January Recap - Warm and Dry for Most of the Nation

news image
Special Stories
11 Feb 2021 2:00 AM
[Temperatures in January 2021 compared to the 1981-2010 average, with cooler-than-average areas in blue, and warmer-than-average areas in red. From NOAA Climate] [Written by NOAA] The U.S. rang in the new year with an unusually mild January 2021 that tied with 1923 for ninth-warmest January on record. Warmth was felt coast to coast with 48 contiguous states seeing above-average temperatures for the month.

This winter’s mild temperatures also brought scant ice coverage to the Great Lakes in January, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.  Here are more highlights from NOAA’s latest monthly U.S. climate report:

Climate by the numbers

January 2021 temperature and precipitation

The average January temperature across the contiguous U.S. was 34.6 degrees F (4.5 degrees above the 20th-century average), which tied with 1923 for ninth-warmest January in the 127-year record.

Above-average temperatures covered much of the West, northern and central Plains, Great Lakes and Northeast. North Dakota and South Dakota had their third- and fifth-warmest Januarys on record, respectively.

January precipitation for the contiguous U.S. was 2.01 inches (0.30 of an inch below average), which placed the month among the driest third of the record.

Below-average precipitation occurred across much of the Rockies, Northern Tier, Great Lakes, parts of the South and the Northeast. Meanwhile, portions of the West Coast, central and southern Plains, and parts of the Southeast had above-average precipitation.

Great Lakes ice cover

Only 2.4% of the entire Great Lakes surface was covered by ice on January 24, the smallest amount of coverage on this date in the past 48 years.

Peak ice coverage is expected to span only 30% of the surface sometime between mid-February and early March 2021. The amount of ice covering the Lakes during the peak is usually around 53%.

More notable climate events for the month

  • Alaska was quite mild: January’s average temperature was 11.0 degrees F, 8.8 degrees warmer than average, making it the warmest January for Alaska since 2016 and 13th warmest overall. Warm temperatures also contributed to the ninth-lowest Bering Sea ice extent for January observed in the last 43 years.

  • Drought improved, but just marginally: According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, approximately 45.8% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought by the end of January, just 3% less than at the end of December 2020. Improvements occurred across portions of the central Plains, Deep South, Southwest and parts of the West Coast. Hawaii also saw a 7% reduction in its drought.

Edited for WeatherNation by Mace Michaels
All Weather News
More
Severe Weather Tuesday From Ozarks to Great Lakes

Severe Weather Tuesday From Ozarks to Great Lakes

A powerful low-pressure system running into r

27 Feb 2024 4:00 AM
Record Warmth to Snow in the Plains

Record Warmth to Snow in the Plains

A powerful frontal system is sweeping across

27 Feb 2024 3:50 AM
High Fire Danger for Central U.S.

High Fire Danger for Central U.S.

Extremely low dewpoints, gusty winds, and dry

27 Feb 2024 3:45 AM
Record Breaking Warmth Across the US

Record Breaking Warmth Across the US

A high-pressure system across the central Uni

27 Feb 2024 3:30 AM
Wild Temp Swings & Snow for Colorado

Wild Temp Swings & Snow for Colorado

Colorado's Front Range is known for some pret

27 Feb 2024 3:30 AM
Wet Weather Wednesday for the East Coast

Wet Weather Wednesday for the East Coast

The same system moving through the Midwest wi

27 Feb 2024 2:00 AM
Leap Day: 8 Things You Didn't Know

Leap Day: 8 Things You Didn't Know

A leap year is every four years and adds one

26 Feb 2024 4:00 PM