National Overview

December Extreme Weather/Climate Events

December Highlights

December Temperature

  • The contiguous U.S. average temperature during December was 33.3°F, 0.6°F above average, ranking in the middle third of the 128-year record.
  • Generally, temperatures were above average along much of the Southern Tier, and parts of the Great Lakes and Northeast. Temperatures were below average from the central and northern Plains to the Pacific Northwest.
  • For the month of December, Maine ranked fifth warmest on record. No state experienced a top-10 coldest December.
  • The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during December was 42.8°F, near the 20th century average, ranking in the middle third of the record. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed from the Southwest to Florida and in the Great Lakes and Northeast. Maine ranked ninth warmest on record for daytime temperatures. Daytime temperatures were below average from the West Coast to the northern and central Plains. Washington had their 13th coldest daytime temperatures on record for this period.
  • The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during December was 23.8°F, 1.2°F above the 20th century average, ranking in the middle third of the record. Minimum temperatures were above average from California to Florida as well as in parts of the Great Lakes and Northeast. Maine ranked fourth warmest while Texas ranked 10th warmest on record for December nighttime temperatures. Nighttime temperatures were below average from the Pacific Northwest to the northern and central Plains. No state experienced a top-10 coldest December on record for nighttime temperatures.
  • The Alaska statewide December temperature was 6.9°F, 3.2°F above the long-term average. This ranked in the warmest third of the 98-year period of record for the state. Temperatures were above average across much of northern Alaska, the Aleutians and parts of the western coast. Much of interior Alaska experienced near-average conditions while areas in southeast Alaska, including the Panhandle, experienced below-average temperatures for the month.
  • Based on data received on January 7, there were 3,646 record warm daily high (1174) and low (2,472) temperature records tied or broken during December. This was slightly greater than the 3,257 record cold daily high (1,864) and low (1,393) temperature records.
  • Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during December was 83 percent of average and the 38th-lowest value in the 128-year period of record.

December Precipitation

  • The December precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.71 inches, 0.36 inch above average, ranking in the wettest third of the 128-record.
  • Precipitation was above average across portions of the West, northern Plains, western Great Lakes, southern Mississippi Valley and in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Precipitation was below average across parts of the eastern Great Lakes, Southeast as well as portions of the southern and central Plains.
  • North Dakota ranked wettest on record, South Dakota ranked second wettest and Minnesota ranked fourth wettest December on record, while Ohio ranked 16th driest on record for the month.
  • Monthly precipitation averaged across the state of Alaska was 2.92 inches, 0.15 inch below average, ranking in the middle third of the 98-year record. Conditions were wetter than average for most of Alaska with the Central Interior and Cook Inlet regions near average and below average precipitation observed from the Northeast Gulf to the Panhandle.
  • According to the January 3 U.S. Drought Monitor, about 46.3% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down about 11.3% from the end of November. Abnormal dryness or drought conditions expanded or intensified across portions of the Great Lakes, Southeast, and parts of the central and southern Plains and Puerto Rico. Drought contracted or was eliminated across portions of the West, northern and southern Plains, Mississippi and Ohio valleys, Hawaii, and parts of the Southeast.

Other Notable Events

  • On December 21-25, a powerful arctic front wreaked havoc across much of the nation, bringing heavy rains, snow, ice and high winds, and sending temperatures plummeting at record speed. The National Weather Service reported that some 240 million people - more than two-thirds of the U.S. population - were under winter weather warnings and advisories on December 23.
    • Dillon, Montana reported a temperature drop of 26°F in three minutes.
    • Casper, Wyoming reported a temperature drop from 27°F to 8°F in eight minutes and to -6°F an hour later.
    • Cheyenne, Wyoming reported a temperature change from 43°F to 3°F in 30 minutes — their largest half-hour drop on record.
    • Denver, Colorado reported a temperature drop from 42°F to 18°F in seven minutes, cooling to 5°F an hour later with a wind chill of -23. The 37-degree one hour temperature drop is likely a new record for the city.
  • On December 5, Utqiagvik, Alaska’s northernmost community, reported a high temperature of 40°F – this shattered the all-time record high for December by 6°F and is the warmest that region has seen on record from late October to late April.
  • On December 13, the nation’s largest water supplier, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, declared a drought emergency for all of Southern California, clearing the way for potential mandatory water restrictions early next year that could impact up to 19 million people.
  • December had several notable storms that brought severe thunderstorms and tornadoes to portions of the United States:
    • On December 13-14, a tornado outbreak occurred across portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi. A total of 21 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service, including an EF-3 tornado, which carved a 9.1 mile path with maximum winds of 140 mph.
    • On December 14-15, a tornado outbreak, including an EF-2 tornado, occurred over parts of Florida and southern Georgia.
  • On December 17, a powerful storm brought up to two feet of snow across parts of the Northeast, downing tree limbs and knocking power out to more than 180,000 customers.
  • On December 19, a Kona Low system brought high surf, strong winds, heavy rains and even hail to portions of Hawaii, flooding streets, downing trees and powerlines, and bringing blizzard-like conditions to higher elevations. The summit of Mauna Kea reported 10-foot snow drifts and gusts over 100 mph.
  • The wreckage of a ship that first set sail 120 years ago can now be observed as the Great Salt Lake water level dropped to historic lows during the month of December.

Monthly Outlook

  • According to the December 31 One-Month Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, the majority of the eastern U.S., southern Plains and Alaska, including parts of the northern Plains to Washington State favor above-normal monthly mean temperatures in January, with the greatest odds in the Northeast and south-central Alaska. The best chances for below-normal temperatures are forecasted in portions of the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin. Much of the West Coast to central Rockies, from the Great Lakes to the Lower Mississippi Valley as well as portions of northwestern and southwestern Alaska are favored to see above-normal monthly total precipitation. Below-normal precipitation is most likely to occur in portions of the southern and northern Plains. Drought is likely to persist across much of the Plains and in portions of the Rockies. Some improvement and/or drought removal is likely to occur from California to the central Rockies, across portions of the Great Lakes to southern Mississippi Valley, coastal Carolinas, Gulf of Mexico and Hawaii. Drought development is likely across portions of southern Texas.
  • According to the One-Month Outlook issued on January 1 from the National Interagency Fire Center, Alaska, Hawaii and the majority of the U.S. are expected to have near-normal wildland fire potential while portions of southern Texas and along the Georgia coastline into northeast Florida are expected to have above normal significant wildland fire potential during January.

Regional Highlights

These regional summaries were provided by the six Regional Climate Centers and reflect conditions in their respective regions. These six regions differ spatially from the nine climatic regions of the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Northeast Region (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)

December featured variable temperatures, above-normal precipitation, and a major storm, particularly in western New York.

  • Temperature

The Northeast’s December average temperature of 30.2 degrees F was 0.4 degrees F warmer than normal. State average temperatures for December ranged from 1.8 degrees F below normal in Maryland to 4.4 degrees F above normal in Maine, with six states wrapping up December on the warm side of normal. This December was among the 20 warmest Decembers for three states: Maine, sixth warmest; New Hampshire, 17th warmest; and Vermont, 18th warmest.

  • Precipitation

Precipitation during December in the Northeast totaled 4.12 inches, 109 percent of normal. All states except West Virginia saw above-normal precipitation, with amounts ranging from 69 percent of normal in West Virginia to 128 percent of normal in New Hampshire, its 19th wettest December.

  • Drought

The U.S. Drought Monitor from December 6 showed less than 1 percent of the Northeast in severe drought, 2 percent in moderate drought, and 9 percent as abnormally dry. Above-normal precipitation during December alleviated severe drought in northeastern Massachusetts and eased moderate drought in all locations except part of Long Island, New York. Abnormal dryness generally contracted in areas from Maryland to New Hampshire but was introduced or expanded slightly in interior areas such as central New York and northwestern Pennsylvania. Impacts were generally limited to below-normal streamflow and/or groundwater levels. The U.S. Drought Monitor from December 27 showed less than 1 percent of the Northeast in moderate drought and 9 percent as abnormally dry.

  • Notable Weather

A complex storm system brought a mix of precipitation types to the Northeast from December 15 to 17. Higher elevations of northern New York and northern New England accumulated the greatest snowfall totals of 24 inches or more, while ice accumulations of 0.50 inches or more were seen in western Maryland and northern West Virginia. The heavy, wet snow and ice led to multiple accidents and downed tree branches and power lines, with over 60,000 customers in New Hampshire losing power, some for several days. Coastal areas generally saw rain, with the greatest totals around 3 inches. Minor to moderate coastal flooding led to road closures in parts of New Jersey and New York’s Long Island. On December 22 and 23, a rapidly-intensifying storm swept through the Northeast, bringing a mix of precipitation types, powerful winds, coastal flooding, and eventually frigid temperatures. On December 22, as a warm front lifted through the region, many areas saw a transition from snow to ice to rain. When the storm’s powerful cold front crossed the region on December 23, winds whipped and temperatures plummeted within hours as Arctic air poured in behind the front. For instance, the temperature in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, plunged 32 degrees F in three hours, from 40 degrees F at 5 A.M. to 8 degrees F at 8 A.M. More than a dozen major climate sites recorded one of their 10 coldest high temperatures for the month of December on December 24, with highs in the single digits or teens in many locations. The greatest precipitation totals topped 3 inches in parts of Maine, New Hampshire, and southeastern New York. Snowfall was limited to 6 inches or less in most areas; however, unusual ocean-effect snow amounts of up to 7.5 inches were deposited on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Wind gusts of 30 to 60 mph were common throughout the region, with gusts of 65 mph or greater in parts of New England and western New York. The strong winds removed shingles, peeled back roofs, and downed trees and power lines, which blocked roads and landed on houses and vehicles. In part of Piscataquis County, Maine, more than 300 trees were downed, resulting in extended road closures. Hundreds of thousands of customers across the Northeast lost power, leaving people without heat in frigid temperatures. Wind chills plummeted as low as -45 degrees F, with the lowest readings in eastern West Virginia. Several power companies asked customers to conserve energy as increased usage and intense weather strained grid capacity. Coastal flooding occurred from Maryland to Maine, with water entering houses, submerging roads, and damaging property such as docks. Multiple gauges in New Jersey recorded moderate to major water levels. For instance, preliminary data indicates the gauge at Sandy Hook reached major flood stage at 8.89 feet, its highest recorded stage since Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 and tying as its 10th highest crest (with records back to at least the 1940s). Travel was difficult, with numerous accidents and cancelled or delayed flights, on some of the busiest travel days of the year. The passage of the cold front also triggered a massive lake-effect event that lasted five days, from December 23 to 27, east of Lakes Erie and Ontario in New York. The greatest storm snow totals reached 51.9 inches at the Buffalo Airport in Erie County and 50.8 inches in Jefferson County. Buffalo saw 22.3 inches of snow on December 23, its fourth all-time snowiest day since 1884, with a precipitation amount (rain and liquid equivalent of snow and ice) of 1.98 inches making it the site’s wettest December day on record. Buffalo’s two-day snowfall total for December 23 to 24 equaled 40.2 inches, its third largest two-day snowfall on record. Wind gusts of 70 mph or higher were recorded in multiple locations in western New York including gusts of 79 mph in Lackawanna and 72 mph at the Buffalo Airport. Blizzard conditions were recorded in Buffalo for around 36 hours, resulting in many hours of zero visibility. Falling trees and frozen substations knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers in Erie County. Travel bans were enacted in Erie and Jefferson counties, and the Buffalo Airport was shut down for several days. Conditions were so intense that hundreds of people became stranded on roads or in unheated homes and required rescuing; however, even first responders got stuck and needed to be rescued. There were at least 41 deaths in Erie County, likely making it one of the deadliest weather events for the county in recent history. This December was Buffalo’s third snowiest on record with 64.7 inches of snow. Between November and December, the site accumulated 101.6 inches of snow, more than it typically sees in an entire snow season, 95.4 inches.

  • For more information, please visit the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • Midwest Region (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)

    • Temperature

    The average December temperature for the Midwest was 25.4 degrees F (-3.7 degrees C), which was 2.3 degrees F (1.3 degrees C) below the 1991-2020 normal. Average temperatures were below normal for most of the region, with only northeast Michigan being above normal. Preliminary statewide average temperatures ranged from 4.4 degrees F (2.4 degrees C) below normal in Minnesota to 0.4 degrees (0.2 degrees C) above normal in Michigan. Active weather patterns throughout the month meant that temperatures were highly variable and wide-ranging from week to week across the region. Notably, subzero temperatures were widespread from December 22-25 (more on that in the Winter Storm section below) followed by a rapid warm-up December 30-31 with temperatures reaching into the 50s and 60s.

    • Precipitation

    December precipitation totaled 2.31 inches (59 mm) for the Midwest, which was 0.12 inches (3 mm) above normal, or 106 percent of normal. Precipitation was 100-300 percent of normal in the northwest, declining to 50-75 percent of normal in the east. Preliminary statewide precipitation totals ranged from 1.15 inches (29 mm) below normal in Ohio to 0.99 inches (25 mm) above normal in Minnesota. Minnesota had its 2nd wettest December dating back to 1895. Numerous stations across Minnesota had a top 10 wettest December, including Duluth which ranked the 6th wettest since records began in 1871. Spencer, Iowa had its wettest December on record going back to 1895. Conversely, Cleveland, Ohio had its 11th driest December dating back to 1871.

    • Drought

    Drought conditions began to subside in December, with the total area affected by drought declining 7 percent across the month. The most notable improvements were in southern Minnesota and at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. However, while showing improvement, both of those locations remained in moderate to severe drought. By month’s end, 37 percent of the region was in drought and 30 percent was abnormally dry. The most severe drought conditions were in northwest Iowa, southern Minnesota, and southeast Michigan. All states had at least some areas abnormally dry or in drought.

    • Snow

    December snowfall totaled 15-50 inches (38.1-127 cm) across the upper Midwest, with southeast Michigan seeing less than 10 inches (25.4 cm). Across the lower Midwest, snowfall ranged from less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) up to 5 inches (12.7 cm), with the greatest totals in the Ohio River Valley. The upper Midwest was affected by numerous snow-producing weather systems that resulted in above-normal snowfall and multiple lake-effect snow events. A powerful storm brought 10-30 inches (25.4-76.2 cm) of heavy snow to northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin from December 13-17. Duluth, Minnesota had its snowiest December dating back to 1884 with 44.9 inches (114 cm).

    • Notable Weather

    Winter Storm: December 22-25: An intense Arctic cold front traversed the central US December 22-25 blanketing the region with frigid temperatures, high winds, and snow. Air temperatures plunged sharply and rapidly, with one-day temperature changes of 20-40 degrees F (11-22 degrees C) across the lower Midwest. Dangerous wind chills from -20 to -40 degrees F (-28.9 to -40 degrees C) gripped the Midwest as winds gusted 30-50 mph (48-80 kph) and higher. Chicago and Des Moines clocked over 80 consecutive hours with subzero wind chills. In northwest Minnesota, wind gusts approached hurricane strength with a 74 mph (119 kph) gust recorded in Grand Marais. While snowfall across the lower Midwest was a modest 1-5 inches (2.5-12.7 cm), high winds caused extensive blowing and drifting that halted ground and air transportation for days. Whiteout conditions caused a 50-vehicle crash on the Ohio Turnpike on December 23 that killed four people. Ten additional weather-related fatalities across four Midwestern states have been reported by media. Localized power outages, broken water mains, and frozen pipes were reported across the region. Across the upper Midwest, snow totals ranged from 3-10 inches (7.6-25.4 cm), with 20-30 inches (50.8-76.2 cm) in lake-effected areas of northern Michigan.

    • For further details on the weather and climate events in the Midwest, see the weekly and monthly reports at the Midwest Climate Watch page.

    Southeast Region (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)

    • Temperature

    Mean monthly temperatures were variable across the Southeast in December. Above average temperatures were found across much of the southern tier of the region, particularly across Alabama and northwest Florida, where some locations were as much as 3 to 4 degrees F (1.6 to 2.2 degrees C) above average for the month. In contrast, below average temperatures were found across the northern tier of the region, particularly across central North Carolina and southern Virginia, where some locations were as much as 3 to 4 degrees F (1.5 to 2.2 degrees C) below average for the month. Mean monthly temperatures were near average across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The warmest weather of the month occurred from the 6th to the 8th, as many locations recorded daily mean temperatures between 10 and 20 degrees F (5.6 and 11.1 degrees C) above average. Maximum temperatures reached 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C) as far north as central Alabama, Georgia, and coastal sections of the Carolinas. Temperatures were also unseasonably warm at the end of the month, with maximum values reaching 70 degrees F (21.1 degrees C) as far north as southern Virginia between the 29th and 31st. The biggest story with respect to temperature was the Arctic outbreak that struck the region (including Florida) for several days between the 23rd and 27th of the month. Many locations recorded daily mean temperatures between 20 and 35 degrees F (11.0 and 19.5 degrees C) below average. Several long-term stations (i.e., period of record of at least 70 years) recorded their lowest maximum temperature for any December day, including Murphy, NC (11 degrees F (-11.7 degrees C) on the 24th), Gainesville, GA (18 degrees F (-7.8 degrees C) on the 24th), Greensboro, AL (19 degrees F (-7.2 degrees C) on the 24th), and Fort Lauderdale Beach, FL (52 degrees F (11.1 degrees C) on the 26th). Minimum temperatures dropped below freezing as far south as the I-4 corridor in central Florida, while several locations in the southern Appalachians dropped below 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C). Grandfather Mountain, NC dropped to -18 degrees F (-28 degrees C) on the 24th, which tied its 3rd coldest minimum temperature for any December day in a record going back to 1955.

    • Precipitation

    Precipitation was below average across much of the Southeast in December. The greatest deficits (less than 50 percent of normal) were found across central and southern portions of Alabama and Georgia, northeastern Florida, eastern portions of North Carolina, and much of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Jacksonville, FL recorded just 0.25 inches (6.4 mm) of precipitation for the month, which is 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) below average. Columbus, GA recorded its 4th driest December on record (since 1891) with 1.56 inches (41.9 mm) of precipitation. Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas recorded its 5th driest December on record (since 1953) with 0.82 inches (20.8 mm) of precipitation, while St. Croix recorded its 2nd driest December on record (since 1951) with 0.6 inches (15.2 mm) of precipitation. Monthly totals were between 1 and 3 inches (25.4 and 76.2 mm) below average across much of Puerto Rico. In contrast, precipitation was above average (up to 150 percent of normal) across northern portions of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, central portions of North Carolina, and much of Virginia. In addition, several locations recorded some snowfall, and most of this was associated with the Arctic outbreak during the latter part of the month. Up to 1 inch (25.4 mm) of snow was recorded across central and northern portions of Alabama and Georgia, while trace amounts were recorded across western and central portions of the Carolinas and Virginia. The greatest monthly totals, ranging from 2 to 5 inches (50.8 to 127 mm), were found across the higher elevations of North Carolina and Virginia. On the 15th and 16th of the month, as much as 0.75 inches (19.1 mm) of freezing rain was reported across central and northern portions of Virginia, with lower amounts reported across portions of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. No major damage or casualties were reported, though there were several reports of icy roads and felled trees and power lines. Sleet was also reported along coastal portions of the Carolinas as an upper-level disturbance interacted with a wedge of cold air on the 20th of the month.

    • Drought

    Overall, drought conditions improved slightly across the Southeast region in December. The percentage of the region in at least abnormally dry (D0) conditions declined by about 10 percent, while the percentage of the region in moderate (D1) and severe (D2) drought declined by about 4 percent. Moderate and severe drought persisted across much of the Florida Panhandle as well as southern portions of Alabama, Georgia, and the Delmarva Peninsula. Abnormally dry conditions emerged across the coastal plain of South Carolina and portions of northeast Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Moderate drought also emerged across coastal Georgia and expanded slightly across eastern North Carolina. On the other hand, drought conditions were eliminated across northern Alabama and Georgia and across portions of central Virginia.

    • Agricultre

    Wet weather across parts of Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia in December limited and delayed many field activities, particularly the harvesting of late planted row crops. On the other hand, the precipitation across South Carolina was largely beneficial, particularly for the emergence of winter wheat. Conditions were favorable for many agricultural activities across much of Florida, including the planting and harvesting of sugarcane, citrus, and other fruits and vegetables. However, temperatures during the Arctic outbreak late in the month caused some damage to crops in all states, particularly to uncovered fruits, vegetables, and small grains. The most significant damage was reported across southern Georgia and northern Florida, where crops and livestock were exposed to temperatures in the low to mid-20s F (<0 degrees C) for multiple days. The cold temperatures also prevented cotton bolls from opening and halted the growth of winter wheat. Several cattle deaths were reported in Florida. Poor grazing and forage conditions led to significant supplemental feeding. On the other hand, chill hours for fruits, which were running behind schedule in many places, were mostly caught up by the end of the month. In fact, some blueberry farmers in southern Georgia reported sufficient hours to bloom this spring.

    • Notable Weather

    There were 37 reports of severe weather across the Southeast in December, which is below the median frequency of 48 reports over the period 2000 to 2020 (77 percent of normal). There were eight confirmed tornadoes, which is just below the median frequency of nine (89 percent of normal). These tornadoes were part of a severe weather outbreak that affected the Deep South and Gulf Coast on the 14th and 15th of the month. Two EF-2 tornadoes produced significant tree damage in Washington and Choctaw counties in southwest Alabama. Another EF-2 tornado caused significant damage to trees, mobile homes, and a cotton gin facility in Colquitt County in southern Georgia. An EF-1 tornado caused significant tree and structural damage in Sumter County in southwest Alabama. Some tree and roof damage were reported from an EF-1 tornado in Wakulla County just south of Tallahassee, FL. An EF-0 tornado produced mostly minor damage in nearby Franklin County. Two EF-1 tornadoes were also confirmed in the Tampa Bay area in Pasco, Hernando, and Pinellas Counties. The most significant damage was in Pinellas County, where trees fell on structures and roofing materials were peeled back. Two minor injuries were also reported. There were 24 high wind reports in December, which is below the median frequency of 38 (63 percent of normal). Wind gusts as high as 60 mph (26.8 m/s) were recorded near Mobile, AL during the severe weather outbreak on the 14th. Significant structural damage was reported in the town of Summerdale. Cape Hatteras, NC recorded a 54 mph (24.1 m/s) wind gust from a thunderstorm on the 22nd of the month. Damaging wind gusts between 50 and 60 mph (22.4 and 26.8 m/s) were also reported across all states in the region (except Florida) in the wake of the cold front that ushered in the Arctic air beginning on the 23rd. Numerous power outages were observed across portions of Virginia and the Carolinas. The only hail report in December was in Mobile County, AL where pea sized hail was reported on the 19th of the month. Additionally, there were five rip current fatalities in the Southeast in December, three in Florida and two in Puerto Rico.

    High Plains Region (Information provided by the High Plains Regional Climate Center)

    2022 will be remembered as the year of unusually high winds in the High Plains. After beginning the year with near-record strong winds, the final month brought similar conditions. Early in December, winds gusted over 40 mph (64.4 km/h) in northwestern Kansas. With ongoing significant drought in the area, large amounts of dust were picked up by the strong winds. The blowing dust led to a multi-vehicle accident and unfortunately, one person perished. Winds were not only prevalent at the beginning of the month but also contributed to likely one of the coldest spells on record for the region. A strong cold front moved through on the 21st, with many places dropping 40 degrees F (22.2 degrees C) in under an hour. This arctic air outbreak not only brought cold temperatures but also extreme winds. Wind chills surpassed –70 degrees F (-56.7 degrees C) in Wyoming, while the rest of the region saw wind chills between –40 and –50 degrees F (-40 and –45.6 degrees C) with wind gusts well over 50 mph (80.5 km/h) in some places. Although records are hard to verify, many places likely experienced their record coldest wind chill. This system also brought snow, with much of the region experiencing a white Christmas this year. Several rounds of snow impacted the northern Plains this month, which led Bismarck, North Dakota to observe its 2nd snowiest December. Close to 30 inches (76.2 cm) of snow fell this month, but it was still not enough to surpass the record of 33.3 (84.6 cm) inches set in 2008. Northern Nebraska also benefited from these storms, with Valentine tying the record for its 3rd snowiest month with 22.3 inches (56.6 cm) of snow.

    • Temperature

    The first half of the month began with warmer temperatures, however, things rapidly changed in the back half. A vigorous low-pressure system led to significant temperature drops and record cold. Overall, most of the region ended with below to well below normal temperatures. After enjoying normal to above-normal temperatures for the first part of the month, the region experienced dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills. Many locations experienced record temperature drops on the afternoon of the 21st after a remarkable cold front advanced across the central United States. Cheyenne, Wyoming recorded 40 degrees F (22.2 degrees C) drop in temperature, from 43 degrees F (6.1 degrees C) to 3 degrees F (-16.1 degrees C) in just 30 minutes, beating the previous record of 37 degrees F (20.6 degrees C) in an hour. Temperatures continued to drop, with the thermometer falling a total of 51 degrees F (28.3 degrees C) in two hours. Combined with high winds, dangerous and record wind chills were present across much of the region for the next few days. Temperatures rebounded, with Cheyenne reaching 57 degrees F (13.9 degrees C) on the 27th. This was 82 degrees F (45.6 degrees C) warmer than the low of –25 degrees F (-31.7 degrees C) on the morning of the 22nd.

    • Precipitation

    December precipitation was much above normal for the northern part of the region due to several winter storms, however, the drought-stricken areas along the Front Range of the Rockies and western Kansas missed this beneficial precipitation again. Many locations recorded their top 10 wettest and snowiest months on record. With mounting dryness from the past several months, these winter storms could not have been more beneficial. Northern Nebraska benefited greatly, with Chadron and Valentine observing their record-wettest month. Valentine also recorded their 3rd snowiest month and nearly broke the record, with 22.3 inches (56.64 cm) of snow. Across the Dakotas, numerous locations observed near-record precipitation and snowfall. Pierre and Sisseton ranked in the top 5 wettest and snowiest, while the majority of South Dakota ranked in the top 10 wettest. Bismarck, North Dakota followed up a very snowy November by recording their 2nd December, with 30 inches (76.2 cm) of snow falling. At the beginning of December, much of the region observed near record low for soil moisture. While the southern part of the region missed out, much of the region greatly benefited from the precipitation.

    • Drought

    The record to near-record wetness across the northern part of the region eased drought conditions. In the southern portions, the precipitation deficits continued to increase and further worsen the situation. Overall, there were minimal changes in D0 to D4 (abnormally dry to exceptional drought conditions). The multiple winter storms led to large-scale improvements in the Dakotas. South Dakota observed a 26 percent decrease in D1-D4 (moderate to exceptional drought) after multiple locations in the state were in the top 10 snowiest December. The area coverage of extreme drought (D3) was reduced by almost 10 percent and is now limited to a small portion in the southeastern part of the state. While D4 was trimmed slightly in southeastern Kansas, it was expanded in the northwestern part of the state and is now connected to the area of D4 in southwestern Nebraska.

    Southern Region (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)

    An outbreak of tornadoes and strong cold snap struck the Southern Region during December.

    • Temperature

    December 2022 was warmer than normal across the southern portions of the region and near to cooler than normal across the north. Statewide averages in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi ranked 20th, 25th, and 32nd warmest (out of 128 years). The southern region as a whole ranked 30th warmest. Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee were near their historical median values. An Arctic outbreak in late December lead to 136 stations reporting daily low temperatures below 0 F; Louisiana was the only state with no stations reporting temperatures below 0 F. The warmest temperature recorded in the region was 92 F at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge near McAllen, Texas on December 13th. The coldest temperature recorded was -22 F at Mt Leconte, Tennessee on December 24th. The coldest lowland temperatures recorded were -6 F at Harrison, Arkansas and near Fayetteville, Arkansas on December 23rd. One long-term station in the region set a monthly record for daily maximum temperature: Beaumont-Port Arthur Airport, Texas with 85 F on December 3rd. Five long-term stations in the region set monthly records for daily minimum temperature: Monterey, Tennessee with -6 F on December 24th, Eden, Texas with 7 F on December 23rd, El Campo, Texas with 15 F on December 23rd, Galveston Scholes Field, Texas with 21 F on December 23rd, and Harlingen Airport, Texas with 27 F on December 23rd.

    • Precipitation

    Precipitation was above normal for Louisiana (ranked 24th wettest), Arkansas (44th), Tennessee (47th), and Mississippi (49th) during the month of December. Texas experienced its 50th driest December on record. Oklahoma and the Southern Region as a whole were slightly below normal and near their median historical values. The five wettest stations were a mix of COOP (3) and CoCoRaHS (2) sites and spread across three states: Ville Platte, Louisiana (17 inches), Town Bluff Dam, Texas (14.18), near Colmesneil, Texas (14.1), near Natchez, Mississippi (13.89), and Walnut Grove, Mississippi (13.86). Two stations exceeded 7-inch single day accumulations: near Adkins, Texas (8.02, December 11th) and near Livingston, Texas (7.95, December 11th). Two long-term stations set daily December accumulation records: McCook, Texas (2.28) on December 4th and Wingate, Texas (2.32) on December 11th. The driest stations in the region reported no accumulated precipitation in December and were located: at Ft. Stockton, Texas, Crane, Texas, Gruver, Texas, near Adrian, Texas, and at Goodwell Research Station, Oklahoma.

    • Drought/Flooding

    During December, drought conditions improved across Tennessee, Mississippi, much of Louisiana and Arkansas. As of January 3rd, much of eastern and far-west Texas, western Louisiana, Arkansas, and all of Mississippi and Tennessee were drought-free. Large portions of Oklahoma, central Texas, and the Texas Panhandle remained in drought conditions through the month of December, with much of Oklahoma continuing to experience Extreme or Exceptional Drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Tennessee saw the most improvement in the region from 95.33 percent of the state experiencing drought as of November 29th to entirely drought-free as of January 3rd. Water levels and flows along the lower Mississippi River remained well below historical means but continued to show improvement from record low water levels and flows during the fall. The lowest mean water level was observed at Memphis, Tennessee on December 31st at +0.6 feet, compared to the long-term mean of +15.8 feet. Several instances of flash flooding, associated with severe thunderstorms, were reported across portions of Louisiana (December 30th), Arkansas (December 10th-11th), and Tennessee (December 5th-6th).

    • Notable Weather

    Fifty-five tornadoes were reported across the Southern Region in December, impacting the states of: Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. These tornadoes were associated with an outbreak of severe weather from December 13th-14th. The ratings were: 10 EF0, 29 EF1, 15 EF2, and 1 EF3. In total 55 injuries and three fatalities were associated with the outbreak. Most notably, an EF2 tornado near Four Forks, Louisiana caused two injuries and two fatalities, an EF2 tornado near New Iberia, Louisiana caused 16 injuries, an EF2 tornado near Norco, Louisiana caused eight injuries and one fatality, and an EF3 tornado near New Iberia, Louisiana caused 16 injuries. The largest of 12 hail reports was 2.5-inch diameter hail reported near McLendon-Chisholm, Texas late on December 13th. There were a total of 57 wind reports in the month of December, impacting Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, mostly on December 13-14th and 30th. Many of these reports noted damage to roofs, downed trees, power outages, and included a flipped boat. A significant extratropical cyclone from December 22nd through December 26th impacted all six states in the Southern Region, with the major impacts in the region being unusually cold temperatures and high winds. Large power outages were reported in Texas and Tennessee, along with widespread reports of frozen pipes in buildings. In Houston, Texas 1,600 bats fell from their roosts due to the cold temperatures; most of the bats were saved by the Houston Humane Society and released when temperatures warmed.

    Western Region (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)

    An active and southward displaced storm track brought widespread precipitation throughout much of the western U.S. and helped keep temperatures near normal. The coldest temperatures occurred across Montana and northern interior Washington and the warmest temperatures were observed in New Mexico, central Nevada, and Arizona. While temperature patterns were broadly consistent with La Niña conditions, multiple storms made landfall in central and northern California, bringing a welcome boost to the early season snowpack but also flood impacts.

    • Temperature

    Cold temperatures persisted across the northern tier of the western U.S. In Hardin, Montana, where records began in 1948, observed its fourth coldest December with a mean temperature of 14.7 degrees Fahrenheit (10.8 degrees below normal). Temperatures across the middle tier were slightly colder than normal to near-normal, with many stations in the cooler end of their distribution. The warmest part of the western U.S. was the interior southern tier. In 50 years of observations, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico experienced its ten warmest December with a mean temperature of 43.8 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal).

    • Precipitation

    Much-needed widespread heavy precipitation occurred in much of California, Nevada, and into Utah, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, and Wyoming. With a few exceptions, cold temperatures allowed much of this precipitation to fall as snow. In 146 years of record keeping, San Francisco, California observed its fourth wettest December on record, with 11.7 inches of rainfall (6.9 inches above normal). With 109 years of records, Mina, Nevada observed its second wettest December on record (, measuring 1.6 inches of precipitation (1.1 inches above normal). New Mexico was drier than normal, with Elk, New Mexico measuring no precipitation (0.7 inches below normal), the first time this has happened in 79 years of record keeping. Parts of Montana were also very dry, with Cut Bank, Montana observing no precipitation (0.3 inches below normal), tying its driest-December on record (110 years of records).

    • Snowpack

    Snowpack conditions at the end of December are well above normal (>150 percent of normal) in California, Nevada, Utah, southern Montana, southern Idaho, and parts of the Pacific Northwest. Many mountain regions in the northern tier of the western U.S. have at least near-normal snowpack. Snowpack conditions vary in Arizona, with several stations near or above normal in the central part of the state. Below normal snowpack is found in eastern Arizona and throughout New Mexico. While this is a great start to the primary snowpack accumulation season, continuous snowfall is needed to help abate long-term drought throughout the western U.S.

    • Drought

    Drought remains widespread throughout the western U.S., however compared to one year ago, there is less area in drought (87 percent compared to 96 percent at the end of 2021) and notably, less area in extreme to exceptional drought (39 percent compared to 65 percent). Extreme to exceptional drought remains in California, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Colorado, and New Mexico.

    • Alaska Summary

    December brought anomalous precipitation and heavy snowfall to Alaska, with the Anchorage region experiencing an 11-day “Snowpocalypse” with 41.2 inches of snowfall aiding the construction of many backyard snow forts. Anchorage observed its wettest December in 70 years with 3.82 inches of precipitation (2.7 inches above normal). Barrow, Alaska tied its sixth wettest December since records began in 1901, measuring 0.6 inches of precipitation (0.4 inches above normal). December was also the second warmest on record, with a mean temperature of 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit (10.5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal). Kenai, Alaska was on the drier end, measuring 0.24 inches of precipitation (0.9 inches below normal), making December its seventh driest since records began in 1899. Wetter conditions were observed at King Salmon, Alaska, where 3.28 inches of precipitation (1.9 inches above normal) were measured. This was the fourth wettest December since 1917. Sea ice is developing slower than normal (Bering sea ice coverage is the third lowest in 45 years), with open water observed at Nome during the winter solstice.

    • Hawaii Summary

    December 2022 brought near normal precipitation and warmer than normal temperatures to Hawaii. Drought conditions are less widespread than three months ago, with nearly 40 percent of Hawaii in drought compared to nearly 93 percent in October. Most islands are experiencing some form of drought, with Maui currently observing the most severe drought conditions. Lihui, on Kauai, observed its fourth warmest December in 72 years of records, with a mean temperature of 75.8 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal). Molokai tied its third warmest December since records began in 1949 with a mean temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit (0.4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal). Sea surface temperatures were slightly cooler than normal, typical during La Niña conditions, with anomalies of 0.5 to 1.3 degrees below normal.

    • Notable Weather

    December 29-31 Sierra Nevada Rain-on-Snow: The first major rain-on-snow event since 2017 occurred in the Sierra Nevada with a warm and wet storm bringing 8-12 inches of precipitation and snow levels above nearly all mountain top elevations. This event produced flooding and primed soils and snowpack to produce runoff should later warm, sunny, and/or rain events occur.


    Citing This Report

    NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Monthly National Climate Report for December 2022, published online January 2023, retrieved on June 13, 2024 from https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/national/202212.