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How Cold has this January been in the U.S.?

By: Christopher C. Burt, 8:27 PM GMT on January 30, 2014

How Cold has this January been in the U.S.?

The temperature fell to -9°F at Ocean City, Maryland and -5°F at Salisbury this morning (January 30th). For this part of Maryland these were the coldest temperatures observed since at least 1987. Two powerful cold waves have swept across the eastern half of the country, the strongest since 1996 or 1994. The coldest January on record were those of 1977 and 1979. How does this January rank so far?



The January average annual temperature for the entire contiguous U.S. from 1895-2013. January 1979 was the coldest January nation-wide and 1977 the 2nd coldest. IF January 2014 manages to average 1°F below average, then it will be the coldest since 1991.

Actually, this January’s average temperature nationally has probably been close to normal since the western half of the nation has been almost as much above average as the eastern half was below average. The only region that will most likely have experienced a TOP 10 coldest January will be the Upper Midwest. Detroit is on track for its 6th coldest January on record, followed by Chicago (9th), Indianapolis (9th), Fort Wayne, Indiana (9th), and, at the top of the list, South Bend, Indiana where this may have been the 5th coldest.

Compared to 1977, which was the coldest January for the Ohio Valley and places like Chicago and Detroit, this January can hardly compare:



Comparison (average monthly temperature departures) between January 1977 and January 2014 (through Jan. 28). As one can see, there has been no part of the U.S. that has been colder this month than in 1977. NCEP/NCAR.

Also, there have been few significant cold records broken this past month, such as all-time record minimums or all-time monthly minimums. This, of course, can’t be said about the warmth in the West, where numerous all-time monthly maximums have been set in California, Oregon, and Alaska.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Cold

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

its really not bad to be honest

I think it has mostly to do with the fact its been 20 years or more since we have seen these type of temps

that people in general are failing to recognize a normal winter


and its not normal anyway more abnormal than anything


but since its been such a long extend without the cold

we tend to forget how cold it really can be

nice read chris thanks
Christopher,

The substantial month-long temperature contrasts between the eastern and western US throughout most of January looks 'unusual' to me.

Do you have any ability to analyze whether or not that's true? An overall average monthly temps for the CONUS - and even comparisons of record highs versus record lows set for each region - won't provide insight into that.

Yet we've had such a noticeable contrast between east and west - and the RRR seems to be a strong driver for this.

That RRR, BTW, is most unusual all in itself.
Thanks Chris - I agree with KOTG too.

The new normal should be what is troubling everyone and not the outburst of normal cold winter weather.
Quoting Christopher Burt:
Also, there have been few significant cold records broken this past month, such as all-time record minimums or all-time monthly minimums. This, of course, can’t be said about the warmth in the West, where numerous all-time monthly maximums have been set in California, Oregon, and Alaska.
A little something I threw together this morning:

temp
Thanks for the information, weatherhistorian. Here's a little input from Europe for January:


Temperature deviation from normal for Europe in January.
Great post! On my extended temperature data set for Cleveland, OH, the Great Polar Vortex attack of 2014 resulted in the coldest January since... wait, for it... 2009! Also, it's currently the 27th coldest on record in 159 years (1871-2014 are official records, 1856-1870 are unofficial records I retrieved from an early Weather Bureau publication). There's a chance that 2014 could drop a couple more spots with relatively mild temps tomorrow.

The coldest Januarys on record at Cleveland:

1 1977 11.0
2 1857 14.7
3 1918 15.0
4 1856 15.5
5 1912 15.8
6 1875 16.7
7 1893 17.6
8 1963 18.0
9 1884 18.8
10 1945 18.8
11 1970 18.9
12 1920 19.0
13 1994 19.3
14 2009 19.4
15 1940 19.6
16 1904 19.7
17 1982 19.8
18 1881 19.9
19 1948 20.0
20 1978 20.1
21 1981 20.1
22 1867 20.7
23 1984 20.7
24 1985 20.8
25 1885 21.2
26 2003 21.2
All-time snowiest month ever record was just broken in Detroit, MI. The 39.1" of snow in January '14 broke the previous record of 38.4" in February 1908! The 39.1" for this January also shattered the snowiest January record of 29.6" in 1978. This is also the snowiest start to a winter ever with 55.8" Record information from NWS Detroit/Pontiac
Quoting 7. wxchaser97:
All-time snowiest month ever record was just broken in Detroit, MI. The 39.1" of snow in January '14 broke the previous record of 38.4" in February 1908! The 39.1" for this January also shattered the snowiest January record of 29.6" in 1978. This is also the snowiest start to a winter ever with 55.8" Record information from NWS Detroit/Pontiac


Wow! Thanks for this. Looks like a little more may fall Friday to top this off.
Currently monthly average temperature for MSP is 8.2F with one more day to go in the month. Although this is below the long term monthly average of 13.7F, it is still not quite one standard deviation below normal (would need to be below 7.5F). It is the coldest January since 1994, however, we have gotten spoiled in the last two decades. Nothing like the January 1977 average of 0.3F.
Thank you, Barbamz (#5). Our NON-winter continues in Europe. Only one light snowfall last Friday for the entire winter so far, here in Stuttgart anyway. Should be sunny and warmer next week.

That's OK. At least you don't have to shovel rain.
It's hot and one area and cold in another. The weather alarmists are so melodramatic.
It's hot and one area and cold in another.

Careful, we grade for grammar, syntax and spelling.

Thanks for the input too.
There were some extremely warm readings in China's Yangtze valley on Jan 31. Temps in the upper 70s and low 80s. Normal highs are in the upper 40s. Were any monthly heat records set?
weatherhistorian has created a new entry.