Meteorological winter registers in warmest third on record for US

Winter Weather

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The official end to winter isn’t until March 20, however, with the seasons changing and daylight lasting longer, let’s take a look back at how cold it was for the United States.

The time frame we are focusing on is December through February, otherwise known as meteorological winter. For the country as a whole, this three-month period ranked in the warmest third of winters on record, which covers the past 127 years.

The meteorological winter average (December–February) was 33.6 degrees, which is 1.4 degrees above average, ranking this winter in the warmest third of all winter records kept.

February itself featured snow and cold as far south as the U.S./Mexican border, with snow blanketing the Gulf Coast states. As a result, February 2021 had an average temperature of 30.6 degrees for the contiguous U.S, which is 3.2 degrees below the 20th century average.

The month also ranked as the 19th coldest February on record, and it was the coldest for the United States in more than three decades, since February 1989.

In Southern New England, we managed to stay to the east of the coldest arctic air last month. The dome of frigid air settled in across the Midwest and Deep South due to a dig in the jet stream, or what we call a “trough.”

When you think of the word trough, picture the jet stream shaped like the letter ‘U’ with cold air filling the space.

Troughs are typically associated with more stormy weather, where as “ridges” are more tranquil weather.

When you think of the word ridge, picture the jet stream shaped like the letter ‘N’ with warm air filling the space.

Now put those two ideas side by side across the U.S. and you can get an idea of how the jet stream flowed during February.

Notice how here in New England we saw above average temperatures. That’s because we were in the part of ridging which allowed on-and-off days of milder air to move in.

These are just some of the key weather events that occurred over this three-month period. Perhaps the most significant to note was the harsh cold and snow across the Plains and Deep South.

As we head towards the end of winter and start of spring, we’re in a more transitional weather pattern. In other words, a more general west-to-east flow with less drastic temperature changes. We’ll see days of cold but also days of warmth as the balance continues.

Be sure to connect with 12 News Meteorologist Steven Matregrano on social media:

Facebook – Steven Matregrano WPRI
Twitter – smatregranoWPRI
Instagram – smatregrano

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