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December 2013 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By: Christopher C. Burt, 8:00 PM GMT on January 18, 2014

December 2013 Global Weather Extremes Summary

December 2013 saw a variety of temperature extremes both cold and warm and in some cases at the same locations. The most notable was the heat wave in Argentina. However, in general, extreme variability was the theme thanks to extreme amplitudes of the jet stream. Severe flooding affected portions of Brazil, Kenya, and the Middle East where a cold snap and rare heavy snow also occurred in some locations.

Below are some of the month’s highlights.


It was a relatively ‘normal’ December in the contiguous U.S. with the most significant events being ice and snowstorms affecting the central and northeastern portions of the country and drought conditions worsening in California.

Temperature (top) and precipitation (bottom) rankings by state for December 2013. Most notable was California’s 2nd driest December on record and the mild and wet Southeast. Maps from NCDC/NOAA.

In the southeast, some all-time monthly heat records were set including 83°F (28.3°C) at Augusta, Georgia on December 21st and 81°F (27.2°C) at Norfolk, Virginia on December 22nd (Savannah, Georgia 83°F/28.3°C) and Jacksonville, Florida 84°F/28.9°C tied their monthly records). Meanwhile, a cold snap enveloped the far West December 5-8 with an official all-time record low of -30°F (-34.4°C) set at Burns, Oregon on December 9th (USWB figures also cite a -32°F/-35.6°C temperature reading at Burns on February 10, 1933). Lakeview reportedly also set its all time low with a -27°F (-32.8°C) on December 8th, but the current (since 2009) weather site location is in a colder location so far as cold air pooling: this would be the 2nd time in 2013 that Lakeview broke its all-time cold record since observations began at other sites going back to 1884, in other words one cannot compare the recent record cold temperatures now being observed at the new site to those prior to 2009.

A tremendous plume of sub-tropical moisture invaded the Midwest and East December 20-22. An amazing 10.24” (260 mm) of rain in 24 hours was reported at a site near Williams, Indiana, just short of the Indiana state record for such (for any month) of 10.50” (267 mm) at Princeton on August 6, 1905. For more about this historic storm see my blog posted on December 23rd.

The massive storm of December 20-23 caused significant ice accumulations from Texas to Canada. Worst hit was the Toronto, Canada where ice accumulated up to 30 mm (1.2”) thick. Photo by Greg Stacey.

Alaska saw some wild swings of temperature that included an all-time ‘heat’ record for any Arctic Ocean-based site in the state for December when the temperature reached 39°F (3.9°C) at Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay) on December 7th. Interestingly a similar event occurred in Sweden’s Lapland on December 11th (see Europe entry below).

The coldest temperature observed in the northern hemisphere and the world during this past December was a reading of -56.4°C (-69.5°F) at Summit, Greenland on December 3rd.


December 2013 was one of Argentina’s hottest months on record. Buenos Aires tied its all-time hottest month (any month) on record (since 1856) with a sweltering 26.6°C (79.9°F) average. The prolonged heat wave caused power outages and water shortages resulting in many large street demonstrations in the city. In the northwest of the country temperatures peaked at 45.5°C (113.9°F) at Chamical on December 26th.

Torrential rainfalls caused flooding in Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo States of Brazil resulting in flooding that took at least 44 lives. All-time monthly precipitation records were set at several sites including 921 mm (36.26”) at Capelinha, 851.6 mm (33.53”) at Aimores, 837.4 mm (32.97”) at Santa Teesa, and 714 mm (28.11”) at Vitoria (Esperito Santo).


Western Europe was slammed with what seemed like a never-ending series of powerful extra-tropical cyclones. The worst of these hit the U.K. around Christmastime and resulted in near-record low barometric pressure readings for the U.K. Stronoway, Scotland saw the pressure drop to 936.8 mb (27.66”) on December 24th. Fortunately, the tightest pressure gradients (and thus strongest winds) were to the north of Scotland and thus over sea, so given the powerful nature of the storm surprisingly little damage occurred in the U.K. or Ireland. It was the warmest December since 1988 for the U.K. as whole and precipitation was much above average (154% of such) as a result of the many cyclones. Scotland had its wettest December on record (since 1910).

Scotland experienced its wettest December on record as this map of precipitation anomalies for the U.K. illustrates. Map copyright of the Crown, U.K. Met Office.

The warmest temperature measured in the country during the month was 16.6°C (61.9°F) at Cassley, Sutherland on December 10th and the coldest -6.1°C (21.0°F) at Dalwhinnie, Highland on December 7th. The greatest 24-hour precipitation was 73.6 mm (2.90”) at Cassley on December 23-24. The highest wind low-elevation gust occurred during the great Christmas storm with a 109 mph gust at Aberdaron, Gwynedd on the 26th.

Emergency crews rescue residents in north Wales where coastal flooding occurred during the storm around Christmastime. Four deaths were blamed on the cyclone. Photo from BBC.

In northern Europe wild swings of temperature occurred, especially in Sweden. In Sweden’s Lapland temperature reached as high as 10.2°C (50.4°F) on December 11th coming close the region’s all-time December record of 11.0°C/51.8°F (set at Nikkaluokta on December 18, 2007). What was amazing was just two days earlier (on December 9th) the temperature had been as cold as -40.8C (-41.4°F), the coldest temperature observed so early in the season for Sweden since 1969. For more details about this topsy-turvy event see my previous blog on the subject.

Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia endured their warmest Christmas Day on record when temperatures rose to 2.8°C (37°F) at Moscow and 5°C (41°F) at St. Petersburg. The same was true for portions of Germany and Austria where a high of 19.1°C (66.4°F) was observed at Salisburg, Austria, a new December record for the city.


Severe flooding affected southern Kenya on December 11-13. At least 14 deaths were reported and dozens of homes destroyed. Kajlado County was worst affected.

The hottest temperature observed in the northern hemisphere during the past month was 41.0°C (105.8°F) at Linguere, Senegal on December 2nd and also at Matam on December 4th.

A cold wave and storm brought accumulations of small hail to the suburbs of Cairo on December 8-12. Snow fell in the higher elevations of the Sinai Peninsula.

Small hail accumulated to a depth of an inch or two in the eastern Cairo suburb of Madinaty. Photographer not identified.


In mid-December a pool of very cold air and a low pressure in the eastern Mediterranean brought exceptionally heavy snow to the higher elevations of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Amman, Jordan reported up to 20 cm (8”) of snow and neighborhoods in Jerusalem saw up to 50 cm (20”). At lower elevations torrential rains of up to 150 mm (6”) caused flooding. Especially hard hit was the Gaza Strip where 40,000 people were displaced and damage was estimated at US$64 million.

Residents of Amman, Jordan enjoy the rare heavy snowfall that deposited 20 cm (8”)on the city on December 13th. Photo from REUTERS.

Temperature anomalies for warmth were near record territory for almost the entire month in Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan.

Yet another (the season’s 4th) tropical cyclone developed in the Bay of Bengal and struck India in early December. Cyclone Madi strengthened to a CAT 1 storm before weakening prior to landfall in southern India. Little damage and few casualties were reported.

Torrential rains deluged the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea during the middle of the month. One site, Truong Sa, measured 646 mm (25.43”) in a 72-hour period. It was unusually cool in northern Southeast Asia during the last half of the month and snow was reported in northern Vietnam at elevations above 1600 m (6,300’).


It was yet another warmer than normal month for Australia and also a bit drier than average. In fact, Queensland experienced its 3rd driest December on record with a statewide average of just 26.2 mm (1.03”)—the driest was that of 1938 when the average was 19.6 mm (0.77”).

Temperature (top) and precipitation deciles maps for Australia during the month of December. Maps courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The hottest temperature measured in the southern hemisphere and the world during December was 47.4°C (117.3°F) set at Eucla, Western Australia on December 5th. The coldest temperature observed in Australia during December was -4.6°C (23.7°F) at Thredbo, New South Wales on December 6th. The greatest observed calendar day rainfall was 167.6 mm (6.60”) at Wyndham, Western Australia on December 23rd.

Tropical Cyclone Christine made landfall along Australia’s Pilbara coast of Western Australia on December 29th as a CAT 3 storm with 124 mph winds. Trees were uprooted and some homes damaged.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) announced on January 3rd that 2013 was the warmest year on record for Australia.


It was a fairly average month weather-wise for New Zealand. The warmest temperature measured was 34.2°C (93.6°F) at Clyde, South Island on December 5th and the coolest -1.2°C (29.8°F) at Middlemarch, South Island on December 1st. The highest observed calendar day rainfall was 175 mm (6.89”) at North Egmont, North Island on December 4th.

NIWA announced recently that 2013 was the country’s 3rd warmest year on record.


The coldest temperature in the southern hemisphere during December was –42.1C (-43.8°F) recorded at Concordia on December 1st.

KUDOS Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for global temperature extremes data and Jeremy Budd and NIWA for New Zealand data.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather

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

Well done. Thank you.
I do like how your portrayed the heat anomaly in Moscow at Christmas has having 'endured' a 37 F degree temperature. Given what they're used to, perhaps it was a hardship for some, mostly mitten manufacturers.
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