Arizona, Nevada, and southern Oregon on January 20 - 21. This was approximately 10 - 15% of the area of the U.S.

Arizona set its all-time 24-hour state snowfall record: 48" at Sunrise Mountain Jan. 21 - 22.

The 50.7 inches (129 cm) that fell in Flagstaff, AZ Jan. 16 - 23 was the third highest five-day total ever recorded there.

Yuma, Arizona's total of 2.44 inches of rain (62 mm) was their 2nd greatest January total ever, narrowly missing the record of 2.49 (63 mm) set in 1949. Their daily total of 1.95 (50 mm) inches on the 21st was the greatest one-day January total ever.

Near Wikieup, AZ, the Big Sandy River crested at 17.9 feet, washing away numerous roads and setting a new all-time record crest, breaking the previous record of 16.4 feet set back in March 1978.

Burlington, VT had its largest single snowstorm on record, 33.1" on Jan. 1 - 3.

Sioux City, IA tied its all-time max snow depth record (28" on Jan. 7).

Beckley, WV had its snowiest January on record (40.9"; old record 37.3" in 1996)

Bellingham, Washington tied its record highest January temperature of 65°F on January 11.

Hondo, Texas tied its record coldest January temperature of 12°F on January 9.

Cotulla la Salle, Texas tied its record coldest January temperature of 16°F on January 9.

Records were broken or tied at Daytona Beach, Orlando, Melbourne, and Vero Beach Florida for the greatest number of consecutive days in which the daily high temperature remained below 60 degrees F (15.5 C). Daytona Beach's string was twelve days.

Jackson, KY and London, KY tied their record for longest streak of consecutive days falling below 32°F (11 days). Pensacola, FL had its 2nd longest such streak (10 days), and Mobile, AL its 3rd longest (10 days).

Key West, FL had its 2nd coldest temperature ever measured, 42°F. The record is 41°F, set in 1981 and 1886.

Moderate El Niño conditions continue
Moderate El Niño conditions continue over the tropical Eastern Pacific. Ocean temperatures in the area 5°N - 5°S, 120°W - 170°W, also called the "Niña 3.4 region", were at 1.2°C above average on February 10, in the middle of the 1.0°C - 1.5°C range for a moderate El Niño, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The strength of El Niño has been roughly constant for the first two weeks of February. A burst of westerly winds that developed near the Date Line in January has pushed eastwards towards South America over the past month, and this should keep the current El Niño at moderate strength well into March. All of the El Niño models forecast that El Niño has peaked and will weaken by summer. Most of the models predict that El Niño conditions will last into early summer, but cross the threshold into neutral territory by the height of hurricane season.

January sea ice extent in the Arctic 4th lowest on record
January 2010 Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent was the 4th lowest since satellite measurements began in 1979. Ice extent was lower than in 2009 and 2008, but greater than in 2005, 2006, and 2007, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The weather pattern over the Arctic in the first half of January 2010 featured a strongly negative Arctic Oscillation (AO). This pattern tends to slow the winds that typically flush large amounts of sea ice out of the Arctic between Greenland and Iceland. In this way, a negative AO could help retain some the second- and third-year ice through the winter, and potentially rebuild some of the older, multi-year ice that has been lost over the past few years. However, the ice pack is the thinnest on record for this time of year, and much above average temperatures this summer would likely cause a new record summertime sea ice loss.

Next post
My next post will be Monday or Tuesday.

Jeff Masters

Climate Summaries

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.