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Winter of 2013 - 2014: Top-10 Coldest in Midwest; Warmest on Record in California

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 12:19 PM GMT on March 14, 2014

The winter of 2013 - 2014 will go down in the history books in the Midwest U.S. as a top-ten coldest winter on record, but ranked as the warmest winter on record in California. Temperatures averaged over December 2013 - February 2014 in the contiguous U.S. made it our 34th coolest winter since records began in 1895, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in their latest State of the Climate report. The last winter that was colder was 2009 - 2010, which ranked 15th coolest. For comparison, the winter of 2012 - 2013 was the 20th warmest, and the "non-winter" of 2011 - 2012 was the 4th warmest. Seven states had a top-ten coldest winter on record in 2013 - 2014: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Three states had a top-ten warmest winter on record: California, Arizona, and Alaska. The Southwest had an unusually dry winter, with California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas all recording top-ten dryness. For the nation as a whole, it was the 9th driest winter on record. The winter average snow cover extent for the contiguous U.S. was the 10th largest since record keeping began in 1966.


Figure 1. Perhaps the most iconic image of the U.S. winter of 2013 - 2014: Traffic gridlock in Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon, January 28, 2014 after Winter Storm Leon brought 2.6" of snow, shutting down the city. Image credit: @beercontrol/twitter.

25th most extreme U.S. winter since 1910
The U.S. winter of 2013 - 2014 had the 25th highest level of extremes observed since 1910, thanks primarily to the spatial extent of cold maximum and minimum temperatures and days with precipitation, according to NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI). The index tracks the percentage area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% and bottom-10% extremes in temperature, precipitation, and drought. For the Western U.S. (California and Nevada), it was the most extreme winter on record, primarily because 84% of the region experienced top-10% dryness.


Figure 2. Historical temperature ranking for the U.S. for the winter of 2013 - 2014. Seven Midwest states had a top-ten coldest winter on record, but it was the warmest winter on record in California. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).


Figure 3. Historical precipitation ranking for the U.S. for the winter of 2013 - 2014. California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas all had top-ten driest winters on record; no states had a top-ten wettest winter. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).


Figure 4. Despite cool winters in 2013 - 2014 and 2009 - 2010, wintertime (December, January, February) temperatures in the contiguous U.S. have increased by about 2°F over the past 100 years. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.


Figure 5. Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) for California for the winter period December, January, and February. The winter of 2013 - 2014 had the most severe drought conditions since record keeping began in 1895. January and February 2014 also set records for most severe drought conditions ever recorded in those months. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

February 2013: 37th coolest February for the U.S.
February 2013 was cooler than average in the contiguous U.S, ranking as the 37th coolest February since 1895, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in their latest State of the Climate report. Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin each had a top-ten cold February, and Arizona, California, and Utah each had a top-ten warmest February. There were 1.75 times as many record cold daily highs (2,205) and lows (1,276), compared to record warm daily highs (945) and lows (1,043.)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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.

Reader Comments

I can say this Dewpoints are nearing 70 now in Orlando and it is very breezy as well with winds from the South.

1502. LargoFl
REAL BAD WINDS..........................Special Weather Statement

------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY AREA - RUSKIN FL
852 AM EDT MON MAR 17 2014

FLZ043-242-171330-
SUMTER-INLAND CITRUS-
852 AM EDT MON MAR 17 2014

...A SIGNIFICANT WEATHER ADVISORY HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR NORTHERN SUMTER
AND SOUTHEASTERN CITRUS COUNTIES FOR A STRONG THUNDERSTORM WITH
STRONG WIND GUSTS VALID UNTIL 930 AM EDT...

AT 852 AM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
STRONG THUNDERSTORM LOCATED NEAR HEATHERWOOD...OR NEAR INVERNESS...
MOVING NORTHEAST AT 35 MPH WILL AFFECT HEATHERWOOD...INVERNESS...
INVERNESS AIRPORT AND RUTLAND.

GUSTY WINDS OF 45 TO 55 MPH CAN BE EXPECTED WHICH CAN CAUSE UNSECURED
OBJECTS TO BLOW AROUND...SNAP TREE LIMBS AND CAUSE POWER OUTAGES.
FREQUENT LIGHTNING IS EXPECTED. TO BE SAFE GO INDOORS IMMEDIATELY.
IF CAUGHT OUTSIDE...FIND A LOW SPOT...AND STAY AWAY FROM TALL
OBJECTS. TORRENTIAL RAINS WILL REDUCE VISIBILITY TO NEAR ZERO AND
WILL CAUSE PONDING OF WATER ON ROADWAYS.


&&

LAT...LON 2881 8247 2897 8223 2896 8196 2896 8195
2888 8195 2866 8235
TIME...MOT...LOC 1252Z 235DEG 31KT 2879 8232

$$
1504. LargoFl
Quoting 1500. StormTrackerScott:
Very dangerous weather about to come ashore near Tampa and it is important that people heed all warnings as there is a rotating thunderstorm getting closer to the west coast of FL now.

YES real gusty winds here on the coast scott..this one might turn bad with daytime heating too..
Quoting 1502. LargoFl:
REAL BAD WINDS..........................Special Weather Statement

------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY AREA - RUSKIN FL
852 AM EDT MON MAR 17 2014

FLZ043-242-171330-
SUMTER-INLAND CITRUS-
852 AM EDT MON MAR 17 2014

...A SIGNIFICANT WEATHER ADVISORY HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR NORTHERN SUMTER
AND SOUTHEASTERN CITRUS COUNTIES FOR A STRONG THUNDERSTORM WITH
STRONG WIND GUSTS VALID UNTIL 930 AM EDT...

AT 852 AM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
STRONG THUNDERSTORM LOCATED NEAR HEATHERWOOD...OR NEAR INVERNESS...
MOVING NORTHEAST AT 35 MPH WILL AFFECT HEATHERWOOD...INVERNESS...
INVERNESS AIRPORT AND RUTLAND.

GUSTY WINDS OF 45 TO 55 MPH CAN BE EXPECTED WHICH CAN CAUSE UNSECURED
OBJECTS TO BLOW AROUND...SNAP TREE LIMBS AND CAUSE POWER OUTAGES.
FREQUENT LIGHTNING IS EXPECTED. TO BE SAFE GO INDOORS IMMEDIATELY.
IF CAUGHT OUTSIDE...FIND A LOW SPOT...AND STAY AWAY FROM TALL
OBJECTS. TORRENTIAL RAINS WILL REDUCE VISIBILITY TO NEAR ZERO AND
WILL CAUSE PONDING OF WATER ON ROADWAYS.


&&

LAT...LON 2881 8247 2897 8223 2896 8196 2896 8195
2888 8195 2866 8235
TIME...MOT...LOC 1252Z 235DEG 31KT 2879 8232

$$


Largo there is a dangerous storm about to come ashore in Pasco County.
Quoting 1504. LargoFl:
YES real gusty winds here on the coast scott..this one might turn bad with daytime heating too..


Looks like SPC is about to issue a tornado watch for C FL.

1508. LargoFl
Big booming in the distance along with lightning flashers..guess we here are going to get the whole nine yards with this one..well im ready..gutters clean,all the light stuff taken in etc..just hope we dont lose power.
1509. LargoFl
still just to my north..booming wow..........
1510. LargoFl
new port richey etc..almost to you folks.........
1511. Michfan
Its going to be a nasty lunch to dinner time in Orlando.
1512. RickWPB
I hope West Palm Beach gets some rain from this one. The last one we only got a trace of rain.
ice storm tonight
in California 4.7!!
in California 4.7!!
Los Angeles 4.7!!
Earthquake near Los Angeles revised down to a 4.4
1515. ricderr

in California 4.7!!
in California 4.7!!




when it gets above 6 I get excited
1516. MahFL
Pretty sad excuse for a search.


To be fair they could have been en route to their designated search area at a high altitude cruising level.
The Weather Channel ‏@weatherchannel · 2 min
Earthquake near Los Angeles revised down to a 4.4 per USGS: http://wxch.nl/1fCJPx4

Quoting 1510. LargoFl:
new port richey etc..almost to you folks.........


Looking at the lightning detector, the heavy concentration is still is bit offshore and is crawling westward. Let's see if it holds together.
1519. MahFL
Quoting 1518. jrweatherman:


Looking at the lightning detector, the heavy concentration is still is bit offshore and is crawling westward. Let's see if it holds together.


Don't you mean crawling eastwards ?
Quoting 1519. MahFL:


Don't you mean crawling eastwards ?


You got me:) It'still early...
One good thing based on the radar is the strongest storms are staying off shore.
Could get a nasty squall line develop on the southern end of the line out in the GOM.
1522. sar2401
Quoting MahFL:


To be fair they could have been en route to their designated search area at a high altitude cruising level.

Generally, handout pictures are taken to at least simulate searchers taking some kind of active role in their jobs. Now Malaysia is again reversing their timeline, saying they're not sure when the ACARS system was turned off. I have never been involved in a search where, 10 days into it, the timeline keeps changing.
1523. sar2401
Quoting Sfloridacat5:
Enrique Iglesias is going to perform outdoors in New York City where it's 25 degrees.
He said yesterday he was enjoying 85 degrees at his home of Miami Fl.

That's a shock to the system. Poor Enrique.

He'll probably die of hypothermia. I know I would. :-)
1524. sar2401
Quoting ricderr:

in California 4.7!!
in California 4.7!!




when it gets above 6 I get excited

LOL. A 4.7 in LA means some people just woke up early.

EDIT: Or a 4.4...
Quoting 1481. StormTrackerScott:
The pattern for the rest of this month looks extremely stormy for FL infact some of the GFS ensembles have been consistantly showing 10" to 15" of rain over the next 2 weeks across FL.

Here's the Euro thru day 10. This more than what we would normally get the whole month of March. Literally one storm system after another is going to cross the FL over the next few weeks.






The average March precip in Clearwater FL is 3.81 inches, and similar for much of Central Florida. While it is the drier season, it isn't really that dry on average when you compare it to many places in the country that average similar totals per month, in fact the dry season average total for all dry season months added is around 23 inches which isn't as dry as one would think for a whole dry season. Compare this to places like California which has a true "dry" season where its normal to go 7 to 8 months with less than a few inches of rain.


Also, the drier season months are often feast or famine, that is the totals we see is the mean, but there have been some years with less than an inch of rain in a month but some years we get 5,6 or more inches during these months, which often depends on El Nino or La Nina, Neutral years often result in totals slightly above or slightly below rather than well above or well below like El Nino or La Nina typically produce.



Given all this though, its not rare to see patterns like this this time of year, some years its wet, some years it not, the dry season is really the hit or miss season rather than a true dry season. We can and do occasionally get very heavy rain this time of year.
Quoting 1521. Sfloridacat5:
One good thing based on the radar is the strongest storms are staying off shore.
Could get a nasty squall line develop on the southern end of the line out in the GOM.



They are staying off shore because the system is slow moving, not because they are trying to avoid land. Don't be fooled, this squall line has plenty of support throughout the day, in fact if you look at the models and SPC synopsis, dynamic support for Central and South Florida will be even better as the day goes. That is, this is a slow moving system, but not a weakening one, when the line finally does reach the coast, its slow progress will likely lead to heavy totals potentially of 1 to 3 inches with locally higher amounts possible.
1528. sar2401
Quoting Sfloridacat5:


We need the rain down here.
I was speaking from a severe weather potential point of view.

We can take every drop of rain we can get from this system down here.
As mentioned, my rain station has only picked up 1.68" in the past 2 months. We also had a brush fire break out near some homes just the other day.

I got 1.15" out of this yesterday, so it is a wet system. That still only brings me up 1.40" for the month, so we could use more rain also. Doesn't look like anything else is on the way until at least next weekend, and that doesn't look like much right now.
Quoting 1489. KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
Tallahassee, FL (KTLH) - Storm Total Precipitation




The radar has underestimated totals by a long shot, it estimates Tallahassee has received around 2 to 2.5 inches but actual total is over 4.5.

Similar results can be found around the Big Bend.
Quoting 1529. Jedkins01:



The radar has underestimated totals by a long shot, it estimates Tallahassee has received around 2 to 2.5 inches but actual total is over 4.5.

Similar results can be found around the Big Bend.


Thundering here on the northside of Orlando. Line of storms is getting closer to Tampa now.
1531. hydrus
Here's our precipitation break down in Fort Myers.
Pretty big spread from dry season 1.71" (December) to rainy season 10.14" (August).

City
Fort Myers
State
Florida

Average Annual Precipitation
55.93 inches


January
1.94 inches

February
2.15 inches

March
2.88 inches

April
2.18 inches

May
2.65 inches

June
10.09 inches

July
9.04 inches

August
10.14 inches

September
8.31 inches

October
2.88 inches

November
1.96 inches

December
1.71
1533. hydrus
1534. sar2401
Quoting beell:


They're not searching on the original flight path because the ACARS pings along with the last known contact with military radar places the plane west of path.


(left click for full image, right click, select "open in new window" for same)


NYTimes-March 15th

So far, the published info has focused on this last hourly "ping". What we have not been shown is the 5-6 (?) preceeding pings and arcs of position.

Wasn't ACARS. That supposedly was turned off 16 minutes into the flight, although Malaysia is changing that again this morning. It was the Boeing Aircraft Health Maintenance System (BAHMS). Malaysian didn't subscribe to this system, so the only data was a once an hour ping to a passive transponder built into the aircraft. The data sent back was only that a positive response was received, not any altitude or location. The arcs were developed by triangulating 7 pings from two satellites. Anyone who's done triangulation knows how reliable that result is. The Malaysian air defense radar contacts have still never been confirmed as MH370, since Malaysia says they allowed this identified aircraft to fly across their territory and made no attempt to intercept the flight. It's all pretty flimsy stuff to move a search 4500 miles away from the planned flight path
1535. sar2401
Quoting Jedkins01:



The radar has underestimated totals by a long shot, it estimates Tallahassee has received around 2 to 2.5 inches but actual total is over 4.5.

Similar results can be found around the Big Bend.

It actually got my total almost exactly right. I'm going out and buying a lottery ticket. :-)
1536. hydrus
Quoting 1534. sar2401:

Wasn't ACARS. That supposedly was turned off 16 minutes into the flight, although Malaysia is changing that again this morning. It was the Boeing Aircraft Health Maintenance System (BAHMS). Malaysian didn't subscribe to this system, so the only data was a once an hour ping to a passive transponder built into the aircraft. The data sent back was only that a positive response was received, not any altitude or location. The arcs were developed by triangulating 7 pings from two satellites. Anyone who's done triangulation knows how reliable that result is. The Malaysian air defense radar contacts have still never been confirmed as MH370, since Malaysia says they allowed this identified aircraft to fly across their territory and made no attempt to intercept the flight. It's all pretty flimsy stuff to move a search 4500 miles away from the planned flight path
What a sad and horrible mess.
Quite the light show just off Tampa right now and these storms edging closer and closer to the coast.

Quoting 1537. StormTrackerScott:
Quite the light show just off Tampa right now and these storms edging closer and closer to the coast.



Those strong storms are barley moving to the coast. It seems like they were in the same spot 3 hours ago.
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
I have a creek in the back yard (North of Tallahassee) and the water flow was pretty healthy back there yesterday but nothing like Tropical Storm Faye several years back when the entire back yard up to the house and basement flooded after 22-24 inches of training bands in Tally.  I measure rainfall at my location, not by inches, but by how close the water gets to the house............ 
.
Quoting 1496. Sfloridacat5:


We need the rain down here.
I was speaking from a severe weather potential point of view.

We can take every drop of rain we can get from this system down here.
As mentioned, my rain station has only picked up 1.68" in the past 2 months. We also had a brush fire break out near some homes just the other day.


Our perspectives are different. I am concerned about the Everglades watershed because I do not want any more discharges for Okeechobee Lake into our estuaries. Only a long term drought will help the St. Lucie estuaries recover.

If you don't have it already, you might enjoy this web site. Go Hydrology!