Mar 11, 2024 - Energy & Environment

The U.S. just had its hottest winter on record

Data: NOAA; Maps: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals
Data: NOAA; Maps: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The Lower 48 states just experienced their warmest winter on record this year, with extreme temperature departures from average observed across the northern tier of the country, according to new NOAA data.

Why it matters: The "Lost Winter" of 2023-2024 will be known for its lack of cold, snow and ice.

  • Instead, it will be known as a wet winter across the East Coast, parts of the Central states, and especially Southern California.

Driving the news: According to NOAA, some of the typically coldest states in the country saw record-setting warmth: North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.

  • For the country as a whole, the meteorological winter (December, January and February) had an average temperature that was 5.4°F above average for the season, beating the winter of 2015-2016 for the title.
  • Parts of the Upper Midwest had temperature anomalies that exceeded the 20th century average (1901-2000) by more than 10°F, which is an unusually large margin for a seasonal record.
  • Consistently above-average temperatures across the Midwest and Great Lakes led to just 2.7% lake ice coverage on Feb. 11, the lowest on record for that time of year, NOAA found.

The big picture: Globally, February was the warmest such month on record and the ninth-straight warmest month the planet has seen, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Zoom in: In addition to the states that set warmest winter records, 22 additional states had a top-10 warmest winter, NOAA found.

The bottom line: It offers a preview of winters to come as the climate continues to warm. Cold snaps are getting shorter and snowfall reductions are being seen across much of the country, with winter seasons that start later and end earlier.

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