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ANNUAL SUMMARY for 2003 Most Recent 12 Months

US Percent Area Very Wet/Dry/Warm/Cold

National Overview:

Temperatures across most of the country were warmer than average for December 2003. The exception was the Southeast where 6 states were significantly cooler than the long-term mean. The contiguous nation ranked 21st warmest in 109 years of record-keeping.

The precipitation signal was more mixed across the lower 48 states with wetter than average conditions extending across much of the West (except the extreme Northwest) and the Northeast, while the southern tier of the country was mostly drier than the long-term mean. Averaged across the nation, precipitation was near average ranking 52nd driest out of 109 years.

For additional details, see the Monthly Highlights section. For details and graphics on weather events across the U.S. and the globe go to NCDC's Global Hazards page.

Snow was heavy in parts of the West late in the month with crippling blizzards hitting much of the western mountain states. A heavy snowstorm brought parts of the Northeast to a standstill earlier in December. Details of the 2002/2003 snow season can be found on NCDC's monthly snow summary page.

Indices used to determine the state of ENSO suggest that the Equatorial Pacific was in a neutral ENSO phase and Sea Surface Temperatures were near normal across the equatorial Pacific during December. To see the latest NOAA advisory and typical impacts of a La Nina or El Nino episode for the U.S., go to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Monthly and Seasonal Highlights:


  • December 2003 ranked as the 21st warmest December in the 1895 to present record. The preliminary nationally averaged temperature was 35.9°F (2.2°C), which was 2.4°F (1.3°C) above the long-term mean.
  • December 2003 was near average for precipitation nationally, ranking 52nd driest.

    For tables of national, regional, statewide and selected city data from 1895-present, for December, last 3 months or other periods, please go to the Climate At A Glance page

  • October-December temperature was above average and ranked as the 11th warmest such period in the 1895 to present record. The preliminary nationally averaged temperature for October-December was 45.4°F (7.4°C) which was 1.8°F (1.0°C) above the long-term mean.
  • October-December 2003 was near average for precipitation in 2003, ranking 54th driest in the last 109 years.

  • January-December 2003 ranked as the 20th warmest calendar year in the 1895 to present record. The preliminary nationally averaged temperature was 53.7°F (12.1°C) which was 0.9°F (0.5°C) above the long-term mean.
  • Precipitation was average to slightly above average for January-December leading to a rank of 39th wettest for the last 12 months based on a record of 109 such periods.

    Regional and Statewide:

  • December 2003 ranked much above average temperature for Minnesota, with 24 other states averaging significantly warmer than the mean. Six states in the Southeast had siginificantly below average temperature in December.
  • Alaska temperature will be available on January 9th.
  • December was much wetter than average for 3 states, with only Texas averaging much drier than the long-term mean.
  • For the Hard Red Winter Wheat Belt, preliminary data indicate that precipitation was near average for December. The growing season for the Hard Red Winter Wheat is October-February and precipitation has been below average for the growing season so far.
  • The 3 month period, October-December, was much warmer than average for 4 states and warmer than average for all regions except the Southeast. No state averaged significantly cooler than the long term mean.
  • October-December 2003 was especially wet for states in the Northeast, with the Northeast region ranking 7th wettest October-December on record. Maine and Vermont also had thier 2nd wettest October-December on record.
  • The last 12 months were record warm for New Mexico, with all western regions ranking 2nd warmest year on record. States averaging cooler than the long-term mean were confined to the Southeast and Northeast.
  • The last 12 months were record wet for Dry conditons prevailed across the Midwest with New Mexico having its 5th driest year on record.

See NCDC's Monthly Extremes web-page for weather and climate records for the month of December.

An in-depth annual review of U.S. climate in 2003 is available at:

It should be emphasized that all of the temperature and precipitation ranks and values are based on preliminary data. The ranks will change when the final data are processed, but will not be replaced on these pages. Graphics based on final data are available on this page: National Temperature and Precipitation Maps

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Monthly National Climate Report for December 2003, published online January 2004, retrieved on September 26, 2022 from