LOS ANGELES - Last month’s dangerous winter storms in the United States caused record subzero temperatures, power outages for millions of homeowners and led to more than two dozen deaths.
It also brought one of the coldest Februarys in decades.
During February, the average temperature was 30.6 degrees Farenheight — 3.2 degrees below the 20th-century average. This ranks as the 19th coldest February in the 127-year period on record and the coldest February since 1989, according to a new climate report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
According to NOAA, the main driver for the weather across the U.S. during February was a strongly negative Arctic Oscillation (AO) during the first half of the month.
"This may have been the result of a sudden stratospheric warming event that occurred in January. The negative AO pattern favors a cold air outbreak over the central U.S., often referred to as a ‘polar vortex.’ A blocking pattern disrupted the jet stream, which prolonged the duration of this cold event," NOAA wrote.
Below-average temperatures impacted a large portion of the country — from the Northwest to the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. In fact, six states — Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas — ranked among their 10 coldest Februaries on record, NOAA reported. Texas and Illinois ranked their 11th coldest.
"From February 7-21, large areas with temperatures more than 25°F below average were evident from parts of the northern Rockies and Plains to the central Plains. A station near Ely, Minnesota, bottomed out at −50°F on February 13 and 14," NOAA wrote.
Based on preliminary data by NOAA, 62 all-time daily cold minimum temperature records were broken between Feb. 11-16 and 69 all-time daily cold maximum temperature records were broken between Feb. 15-16.
Texas’ historic winter storm
Several cities in Texas were impacted by February’s inclement weather.
According to NOAA, cities including Austin and Waco broke records for the longest freezing streak with temperatures below freezing between six to nine consecutive days from Feb. 10-19.
"Much of Texas endured the coldest air since December 23, 1989, during this period. Every county across Texas was under a Winter Storm Warning in mid-February. Wind chill values were below zero as far south as the Rio Grande River and into northeastern Mexico," NOAA said.
Winter storms and a blast of frigid air from the Arctic left behind record-setting low temperatures and icy conditions across the Lone Star State.
Millions of Texans were also without power amid subfreezing temperatures.
Alaska breaks records
Alaska also broke records, ranking among the coldest one-third of the 97-year period of record for the state.
In addition, Alaska had the coldest February on record in 22 years.
"The monthly high temperature for Anchorage reached a mere 30°F, making February 2021 the first month since December 1998 with all daily high temperatures remaining below freezing," NOAA wrote.
While the northern and eastern two-thirds of the state experienced below-average temperatures in February, the southwestern portion of the state, including the Aleutians, had temperatures near or above average for the month.
In fact, Alaska’s December - February average temperature was four degrees above the long-term average, ranking it among the warmest one-third on record.
Meteorological Winter warmer than average
Even as icy Arctic air dominated the nation, the overall winter (December - February) average temperature was 1.4 degrees above average, ranking it in the warmest third of the winter record.
In fact, above-average temperatures were observed across parts of the West, Southeast and New England.
According to NOAA, Maine ranked the third warmest and California ranked 12th warmest for the three-month period.
Meanwhile, the winter precipitation total was 6.10 inches, which was 0.69 inches below average, and ranked among the driest one-third of the 126-year period of record.