The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released its analysis of the past winter today and the assessment for South Carolina? Near normal. The statewide average turned out to be the 66th coldest and 65th wettest winter on record. The ranking was based on 120 years of data.
Don’t let the averages fool you. This was anything but a normal winter. The average does not do justice to the character of the winter we just experienced. The weather pattern for much of this area has been one of one extreme to another and this has been the pattern since late October.
We also had the worst winter storm in at least a decade with more damage to the forest than since Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The storm produced twice the number of power outages than occurred with the 2004 winter storm.
This was the 34th coldest winter on record for the U.S. in the past 120 years. Here again there were significant differences. It was the coldest winter in recent memory for parts of the Midwest, but the warmest winter on record for California. There were significant snowstorms, but it was the driest winter on record for southern California.
It is significant that it turned out to be the coldest winter since 1979 for the Upper Midwest. This led to greater ice cover on the Great Lakes. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), ice cover on North America’s Great Lakes peaked at 88.42% on Feb. 12-13 – a percentage not recorded since 1994. The ice extent has surpassed 80% just five times in four decades. The average maximum ice extent since 1973 is just over 50%.
|A time series for average winter temperatures in the Upper Midwest 1895-2013. Click on the image for a larger view. Image Credit: NOAA/NCDC.|
So, what can we say about this past winter? Goodbye and good riddance. It will take some time for the Upper Midwest to thaw. The rainy season, what little there was, is coming to an end for California and it will be a hot, dry summer.
For South Carolina there is the prospect for a late freeze due to the current weather pattern. It would be prudent to wait until mid-April before planting any tender plants. However, the outlook calls for a quick warm-up during the spring and a hot summer ahead. Winter may be a fading memory soon. People will be asking “when is it going to cool off?” once we get to the heat of summer.