The vernal equinox, which marks the official start of Spring for the Northern Hemisphere, may not come until the middle of next Thursday (March 20), but according to meteorologists, this year’s winter ended on February 28. While you may not agree if you live in the Midwest or Northeast and look outside today, meteorological winter occurs from December-February, the three coldest and snowiest months of the year for the contiguous United States.
Thanks to this new handy video from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), you can now watch the crazy winter weather from the last two months unfold in just 64 seconds:
As you can see, there was a stark difference between surface air temperatures in the eastern and western US. While persistent influxes of frigid Arctic air have made it bitterly cold in the eastern US, the western US has experienced a remarkably mild winter, reflected by the frequent appearance of orange and red hues. While Detroit is experiencing its most miserable winter on record, both Las Vegas and Tuscon have seen their warmest winters ever, contributing to the persistent megadrought in the Southwest.
All told, the December-January period was just the 33rd coldest on record for the lower 48 states, and it’s unlikely that the entire December-February period will even break into the top 10 coldest winters on record. And, as NCAR notes, the Arctic spells have been interspersed by periods of unseasonably mild weather. Baltimore saw its mildest winter night on record, while it reached a balmy 63°F on December 21 in Cleveland.
So while it’s been cold as hell for those of us east of the Rockies, things could have been a whole lot worse.