National Overview

December Extreme Weather/Climate Events

December Highlights

December Temperature

The contiguous U.S. average temperature during December was 40.0°F, 7.3°F above average, ranking warmest in the 129-year record.

Generally, temperatures were above average across nearly all of the contiguous U.S., while near-average temperatures were observed in parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast. Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin each ranked warmest on record, while an additional 29 states ranked among their top-10 warmest on record for this period. No state ranked among their top-10 coldest December on record.

The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during December was 50.0°F, 7.2°F above the 20th century average, ranking as the second warmest December for daytime temperatures in the historical record. Maximum temperatures above average across nearly the entire contiguous U.S., while near-average temperatures were observed in parts of the Southwest, southern parts of Alabama and Georgia and in Florida. Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin each ranked warmest for daytime temperatures, while an additional 32 states ranked among their top-10 warmest December for maximum temperature. No state ranked among their top-10 coldest December for daytime temperatures.

The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during December was 30.0°F, 7.4°F above the 20th century average, ranking as the warmest December for overnight temperatures on record. Minimum temperatures were above average across almost all of the contiguous U.S., while near-normal temperatures were observed in southern portions of the Southwest, as well as in parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast. No state ranked among their top-10 coldest December for nighttime temperatures. Conversely, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota and Iowa each ranked warmest December on record for nighttime temperatures, while an additional 27 states ranked among their top-10 warmest December on record.

The Alaska statewide December temperature was 5.9°F, 2.2°F above the long-term average, ranking in the middle third of the 99-year period of record for the state. Temperatures were near average across much of the state during the month. Temperatures were above normal in parts of the North Slope, southeast Interior and in the Panhandle, while below-normal temperatures were observed in parts of the Southwest and Aleutians.

Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during December was 12 percent of average and the second-lowest value in the 129-year period of record.

December Precipitation

The December precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.55 inches, 0.21 inch above average, ranking in the middle third of the historical record.

Precipitation was near to below average across most of the West, from parts of the Southern Plains to the Ohio Valley and in parts of the northern Plains and Great Lakes. Above-normal precipitation was observed across much of the East Coast and from parts of the Southwest to the western Great Lakes, as well as in parts of the Northwest and along the Gulf of Mexico.

Minnesota, New Jersey and Delaware each ranked wettest on record for the month. An additional 12 states ranked among their top-10 wettest December on record, while no state ranked in their top-10 driest wettest December on record for this month.

Across the state of Alaska, the average monthly precipitation was above normal, ranking as the eighth wettest December in the historical record. Precipitation was above average across much of the state, while parts of the Northwest Gulf were near average this month. Below-normal precipitation was observed in the parts of the Aleutians during the month.

According to the January 2 U.S. Drought Monitor, about 33.0% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down about 3.1% from the end of November. Drought conditions expanded or intensified in parts from the southern Plains to the Ohio Valley, and in parts of the Rockies, Great Lakes and Southeast. Drought contracted or was reduced in intensity across much of the Plains and Mid-Atlantic, as well as in portions of the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, along the Gulf of Mexico and Hawaii.

Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters

Three billion-dollar weather and climate disasters were confirmed this month including: the East Coast storm and flooding event that occurred on December 16-18, Typhoon Mawar that impacted Guam on May 24-25 and the Fort Lauderdale flooding event that occurred on April 12-13.

There have been 28 confirmed weather and climate disaster events this year, each with losses exceeding $1 billion. 2023 surpassed 2020, with 22 events, for the highest number of billion-dollar disasters in a calendar year. These disasters included: 17 severe storms, four flooding events, two tropical cyclones, two tornado outbreaks, one winter storm, one wildfire and one drought and heat wave event. The total cost of the 2023 events exceeds $92 billion, and they have resulted in 492 direct and indirect fatalities.

Since these billion-dollar disaster records began in 1980, the U.S. has sustained 376 separate weather and climate disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (based on the CPI adjustment to 2023) per event. The total cost of these 376 events exceeds $2.660 trillion.

Other Notable Events

Persistent heat brought above-normal temperatures to much of the U.S. during December and 2023:

  • Approximately 25 million people were impacted by record heat during December, while more than 65 million people were impacted by record heat during the January–December period.
  • A total of 430 counties each had their warmest December on record while an additional 1585 counties ranked in the top-10 warmest December for the month. For the January-December period, 416 counties were record warm while an additional 1960 counties ranked in the top-10 warmest for the year-to-date period. There are 3,143 counties in the U.S.
  • Record-warm temperatures impacted much of the north-central portion of the U.S. in December with 36 states experiencing a top-10 warmest December, including seven states that ranked record warmest. Year-to-date temperatures across the eastern U.S. have been warmer than average in 2023 with 35 states experiencing a top-10 warmest January–December.

Several notable storms impacted portions of the U.S. in December:

  • Powerful storms brought heavy rains to much of the Northeast during mid- and late-Dec, causing significant flooding and power outages across parts of the region.
  • On December 17, more than 16 inches of rain fell between Charleston and Georgetown, SC, flooding neighborhoods and trapping residents. A few areas reported up to six inches of rain in six hours.
  • A blizzard brought heavy snow, powerful winds and life-threatening conditions to much of the High Plains on Dec 25–26, causing road closures and knocking out power to parts of the region.

Atmospheric rivers brought heavy rainfall to portions of the West this month. On December 5, an atmospheric river brought record-breaking precipitation and warm temperatures to parts of the Pacific Northwest, causing severe flooding and landslides that left residents trapped in their homes. On December 21, an atmospheric river brought heavy rainfall and flooding to portions of southern California. The city of Oxnard recorded 3.18 inches of rain in less than an hour.

A total of 39 inches of snow fell in Anchorage, Alaska in December, with over 78 inches of snowfall since October — becoming the snowiest water year (October 2023 – September 2024) to date in Anchorage.

A Kona Low brought heavy rains and flooding to parts of the Hawaiian Islands during late November into early December. Parts of the Big Island received up to 20 inches of rain while higher elevations reported up to 5 inches of snow.


Monthly Outlook

According to the December 30 One-Month Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, above-normal monthly average temperatures in January are favored for much of the northeastern contiguous U.S. and Alaska, as well as parts of Northwest in December, with the greatest odds across northern parts of the Northeast. Below-normal temperatures are most likely from the Southwest to the northern Plains this month. Much of the contiguous U.S., as well as southeastern Alaska are favored to see above-normal monthly total precipitation in January. Drought improvement or removal is forecast from parts of the southern Plains to the Mid-Atlantic, and in parts of the Northwest, Southwest, Florida and Hawaii. Persistence is more likely across much of the central and Upper Mississippi Valley, in the Ohio and Tennessee River Valleys and in parts of the northern Rockies, Southwest, southern Plains and Northeast. Drought development is likely across much of Puerto Rico.

According to the One-Month Outlook issued on January 1 from the National Interagency Fire Center, the islands of Hawaii have above-normal significant wildland fire potential during the month of December, while Florida and parts of southern Mississippi and Alabama are expected to have below-normal potential for the month.


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 (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)

December featured above-normal temperatures and little snowfall, with a precipitation pattern that resembled a “typical” El Niño winter: drier than normal in the interior Northeast and wetter than normal in coastal areas.

Temperature

The Northeast experienced its second warmest December since recordkeeping began in 1895 with an average temperature of 36.0 degrees F, 6.3 degrees F warmer than normal. All 12 Northeast states were warmer than normal, with December average temperatures ranging from 4.5 degrees F above normal in Delaware to 7.4 degrees F above normal in New York. This December ranked as the second warmest on record for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. New Jersey had its third warmest December on record, while Delaware had its fourth warmest. Meanwhile, Maryland had its seventh warmest December on record and West Virginia had its eighth warmest.

Precipitation

The Northeast had its seventh wettest December since 1895 with 5.56 inches, 147 percent of normal. West Virginia was the lone drier-than-normal state, seeing 59 percent of normal precipitation. For the other 11 states, December precipitation ranged from 130 percent of normal in Pennsylvania to 214 percent of normal in Delaware. This December was the wettest on record for Delaware and New Jersey and ranked among the 20 wettest for another nine states: Connecticut and New York, third wettest; Maine and Maryland, fourth wettest; New Hampshire, fifth wettest; Vermont, sixth wettest; Massachusetts and Rhode Island, ninth wettest; and Pennsylvania, 17th wettest. Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Bridgeport, Connecticut, recorded their wettest Decembers on record with 8.62 inches and 8.35 inches of precipitation, respectively. December 28 became the wettest December day on record for Islip, New York, with 3.04 inches of precipitation.

Drought

The U.S. Drought Monitor from December 7 showed less than one percent of the Northeast in severe drought, six percent in moderate drought, and 19 percent as abnormally dry. Wetter-than-normal conditions during December in eastern West Virginia, Maryland, much of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey allowed drought and dryness to contract or ease. For instance, severe and moderate drought were erased from Maryland, while abnormal dryness was removed from Delaware and New Jersey. Interior locations saw less precipitation, allowing drought and dryness to persist in spots such as western New York, northwestern Pennsylvania, and southwestern West Virginia. Additionally, moderate drought was introduced on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The U.S. Drought Monitor from December 26 showed one percent of the Northeast in severe drought, three percent in moderate drought, and 11 percent as abnormally dry. At times during December, USGS 7-day average streamflow and/or groundwater levels were below normal or lower in western New York, western Pennsylvania, southern West Virginia, and an area from eastern West Virginia through Maryland and southern Pennsylvania into southern New Jersey, with a couple of gauges reporting record low flows or levels. Some water suppliers in Pennsylvania continued to urge customers to conserve water, with a few having mandatory water use restrictions in place. Lingering deficits of precipitation, streamflow, groundwater levels, and soil moisture prompted the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin to issue another special Water Supply Outlook in early December.

Notable Weather

A storm from December 10 to 11 brought heavy rain and gusty winds to the Northeast. The greatest rainfall totals of 3 to 5 inches were generally found in areas closer to the coast from Maryland to Maine, resulting in localized road closures due to flooding. Wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph were also recorded near the coast, resulting in some scattered downed trees and wires and power outages. Additionally, the storm produced snowfall amounts of generally 6 inches or less in several areas, including the first measurable snow of the season for the Washington, D.C. area. A major storm brought excessive rain and gusty winds to the region from December 17 to 19. The storm’s track brought warm, unusually moist air into the region, allowing precipitation to fall as rain in most locations. Areas on the storm’s east side from about eastern Maryland into eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey through eastern and northern New York and New England saw the bulk of the rainfall, with most spots seeing 1 to 6 inches but up to 8 inches in parts of Maine and New Hampshire. December 18 ranked among the 10 wettest December days on record for multiple sites including Newark, New Jersey; Concord, New Hampshire; Burlington, Vermont; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island; and LaGuardia Airport, New York. The heavy rain fell on already saturated ground in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, southeastern New York, and southern New England, while melting snowpack and frozen ground contributed to extreme runoff into waterways in northern New York and northern New England. Flooding continued for days after the initial precipitation as main stem rivers swelled. Water levels on multiple waterways in some of the hardest hit areas reached unusually high levels, particularly in northern New England. Preliminary data indicates the Swift River at Roxbury, Maine, saw a record-high crest and several waterways in the state including points along the Kennebec, Androscoggin, Piscataquis, and Saco Rivers in Maine reached one of their four highest levels. Similarly, waterways such as the Pemigewasset and Ammonoosuc Rivers in New Hampshire, the Lamoille River in Vermont, and the Pawtucket and Woonasquatucket Rivers in Rhode Island reached one of their four highest levels. Water levels reached among the ten highest at other sites including those along the Sacandaga and East Branch AuSable Rivers in New York and the Ramapo, Raritan, and Pompton Rivers in New Jersey. Floodwaters inundated homes and buildings and swamped roads and bridges, resulting in water rescues and evacuations. At least 100 state roads and multiple bridges throughout Maine were closed, damaged, or washed away, isolating some towns and resorts. Flooding in coastal areas due to a combination of rain and high water levels led to dune erosion, road closures, and flooded buildings. Additionally, wind gusts of 40 to 72 mph, combined with saturated soil, downed trees and wires which blocked roads and caused power outages. Over 800,000 customers in the Northeast lost power, including more than 400,000 in Maine, roughly half the state, and over 240,000 in Massachusetts. Some customers were without power for days, with over 130,000 Maine customers still without power three days after the storm. Other impacts included hundreds of delayed or cancelled flights and school closures for several days. The storm resulted in at least four fatalities. As the low-pressure system exited the region, cold air on the backside of the storm produced some snowfall, with the greatest amounts of up to 12 inches in western New York and higher elevations of southwestern Pennsylvania, western Maryland, and eastern West Virginia. The Northeast saw another round of precipitation from December 27 to 28. Up to 3 inches of rain fell in portions of Maryland, Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, where ground was already saturated and some waterways were still elevated. Localized flooding led to some road closures and a few water rescues. In addition, December 28 became the wettest December day on record at Islip, New York, which saw 3.04 inches of precipitation. Much of December’s precipitation fell as rain instead of snow due largely to above-normal temperatures. The entire region saw a snowfall deficit, with this December tying as the least snowy on record for Worcester, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut, both with only a trace. Interestingly, brief snow events allowed sites like Wilmington, Delaware; Dulles Airport, Virginia; and Charleston, West Virginia, to see as much as or more snow than sites like Worcester, Massachusetts; Concord, New Hampshire; and Portland, Maine. The lack of snow this December was a continuation of a longer-term trend in a handful of major Northeast cities. For instance, Baltimore, Maryland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have not recorded over an inch of snow since late January 2022, over 700 days or nearly two years, their longest such streaks on record. Central Park, New York, and Dulles Airport, Virginia, are in a similar situation, not seeing over an inch of snow since mid-February 2022 and mid-March 2022, also record-long streaks.

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 36.3 degrees F (2.4 degrees C), which was 8.6 degrees F (4.8 degrees C) above the 1991-2020 normal. Preliminary rankings indicate the Midwest had the 2nd warmest December since 1895. Unusual and persistent warmth blanketed the region with temperatures 2-6 degrees F (1.1-3.3 degrees C) above normal across the lower Midwest and 7-15 degrees F (3.9-8.3 degrees C) above normal across the upper Midwest. Preliminary statewide average temperatures ranged from 4.2 degrees F (2.3 degrees C) above normal in Kentucky to 12.8 degrees F (7.1 degrees C) above normal in Minnesota. Preliminary rankings indicate Minnesota shattered the previous record warm December, which occurred in 2015, by about 4.5 degrees F (2.5 degrees F). Other notable preliminary statewide warm temperature ranks include Wisconsin (1st), Iowa (1st), Michigan (2nd), Indiana (3rd), Illinois (3rd), Ohio (3rd), and Missouri (4th). Nearly all of the long-running weather stations across the upper Midwest had record warm or near-record warm (top 5) monthly average temperatures for December. By late December, over a dozen Midwest locations had a record mild start to winter according to the MRCC’s Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index (AWSSI). Milwaukee tied the record for the greatest number of days at or above 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) in December, with 8 days. On December 14, International Falls, Minnesota, reached a high temperature of 52 degrees F (11.1 degrees C), which was their 3rd warmest December temperature since records began in 1895. The persistent warmth led to unsafe ice conditions, cancelled dog sled races, and even early sprouting of trees and flowers.

Precipitation

December precipitation totaled 2.36 inches (60 mm) for the Midwest, which was 0.17 inches (4 mm) above normal, or 108 percent of normal. Precipitation was variable across the region with conditions generally transitioning from wet in the northwest to dry in the southeast. Locations throughout Minnesota were 1-3 inches (25.4-76.2) above normal. Above-normal precipitation was also observed along an axis from Kansas City, Missouri to Chicago, Illinois. Conversely, across the far southern Midwest and Ohio River Valley, precipitation was about 1-3 inches (25.4-76.2) below normal. Preliminary statewide precipitation totals ranged from 1.7 inches (43 mm) below normal in Kentucky to 1.4 inches (36mm) above normal in Minnesota. Preliminary rankings indicate Minnesota had the wettest December since 1895, topping the previous record (set in 1968) by 0.34 inches (8.6 mm). St. Cloud, Minnesota had the wettest December in 123 years of record keeping with 3.35 inches (85.1 mm). Scottsville, Kentucky had the 3rd driest December on record with 1.36 inches (34.5 mm).

Drought

Drought persisted during December with some areas showing modest improvements and others having modest declines. Overall, the month ended with about 77 percent of the region abnormally dry or in drought, which was 1 percent more than at the start of the month. The most intense drought conditions remained parked over Iowa, with 35 percent of the state in extreme (D3) drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor map. Drought intensified in southwest Iowa and along a swath from southern Missouri to northwest Ohio. Conditions improved slightly in central Minnesota, far western Missouri, and the northern half of Illinois.

Snowfall

December snowfall was minimal and deficits were widespread as persistent warmth drove precipitation to fall more as rain instead of snow. Snowfall totaled 0.5-15 inches (1.3-38.1 cm) across the upper Midwest, which was about 2-25 percent of normal. The Great Lakes were nearly ice-free in December, which is generally favorable for lake effect snow. However, the lack of cold arctic air crossing the Lakes meant lake effect snow was suppressed regionwide. As a result, snowfall in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was 10-40 inches (25.4-101.6 cm) below normal for the month. The December snow drought resulted in little to no snowpack across region. By late December, most of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Michigan should have persistent snowpack on the ground that is about 5-24 inches (12.7-61 cm) deep, but instead these areas ended the month with mostly bare ground. Further south, snowfall totaled 0-5 inches (0-12.7 cm) across the lower Midwest for December, which was 0-50 percent of normal for most areas. Indianapolis recorded their first measurable snowfall of the season on December 31, which was the 2nd latest on record (dating back to the 1884).

Notable Weather

A strong cold front raced east across the country on December 9. This, combined with anomalous moisture and warmth ahead of the front, provided the necessary ingredients for severe weather, including tornadoes, across Kentucky. Hundreds of trees were snapped or uprooted in Todd and Logan counties (south-southwestern Kentucky) along with damage to outbuildings, homes, and powerlines.

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 (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)

Temperature

Temperatures were mostly above average across the Southeast in December. The greatest departures were found along the northern tier of the region, where mean temperatures were 3 to 5 degrees F (1.6 to 2.8 degrees C) above average for the month, with some locations in North Carolina and Virginia running 6 degrees F (3.4 degrees C) above average. Washington Reagan Airport tied its fifth warmest December on record (since 1871). Temperatures were also above average across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Saint Croix recorded its third warmest December on record (since 1951). In contrast, temperatures were slightly below average across central and southern portions of Alabama and Georgia, the Florida Panhandle, and South Florida. December began with temperatures running 10 to 20 degrees F (5.6 to 11.1 degrees C) above average across much of the region. Several daily high maximum temperature records were tied or broken across South Florida, with some locations approaching 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C). Cooler weather prevailed during the middle of the month as a modified Arctic air mass settled across the region. Morning temperatures dropped below 30 degrees F (-1.1 degrees C) across southern portions of Alabama and Georgia on the 12th and 13th. Above average temperature briefly returned ahead of a strengthening low pressure system that tracked northward along the East Coast on the 16th and 17th. Colder weather again settled across the region in the wake of the system. The month ended with temperatures 10 to 15 degrees F (5.6 to 8.3 degrees C) above average, particularly across the northern tier of the region.

Precipitation

Precipitation was above average across much of the Southeast in December. The wettest locations were found across the Florida Panhandle as well as eastern and central portions of the Carolinas and Virginia, where some locations recorded two to three times their expected monthly total. Richmond, VA recorded its wettest December on record (since 1871) with 8.87 inches (225 mm) of precipitation, breaking the previous record of 8.16 inches (207 mm) set in 2009. Several other locations observed one of their wettest Decembers on record. Norfolk, VA (1871-2023), Raleigh-Durham, NC (1887-2023), Greensboro, NC (1903-2023), and Wilmington, NC (1871-2023) all recorded their second wettest December on record. Washington Reagan Airport (1871-2023) recorded its fourth wettest December on record, while Charleston, SC (1938-2023) and Tallahassee, FL (1896-2023) recorded their fifth wettest December on record. Heavy rain resulted in flash flooding across the Florida Peninsula on the 2nd of the month as a frontal boundary stalled along the northern Gulf Coast. Between 5 and 8 inches (127 and 203 mm) of precipitation was recorded, with some locations recording close to 10 inches (254 mm). Cooler air behind the front resulted in 1 to 3 inches (25 to 76 mm) of snow across western North Carolina and some sleet in northern Virginia from the 4th to the 6th of the month. Another round of precipitation affected the region ahead of a cold front from the 9th to the 11th of the month. The heaviest amounts were found across the Carolinas, Virginia, and parts of the Florida Panhandle, where many locations recorded between 2 and 4 inches (51 and 102 mm). Greensboro, NC recorded 2.86 inches (73 mm) on the 10th, making it the second wettest December day on record (since 1903). Between 1 and 3 inches (25 and 76 mm) of snow fell across western portions of North Carolina and Virginia, with some locally heavier amounts, including 6 inches (152 mm) at Wintergreen Resort, while up to an inch (25 mm) fell across the Piedmont of Virginia. Richmond, VA recorded 0.4 inches (10 mm) of snow on the 10th, ending a streak of 638 consecutive days without measurable snow that began on March 12, 2022. This breaks the previous record of 615 days that lasted from April 13, 1918 to December 18, 1919. On the 16th, a low pressure system developed in the Gulf of Mexico and strengthened rapidly as it tracked across the Florida Peninsula and then up the East Coast as a bomb cyclone. This system dropped between 4 and 8 inches (102 and 203 mm) of precipitation across a large portion of the region between the 17th and 18th of the month. Some locations in coastal South Carolina recorded over 10 inches (254 mm), including 16.35 inches (415 mm) in the town of McClellanville located northeast of Charleston. Lumberton, NC (1903-2023) and Richmond, VA (1871-2023) recorded their wettest December day on record with 4.08 inches (104 mm) and 2.74 inches (70 mm), respectively, on the 17th. In addition, up to 3 inches (76 mm) of snow was observed across western portions of North Carolina and Virginia from the 17th to the 19th. The last storm system of the month dropped another 1 to 3 inches (25 to 76 mm) of precipitation across parts of Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia on the 26th and 27th, with a few locations exceeding 4 inches (102 mm). Some snow and freezing rain were reported across northern portions of Alabama in the wake of the storm on the 29th and 30th. While much of the region was wetter than average, parts of central Alabama and Georgia largely missed out on the precipitation. Montgomery, AL recorded 1.58 inches (40 mm) of precipitation (32 percent of normal), while Columbus, GA recorded 1.86 inches (47 mm) of precipitation (39 percent of normal) for the month. Precipitation was also below average across much of Puerto Rico, though there were pockets of above average totals, including San Juan, which was nearly 3 inches (76 mm) above average for the month (159 percent of normal). Precipitation was above average on Saint Thomas and below average on Saint Croix.

Drought

The prodigious precipitation totals during the month led to improvements in drought conditions across much of the Southeast, with one to two category improvements in many places. The area of extreme (D3) drought contracted in the interior of the region, with just a few small areas remaining across central and northern portions of Alabama. A small area of extreme (D3) drought also persisted across the West Coast of Florida. Severe (D2) drought was largely eliminated across western and central portions of North Carolina and Virginia, but persisted across northern portions of Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia, as well as extreme southwest North Carolina. Drought was eliminated across the northern Gulf Coast, southern Georgia, and eastern portions of the Carolinas. Some abnormal dryness (D0) was introduced across central Georgia. In the Caribbean, small pockets of moderate (D1) drought persisted across Puerto Rico, with abnormal dryness (D0) persisting across much of the interior and south coastal regions of the island. Severe (D2) drought persisted on Saint Thomas, while moderate (D1) drought persisted on Saint Croix. Saint John remained drought-free.

Agriculture

Field conditions improved in many places throughout the month, allowing producers to harvest their remaining crops such as soybeans and cotton and begin preparing fields for spring planting. Recently planted winter wheat began to emerge while many fall and winter crops, including Vidalia onions, progressed well during the month. In Florida, sugarcane planting and harvesting progressed well, while pasture and livestock conditions improved due to recent rains. However, as was the case last month, some areas received too much precipitation, particularly in North Carolina and Virginia, which delayed the planting and harvest of several crops, most notably soybeans. On the other hand, producers that missed out on much of the precipitation, especially in Alabama and Georgia, noted that recently planted crops and winter pastures had not fully established and fall forages were growing slowly due to low soil moisture. As a result, many producers continued to feed supplemental hay. With supplies running low and pastures running short, some producers were forced to sell off their cattle early.

Notable Weather

There were 59 reports of severe weather across the Southeast in December, which is above the median frequency of 49 reports over the period 2000 to 2022 (120 percent of normal). There were seven confirmed tornadoes (2 EF-0s, 5 EF-1s), which is below the median frequency of 10 (70 percent of normal). All but one of these occurred in southern Alabama, northern Florida, and eastern North Carolina on the 10th of the month as a cold front swept through the region. Two EF-1 tornadoes touched down in Jefferson County, AL shortly after midnight. Numerous trees and power poles were snapped, some of which fell onto homes. A large office building had its windows blown out, while the roofs were blown off of several homes and buildings. A shopping mall also sustained some structural damage. Another EF-1 tornado touched down in Holmes County, FL, resulting in mostly tree damage. An EF-0 tornado caused widespread tree damage as well as minor damage to some manufactured homes and chicken barns in parts of Barbour and Henry counties in Alabama. Another EF-0 tornado in nearby Lee County caused mostly minor damage to trees, buildings, and vehicles. The path of this tornado was very close to the track of an EF-4 tornado that devastated the area in March 2019. Later in the afternoon, an EF-1 tornado touched down in Wake County, NC just south of Raleigh. Several trees were snapped and uprooted, some of which fell on structures. On the 17th of the month, an EF-1 tornado touched down in Horry County in northeast South Carolina. Some homes suffered major damage due to falling trees and flying debris. A few mobile homes were pushed off of their foundation and multiple tractor trailers were blown over. Fortunately, no fatalities or injuries were reported. There were 42 wind reports in December, which is above the median frequency of 38 reports (111 percent of normal). Straight-line winds up to 70 mph (31 m/s) were observed in association with the cold front between the 8th and 10th of the month. The coastal storm that would eventually become a Nor’easter brought high winds, storm surge, and inland flooding to the region on the 16th and 17th. Gusts of 40 to 60 mph (18 to 27 m/s), some higher, were reported from the West Coast of Florida to eastern sections of the Carolinas and Virginia. Several locations extending from the Florida Peninsula to coastal portions of Georgia and the Carolinas recorded their lowest December surface pressure on record on the 17th. Most notably, Cape Hatteras, NC (1880-2023) recorded a pressure of 984 hPa, breaking the previous record of 987.1 hPa set on December 1, 1942, while Wilmington, NC (1871-2023) recorded a pressure of 985.4 hPa, breaking the previous record of 988.2 hPa set on December 2, 1925. Significant over-wash forced Highway 12 to close along the Outer Banks of North Carolina for several days. Passengers returning to Charleston, SC on a Carnival cruise ship found their cars damaged due to storm surge flooding in the terminal parking lot. There were five reports of hail in December. The largest hailstones were quarter-sized, or 1 inch (25 mm), in Lauderdale County in northern Alabama, Crenshaw County in southern Alabama, and Coweta and Douglas counties in west-central Georgia on the 9th of the month. There was one rip current fatality in Puerto Rico on the 9th.

For more information, please visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.

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

December ended in a similar fashion to both October and November. Exceptionally warm temperatures dominated the region, with a cold front pushing through late in the month but unable to prevent record warmth. Temperatures were scalding hot in the Dakotas, with some locations breaking their previous monthly record by up to 6 degrees F (3.3 degrees C). Dozens of monthly records were broken, while every state in the region had locations ranking in the top 10 after nearly the entire High Plains was 3 degrees F (1.7 degrees C) or more above normal. It was a dry month for much of the region, but this condition changed with the front that pushed through around Christmas. Blizzard warnings were issued from northwestern Kansas into South Dakota on Christmas day, with 50 mph (81 km/h) winds and a combination of ice, sleet, and snow on one of the busier travel days for many. Interstate 80 was closed from Lexington, Nebraska to the Wyoming border, with hundreds of wrecks occurring. Interstate 70 in Kansas was also closed from Goodland to Denver, Colorado due to safety concerns.

Temperature

To say December was unseasonably warm would be an understatement. Parts of the Dakotas were a record-breaking 15 degrees F (8.3 degrees C) above normal, even with a significant cool-down occurring. Fargo, North Dakota not only broke their monthly record but also tied the record for the warmest December for the state. The average temperature was 31.5 degrees (-0.3 degrees C), easily breaking the previous record of 25.9 degrees F (-3.4 degrees C) and the normal of 15.7 degrees F (-9.1 degrees C). Elsewhere in the state and in South Dakota, just about every major city observed record warmth. Outside of the Dakotas, record to near-record warmth impacted every state. Norfolk, Nebraska surpassed their record, while McCook tied for 2nd. Further to the west, Sheridan, Wyoming ranked 2nd as well. Rounding out the region, Colorado and Kansas both had at least one major location rank in the top 5 warmest.

Precipitation

The situation was gloomy heading towards the end of December, with much of the region still reeling from record to near-record dryness in November. However, conditions improved with portions of South Dakota receiving over 400 percent of their normal precipitation by the end of the month. Precipitation totals were abysmal in parts of the Dakotas up until the 22nd. The maximum amount recorded the previous month in both states was just over an inch (2.54 cm) and December was not proving any better. Things rapidly turned around, with several days of beneficial precipitation in the form of rain and snow. Fargo, North Dakota recorded their wettest December, with 3.00 inches (7.62 cm) of precipitation. Across the border in South Dakota, Sisseton crushed their previous record of 2.03 inches (5.16 cm) and observed a whopping 3.61 inches (9.17 cm) of precipitation. Nearby Milbank recorded an even higher value of 4.31 inches (10.95 cm), just shy of the all-time December precipitation record for the state. There were also plentiful amounts of snow, with 16.0 inches (40.64 cm) reported near the town of Gregory. The western parts of the Plains were not as lucky this month, with portions of Wyoming reporting no precipitation. Shoshoni and Basin reported no precipitation to tie their driest month on record, while Casper and Sheridan both ranked 2nd driest after minimal amounts. Casper also recorded their lowest December snowfall, with only 1 inch (2.54 mm) of snow reported.

Drought

Drought conditions improved this month, even though the amount of abnormal dryness (D0) slightly increased. The heavy snowfall in Kansas towards the end of November was noticeable, with large improvements in the state. Overall, abnormally dry to exceptional drought (D0-D4) conditions were reduced by over 3 percent. Eastern Kansas greatly benefited from the heavy snow, with severe to exceptional drought (D2-D4) reduced by 23 percent. Currently, a little over 19 percent of the state is experiencing D2-D4, the lowest percentage since the beginning of February 2022. The dryness in Wyoming has begun to take its toll, with D0 increasing by nearly 14 percent this month. D0 was also increased by nearly 10 percent in South Dakota, however, the heavy precipitation towards the end of December should lead to improvements.

For more information, please visit the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.

South (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)

An outbreak of severe weather across Mississippi and Tennessee on December 9th led to severe wind, hail, and tornadoes resulting in 95 injuries and seven fatalities.

Temperature

Temperatures were near-normal to above-normal across the Southern Region during December. Stations in the west and north of the region were typically two to four degrees F above normal, while in the southeast of the region, temperatures were near-normal to two degrees F above normal. Statewide averages were above their historical median values for all six states in the Southern Region, including two top ten warmest: Oklahoma (4th warmest, out of 129 years), Texas (6th warmest), Tennessee (14th warmest), Arkansas (15th warmest), Mississippi (22nd warmest), and Louisiana (32nd warmest). Temperatures in the Southern Region as a whole ranked 8th warmest. The warmest recorded temperature in the region was 89F at Rio Grande Village, Texas and Linn-San Manuel, Texas both on December 9th. The coldest recorded temperature in the region was 4 F at Mt Leconte, Tennessee on December 12th. The coldest recorded lowland temperature was 11 F at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, Texas on December 11th, at Muleshoe No 1, Texas on December 10th, and Muleshoe 19 South on December 10th. No long-term stations in the Southern Region set a record for highest maximum temperature or lowest minimum temperature for December.

Precipitation

Precipitation in the Southern Region during December was near or below normal, except for central Oklahoma, the Gulf Coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles where precipitation was 150 percent to 400 percent of normal. State and regional totals for the Southern Region were below their median values for: Mississippi (20th driest, out of 129 years), Arkansas (24th driest), Tennessee (38th driest), and the Southern Region as a whole (48th driest). Oklahoma (21st wettest) was above its historical median value for December, while Texas was near its historical median value. Three stations exceeded thirteen inches of precipitation for December, two COOP and one CoCoRaHS, all in Louisiana: near Gramercy (13.29 inches), Napoleonville (13.79 inches), and near Donaldsonville (14.32 inches). Three stations had single-day accumulations of 6.7 inches or greater during December: near Vancleave MS (6.7 inches, December 2nd), New Orleans Audubon (6.89 inches, December 2nd), and near Lake Charles (7.7 inches, December 1st). Seven long-term stations set single-day accumulation records for December: near Donaldsonville, Louisiana (6.14 inches, December 12th), near Pampa, Texas (1.55 inches, December 15th), Clinton Sherman Airport, Oklahoma (1.63 inches, December 23rd), Slidell, Louisiana (4.76 inches, December 2nd), Ponca City, Oklahoma (2.49 inches, December 24th), Corpus Christi NAS, Texas (3.20 inches, December 14th), and Follett, Texas (2.26 inches, December 15th).

Drought/Flooding

During November the Southern Region saw continued drought and degradation of drought conditions across much of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, central and western Tennessee, and portions of deep east Texas. Isolated pockets of Extreme and Severe drought are still present in central Texas and far west Texas. Two to three class improvements, according to the US Drought Monitor, in drought conditions were observed along the Gulf Coast extending from near Corpus Christi, Texas north and east along the coast through Mississippi. The eastern third of Tennessee, along with isolated areas of Texas and Oklahoma, saw one to two classes of improvement. Dry conditions in the lower Mississippi River Basin have contributed to continued low flows and snarled barge traffic on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis, Missouri. As we move into 2024, monitoring soil moisture for the upcoming growing season is key. Currently, soil moisture values are in the 1st (lowest) percentile according to the Climate Prediction Center’s soil moisture model across northcentral Louisiana, much of Mississippi, portions of Tennessee, and the Big Bend area of Texas. The only area of the region averaging above the 70th percentile for soil moisture is western Oklahoma.

Notable Weather

An outbreak of severe weather on December 9th impacted Mississippi and Tennessee, resulting in multiple fatal tornadoes. There were ten tornadoes in total, all on December 9th, including three in Mississippi and seven in Tennessee. The ratings of these tornadoes were: 2 EF0, 3 EF1, 4 EF2, and 1 EF3. An EF1 tornado impacted Gibson, Tennessee, injuring three. An EF2 tornado hit Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee, injuring two. Another EF2 tornado hit White Bluff, Tennessee, injuring four. The EF2 tornado that impacted Madison, Tennessee injured 22 and resulted in three fatalities. An EF3 tornado that hit Clarksville, Tennessee injured 62 and resulted in four fatalities. There were sixty-four reports of hail in the Southern Region, with the largest hail being 4.0 inches near Red Banks, Mississippi on December 9th. There were 30 severe wind reports, with the fastest being 67 mph near Gallatin, Tennessee on December 9th.

For more information, please visit the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.

West (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)

A strong blocking ridge of high pressure persisted for much of the month centered over the Upper Midwest and southern Canada (Saskatchewan and Winnipeg) stretching into the Western U.S. This blocked storms from reaching the interior West, where precipitation was well below normal, and forced storm tracks northward into the Pacific Northwest and southward to southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Temperatures were well above normal with record December warmth found in several states. Low precipitation combined with warm temperatures led to below normal snowpack by the end of December for most mountain areas in the region.

Temperature

It was a remarkably warm month for the West with above normal temperatures across the entire region. The greatest departures were found in central and eastern Montana with temperatures 8-12 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Temperatures were 3-7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in the Pacific Northwest, Great Basin, and California, and 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for most of Arizona and New Mexico. Many long-term stations set record high December temperatures including Seattle, Olympia, and Yakima in Washington, Cut Bank, Glasgow, Livingston, and Red Lodge in Montana, Reno and Las Vegas in Nevada, and Fresno, California. Several new records broke previous records by more than one degree Fahrenheit highlighting the extreme nature of the warmth this month. For example, in Cut Bank, Montana (with records back to 1903) the monthly mean temperature was 35.0 degrees Fahrenheit breaking the old record of 33.3 degrees Fahrenheit set in 1939.

Precipitation and Snowpack

Storms were largely blocked from penetrating into the Great Basin, northern Rockies, and Upper Colorado River Basin and monthly precipitation was less than 50 percent of normal for many places. Several mountain SNOTEL stations in western Montana and southwest Utah logged record low December precipitation and departures were 2-4 inches below normal in the Sierra Nevada and northern Rockies. Several strong atmospheric rivers impacted the Pacific Northwest in early December bringing 10-20 inches of precipitation to the Olympic Mountains, Cascades, and Oregon Coast Ranges with 4-8 inches of precipitation in the lower elevations. Much of Washington and Oregon (except for the lee side of the Oregon Cascades) received 120-200 percent of normal precipitation for the month. Seattle, Washington saw its 10th wettest December on record with 8.48 inches of precipitation (148 percent of normal) and much of the rainfall occurred in the first ten days of the month. Dry conditions across most of the West and wet and warm conditions with high snow levels in the Cascades have led to widespread snow drought conditions with snow water equivalent (SWE) less than 50 percent of normal for much of the region at the end of December.

Drought

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) at the end of December, 24 percent of the West was in drought. Areas of extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4) drought are found in Arizona and New Mexico. The biggest improvements to drought conditions were found along the Oregon coast and in parts of Washington where two USDM class improvements were made over the past month. Moderate drought (D1) expanded to parts of southwest Montana.

Alaska Summary

Temperatures were above normal in the Panhandle (anomalies +3-6 degrees Fahrenheit), North Slope (anomalies +5-8 degrees Fahrenheit), and parts of the Interior (anomalies +1-4 degrees Fahrenheit). Sitka saw its fourth warmest December with a monthly mean temperature of 41.7 degrees Fahrenheit, Juneau had its seventh warmest at 35.9 degrees Fahrenheit, and Utqiagvik the third warmest at 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. For South Central and Western Alaska temperatures were 2-7 degrees Fahrenheit below normal. Most monitored locations in Alaska saw above normal precipitation for the month. Anchorage logged its eighth wettest December with 2.07 inches of precipitation (178 percent of normal); it was also snowy in Anchorage with 39 inches of snowfall and third most on record, and the snowiest November-December on record. Most stations in the Panhandle were in the top five wettest Decembers; Little Port Walter had its fourth wettest December with 43.71 inches of precipitation (136 percent of normal). Snowpack at the end of December was above normal for most SNOTEL stations.

Hawaii Summary

December precipitation was below normal for most of Hawaii. On the Big Island, Hilo received 7.62 inches of precipitation (63 percent of normal) and most long-term stations on the Big Island saw 50-70 percent of normal precipitation. On Maui, Kahului recorded 1.00 inch of rain, just 36 percent of normal for the month. Honolulu logged 0.88 inches of rain (40 percent of normal) for December. At the end of December, 22 percent of the state was in drought based on the U.S. Drought Monitor with no extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought remaining.

Notable Weather

Early December atmospheric rivers bring flooding and high snow levels to the Pacific Northwest: Strong storms the first week of December dumped 10-20 inches of precipitation in the higher elevations of Washington and Oregon causing major flooding, landslides, and at least two deaths have been reported. Warm temperatures during the latter part of the storm cycle brought snow levels over 7,000 feet and a major rain-on-snow snow melt event in the Cascades.

For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Monthly National Climate Report for December 2023, published online January 2024, retrieved on July 24, 2024 from https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/national/202312.