NOAA: Coolest Winter Since 2001, but Still Warmer Than Usual

Winter storms and snow notwithstanding, this winter was still warmer than average worldwide, the government reported Thursday.

The global temperature for meteorological winter — December, January and February — averaged 54.38 degrees Fahrenheit, 0.58 degrees warmer than normal for the last century, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

Temperatures have been rising over recent years, raising concerns about the effects of global warming, generally attributed to human-induced impacts on the atmosphere.

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While it was warmer than normal, the just completed winter was the coolest since 2000-2001, which climate experts attributed to the presence of moderate-to-strong La Nina, or cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean, which can affect conditions around the world.

For the United States, this winter's average temperature was 33.2 degrees, 0.2 degrees above the 20th century average.

NOAA's National Climatic Data Center said winter temperatures were warmer than average from Texas to the Southeast and along the Eastern Seaboard, while cooler-than-average temperatures stretched from much of the upper Midwest to the West Coast.

The agency said the winter was unusual for the above average rain and snowfall in the Southwest, where La Nina usually brings drier-than-average conditions.

For example, in January 170 inches of snow fell at the Alta ski area near Salt Lake City, Utah, more than twice the normal amount for the month, topping the record of 168 inches that fell in 1967.

Mountain snowpack exceeded 150 percent of average in large parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon at the end of February. Spring run-off from the above average snowpack in the West is expected to be beneficial in drought plagued areas.

In the Northeast, February rain and snow helped make the winter the fifth wettest on record for the region.

New York had its wettest winter, while Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, and Colorado to the West, had their second wettest.

Some locations had record winter snow totals including Burlington, Vt., which received 103.2 inches, 6.3 inches above the previous record set during the winter of 1970-71.

Global winter highlights included:

— Severe winter storms struck southern China; the causes are still under study.

— Record Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in January was followed by unusually high temperatures across much of the mid- and high-latitude areas of the Northern Hemisphere in February, reducing the snow cover. By the end of February, snow cover extent was below average in many parts of the hemisphere.

— February was the 61st warmest in the contiguous U.S. and 15th warmest globally on record.