February was record-breaking for many cities in the United States, but in thoroughly opposite ways. For as much as the month was brutally cold in the eastern part of the country, it was markedly warm in the West.
“The statistics bring to mind early 1977,” Weather Underground‘s Bob Henson said, “when snowflakes fell for the first and only time on Miami Beach’s art deco buildings while skiers in the Rockies found themselves hunting in vain for fresh powder.”
Dozens of cities east of the Mississippi experienced their coldest February in decades, including Chicago; Cleveland; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Hartford, Conn.; and Portland, Maine.
With an average temperature of just 14.2 degrees, it was the coldest month — out of any month — on record for Worcester, Mass., which has accumulated more than 110 inches of snow this winter. Records for coldest month overall were set in Bangor, Maine, where the average temperature was 6.1 degrees; Marquette, Mich.; and Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y.
What’s most impressive about these records is how much they surpassed the old — 3 degrees in Syracuse and 2.3 in Bangor, which is a landslide in terms of monthly records, which typically are broken by fractions of degrees.
And, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, the state of Maine, with an average temperature of 2.5 degrees, also set a record low.
But out West, February’s story was entirely different. A persistently strong ridge of high pressure over the warm eastern Pacific Ocean and western North America pushed temperatures to unparalleled levels from Arizona to Washington.
It was the warmest winter month (December, January, February) on record in San Francisco; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Reno, Nev.; Las Vegas; and Salt Lake City. The average temperature for February in Salt Lake City was 43.9 degrees, which broke the old record of 42.9 set in 1907.
Farther north, it was the fifth-least-snowy February on record for Anchorage, where just 1.1 inches of snow fell in the entire month. It only snowed twice. Anchorage could be looking at its least-snowy season on record, if it manages to stay below 9.9 inches of accumulation through the end of March.