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Last Month was One of Coldest Octobers in U.S. History


The October 2009 average temperature for the contiguous United States was the third coolest on record for that month according to NOAA’s State of the Climate report issued today. Based on data going back to 1895, the monthly National Climatic Data Center analysis is part of the suite of climate services provided by NOAA.

The average October temperature of 50.8 degrees F was 4.0 degrees F below the 20th Century average. Preliminary data also reveals this was the wettest October on record with average precipitation across the contiguous United States reaching 4.15 inches, 2.04 inches above the 1901-2000 average.

U.S. Temperature Highlights

• October 2009 was marked by an active weather pattern that reinforced unseasonably cold air behind a series of cold fronts. Temperatures were below normal in all regions with the exception of the Southeast which had near normal temperatures for the month.

• Oklahoma recorded its coldest October on record while the month ranked in the top five for Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

• Florida was the only state to record an above normal temperature average in October. It was the sixth consecutive month that Florida’s temperature was above normal.

U.S. Precipitation Highlights

• The nationwide average precipitation of 4.15 inches nearly doubled the long-term average. This was the first month since December 2007 that no region in the United States recorded below normal precipitation.

• Iowa, Arkansas, and Louisiana recorded their wettest October while only Florida, Utah, and Arizona had below normal precipitation.

• Moderate-to-exceptional drought covered 12 percent of the contiguous United States, the second-smallest drought footprint of the decade, based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Major drought episodes in California and South Texas improved significantly. Drought conditions, however, emerged across much of Arizona.

• About 45 percent of the contiguous United States had moderately-to-extremely wet conditions at the end of October, according to the Palmer Index. This is the largest such footprint since February 2005.

Other Highlights

• Two major snow storms hit the Upper Midwest and the western Plains states. By month’s end, 13.6 percent of the nation was under snow cover, according to NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center.

• Cheyenne, Wyo., tallied 28 inches of snow in October, making this the city’s snowiest October on record. North Platte, Neb., recorded 30.3 inches of snow, making October 2009 the snowiest month ever for the city.

• October saw below-normal fire activity, with a total of 3,207 fires that burned about 158,000 acres, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

NCDC’s preliminary reports, which assess the current state of the climate, are released soon after the end of each month. These analyses are based on preliminary data, which are subject to revision. Additional quality control is applied to the data when late reports are received several weeks after the end of the month and as increased scientific methods improve NCDC’s processing algorithms.

Scientists, researchers, and leaders in government and industry use NCDC’s monthly reports to help track trends and other changes in the world's climate. The data have a wide range of practical uses, from helping farmers know what to plant, to guiding resource managers with critical decisions about water, energy and other vital assets.


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