Engineered Systems Magazine

Global December-February temperature warmest on record

May 2, 2007

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reported that February's combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the sixth warmest on record, but a strong El Niño in January helped push the winter to its highest value since records began in 1880.

In the U.S., the December 2006-February 2007 winter season had an overall temperature that was near average, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC. Precipitation was above average in much of the center of the nation, while large sections of the East, Southeast and West were drier than average. The global average temperature was the warmest on record for the December-February period.

The winter temperature for the contiguous United States (based on preliminary data) was 33.6° F (0.9° C). The 20th century average is 33.0 degrees F (0.6° C). Statewide temperatures were warmer than average from Florida to Maine and from Michigan to Montana.

Cooler-than-average temperatures occurred in the southern Plains and areas of the Southwest. The 11th warmest December on record occurred in 2006. Upper-level wind patterns brought unusually cold weather to the southern Plains and much of the West in January. Snow and ice extended as far south as Arizona, southern California and south Texas. More typical winter conditions finally arrived in the eastern United States by late January and a period of colder-than-normal temperatures persisted through President’s Day weekend.

February was 1.8°F (0.9° C) below the 20th century average of 34.7° F (1.5° C), placing it in the top third coldest Februarys in the 113-year record for the contiguous U.S. Thirty-six states in the eastern two-thirds of the nation were cooler than average, while Texas and the eleven states of the West were near average to warmer-than-average.

The warmer-than-average winter temperatures in the Midwest and East helped reduce residential energy needs for the nation. Using the Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI-an index developed at NOAA to relate energy usage to climate), the nation's residential energy demand was approximately 3% lower than what would have occurred under average climate conditions for the season.

Seasonal energy demand would have been even lower, if not for February’s colder temperatures. For the month, temperature-related residential energy demand was approximately 6% higher than what would have occurred under average climate conditions for February.