January was 4th Warmest, 5th Driest on Record, NOAA Finds

Despite freezing temperatures that swept across much of the eastern United States, last month was one of the hottest and driest since 1880.

Workers drill for water for a farmer on Feb. 6, 2014 near Bakersfield, Calif. Now in its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, and possibly the worst in the past 500 years.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found Thursday, Feb. 20, that January, in fact, marked one of the driest months on record for the contiguous United States.

Workers drill for water for a farmer on Feb. 6, 2014, near Bakersfield, Calif. Now in its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, and possibly the worst in the past 500 years.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found Thursday, Feb. 20, that January, in fact, marked one of the driest months on record for the contiguous United States. 

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Believe it or not, last month was the warmest January since 2007 and the fourth warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

It also marked the driest month for the contiguous United States since 2003, and the fifth driest since records started being kept in 1880.

The global average temperature for both land and ocean surfaces was 54.8 degrees last month, about 1.17 degrees above the 20th-century global average.

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Notably, while “below-normal” and “much-below-normal” freezing temperatures swept across the eastern half of the United States, warm temperatures “engulfed” much of west, as well as Australia, Argentina, Austria, China, France, Spain and Switzerland, NOAA said.

California, Nevada and Arizona, in particular, also saw temperatures “much-above-normal.”

Precipitation, meanwhile, was below normal for more than 30 states, and at record lows for New Mexico, which received just 5 percent of its average January rainfall. The drought, overall, expanded to 37.4 percent of the contiguous United States, up from 31 percent at the beginning of the month.

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Other highlights from the report:

  • About 75 percent of the water in the Great Lakes was frozen over, the largest ice cover since 1996
  • Chicago saw its third-snowiest month on record, receiving 33.7 inches of snow last month
  • Alaska had its third-warmest and eighth-wettest month on record

Visit the NOAA website to read the full report.