Although you couldn’t tell from rapidly depleting gas storagelevels or lofty gas prices, this winter turned out to be thewarmest on record for the United States, according to a report bythe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And it was thethird winter in a row in which record warmth cooked the UnitedStates.

The impact on population-weighted heating degree days wasminimized somewhat because most of the above normal temperaturesoccurred in the western United States, but the heating season todate as measured by heating degree days still was 14% warmer thannormal and about 4% warmer than last year. It’s scary to think whata cold winter might do to the gas market.

Since 1980 more than two-thirds of U.S. winters have been warmerthan average, according to NOAA’s temperature data. NOAA’s analysisrelies on the world’s largest statistical weather database, whichgoes back 105 years.

The winter season’s preliminary temperatures averaged 38.4degrees Fahrenheit, 0.6 degrees warmer than the previous record,set just last year. In addition, the third warmest winter on recordoccurred in 1997-1998, although it tied with 1991-1992, at 37.5degrees. The above normal temperatures were caused by the expectedimpacts of La Nina and longer term warming trends, NOAA said.

During the past winter, every state in the continental U.S. waswarmer than its long-term average, with 21 states from Californiato the Midwest ranked as much above average. Oklahoma experiencedits warmest winter on record with Kansas, Nebraska, and Montanaexperiencing their second warmest.

It also was the 16th driest winter on record. Long-term drynessintensified in the northern Gulf states with Louisiana reportingits driest winter on record and Alabama and Mississippi their thirddriest.

Many locations from the northern Plains to New England alsoestablished records for the latest date of their first seasonalsnowfall, latest date without a temperature below freezing, longestsnow-free period, or longest period between sub-zero temperatures.Although the eastern states experienced heavy snowfalls in the lasttwo weeks of January, the accompanying cold air was short lived, asFebruary established hundreds of daily maximum temperature records.Numerous locations from the northern Plains to New York set or tiedtheir all-time maximum temperature records for the month.

The 1999-2000 season global land and ocean temperatures rankedas the 6th warmest on record, following the two warmest NorthernHemisphere winter seasons set in the past two years. Oceantemperatures ranked as 10th warmest at 0.5 degrees above average.Land temperatures, however, remained well above average, with thisseason’s anomaly (departure from long-term average) ranked as the4th warmest on record, at 1.4 degrees above average. The warmestglobal land temperature anomalies on record occurred in the pasttwo winters.

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