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Replay this season’s epic winter in 90 seconds

BY Elizabeth Shell  March 26, 2014 at 5:26 PM EDT


Three months of satellite imagery from NOAA plus a handful of notable weather events gives us a visual overview at what this winter looked like — in under 90 seconds.

By all accounts, it should be spring. March 20 marked the spring equinox. Meteorologists consider March 1 to be the first day of spring. The solar spring began way back in February. But in parts of the U.S., winter is making an encore appearance.

Tuesday and Wednesday brought another bout of wintery mix across the East coast, including possible blizzard conditions in New England and Canada, up to three inches of snow along the New York City corridor down through D.C. and into North Carolina, and cold temperatures and high wind gusts.

We took a look back at the winter that was (and for some of us, still is), a study of extremes: cold and snowy in the Midwest, hot and dry in the West.

If it felt like there was more snow than normal this winter, you might be right. Residents of Billings, Mont., had nearly 3.5 times the normal amount of snow land in their yards. NOAA identified “normal” snowfall for 130 cities and compared those rates to this winter’s snowfall. “Normal” in this case represents the 30-year average from 1981 to 2010. Below are 10 cities that had at least double the normal amount of snow this winter season.

snowfall-650

It was the 34th coldest winter on record overall and the warmest in California, according to data released recently by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The dichotomy of what happened in the East and the West really stood out to me as the story of the winter,” said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “We had extremes on both ends of the spectrum. ”

Dog in snow

Photo by Tim Robberts / Getty Images

In Chicken, Alaska, the mercury plunged to a whopping -58 degrees Fahrenheit on Dec. 26, marking the nation’s coldest temperature reading in 2013. On average, temperatures hovered just above 31 degrees Fahrenheit in the continental U.S.

And despite the heavy snow dumps in the East and North, this winter was the driest in more than a decade with an average 5.69 inches of precipitation produced. NOAA follows the meteorological spring season, starting on Dec. 1 and running through the end of February.

Winter had several big dumps of school-canceling, commute-halting snow and ice. The Feb. 11-14 storm hammered an unprepared South and left a large swath of bitter weather from Georgia up through the Northeast. One school district in Kentucky had at least 33 snow days.

Detroit had its snowiest winter ever. Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin had top-10 cold winters, and more than 90 percent of the Great Lakes froze, making it the second largest ice cover on record.

Meanwhile, Arizona and Alaska had their fourth- and eighth-warmest winters on record.

The unusually warm and dry winter could spell future trouble for California, which is already dealing with drought.

“California broke their record by quite a bit — by almost an entire degree,” Crouch said. “One degree doesn’t sound like much, but for that spatial scale and time frame, beating that record by almost a degree is pretty significant.”

“They rely quite heavily on snow melt to replenishes the (water) reservoirs. As of March 1, a lot of the snowpack across California was 50 percent below normal,” Crouch said, adding that winter is the state’s wet season. “The chance of them making up those deficits is less and less likely the further we get into the year.”