Record Winter Warmth Sizzles the U.S.
Although you couldn't tell from rapidly depleting gas storage
levels or lofty gas prices, this winter turned out to be the
warmest on record for the United States, according to a report by
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And it was the
third winter in a row in which record warmth cooked the United
The impact on population-weighted heating degree days was
minimized somewhat because most of the above normal temperatures
occurred in the western United States, but the heating season to
date as measured by heating degree days still was 15% warmer than
normal and about 7% warmer than last year.
Considering gas prices currently are averaging about $1 more
than the same time last year and gas storage levels are 333 Bcf
below levels at the same time last year, it's scary to think what a
cold winter might do to the gas market. There's no need to fret,
however. The way the winters have been the past few years it seems
unlikely the U.S. will see a colder than normal winter anytime
Since 1980 more than two-thirds of U.S. winters have been warmer
than average, according to NOAA's temperature data. NOAA's analysis
relies on the world's largest statistical weather database, which
goes back 105 years.
The winter season's preliminary temperatures averaged 38.4
degrees Fahrenheit, 0.6 degrees warmer than the previous record,
set just last year. In addition, the third warmest winter on record
occurred in 1997-1998, although it tied with 1991-1992, at 37.5
degrees. The above normal temperatures were caused by the expected
impacts of La Nina and longer term warming trends, NOAA said.
During the past winter, every state in the continental U.S. was
warmer than its long-term average, with 21 states from California
to the Midwest ranked as much above average. Oklahoma experienced
its warmest winter on record with Kansas, Nebraska, and Montana
experiencing their second warmest.
It also was the 16th driest winter on record. Long-term dryness
intensified in the northern Gulf states with Louisiana reporting
its driest winter on record and Alabama and Mississippi their third
Many locations from the northern Plains to New England also
established records for the latest date of their first seasonal
snowfall, latest date without a temperature below freezing, longest
snow-free period, or longest period between sub-zero temperatures.
Although the eastern states experienced heavy snowfalls in the last
two weeks of January, the accompanying cold air was short lived, as
February established hundreds of daily maximum temperature records.
Numerous locations from the northern Plains to New York set or tied
their all-time maximum temperature records for the month.
The 1999-2000 season global land and ocean temperatures ranked
as the 6th warmest on record, following the two warmest Northern
Hemisphere winter seasons set in the past two years. Ocean
temperatures ranked as 10th warmest at 0.5 degrees above average.
Land temperatures, however, remained well above average, with this
season's anomaly (departure from long-term average) ranked as the
4th warmest on record, at 1.4 degrees above average. The warmest
global land temperature anomalies on record occurred in the past