NOAA 2001-001
Contact: Pat Viets

Two-Month Period is the Coldest on Record in the United States

NOAA scientists announced today that the U.S. national temperature during the November through December two-month period was the coldest such period on record. The scientists work with data from the worlds largest statistical weather database at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Following the second coldest November on record in the U.S., below normal temperatures continued to grip much of the nation in December. With an average temperature of 28.9 F, December 2000 was the seventh coldest December since national records began in 1895. Jay Lawrimore, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at the National Climatic Data Center, said, "Two months in a row of much below average temperatures resulted in the coldest November-December U.S. temperature on record, 33.8 F." This broke the old record of 34.2 F set in 1898. Near record cold temperatures for the same period occurred most recently in 1985 and 1983, when the nation's average temperature was 34.6 F and 34.8 F respectively, the 3rd and 5th coldest such two-month periods on record.

Forty-three states within the contiguous U.S. recorded below average temperatures during the November-December period. The only states with near-normal temperatures were Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Severe winter conditions hit the Central and Southern Plains particularly hard. The coldest November-December on record occurred in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri, while six states experienced the second coldest such two-month period (Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi). For Dallas-Fort Worth, December 2000 was 7.5 degrees below normal at 39.4 F.

Heavy snow also accompanied the cold in many areas, particularly throughout the Plains and Upper-Midwest.

In Buffalo, N.Y., snowfall records were set during the three month period of October-December, where a total of 95.9 inches broke the previous record of 92.2 inches.

At Midway Airport in Chicago, Ill. snowfall records were set for a 24-hour period, where a total of 14.5 inches broke the previous record set in December 1960.

December snowfall records were set in Marquette, Mich., where a total of 89.5 inches broke the previous record of 82.6 inches set in December 1981.

Cities such as Milwaukee, Wis., Waterloo, Iowa, and Amarillo, Texas, also set records for the most snowfall in the month of December. While precipitation amounts were normal to above normal throughout the central and eastern U.S., except for the mid-Atlantic region, the West and Northwest regions (composed of Washington., Oregon, Indiana, Nevada., California) recorded their fourth driest November-December since records began in 1895.

Retired Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, director of NOAA's National Weather Service, said 2000 was shaped by variability and extremes, which will continue throughout the winter. Updating the winter 2000-01 outlook, Kelly said, "The eastern and western United States will experience additional cold outbreaks at least through March with
periods of moderation in between."

This prolonged cold outbreak came at the end of a year that began with the warmest winter on record in the U.S. Above normal temperatures continued through the month of October and made the January through October 2000 period the warmest such ten-month period since national temperature records began in 1895. Preliminary data indicates that 2000 was the 13th warmest year on record in the U.S., 1.2 F above the long-term average of 52.8 F.

Even though average long-term U.S. and global temperatures are warmer than they were a century ago, dramatic short-term swings in temperature are to be expected due to variability in circulation patterns. This variability can lead to periods of record cold temperatures while long-term trends remain positive. Although the U.S. has experienced periods of much below average temperatures throughout the past century, temperatures have risen approximately 1 F since 1900.

During the same period global temperatures have increased at a rate near 1.1 F/century. Global temperatures in 2000 are expected to be similar to those recorded in 1999, the 5th warmest year since records began in 1880. The only years warmer were 1998, 1997, 1995, and 1990. The ten warmest years on record have all occurred since 1983.

Note to Editors: Maps showing preliminary data will be online on Jan. 5 at: