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The Heart of America’s February Climate

From sunny warmth to sub-zero cold blasts, high variability is at the heart of U.S. climate conditions during February. One of the highlights of the month, the tradition of Valentine’s Day, isn’t exactly set up with the ideal climate for Cupid to be out and about across most of the country. Across the Lower 48, normal high temperatures typically range from the 70s to the 20s and normal lows typically range from the 60s to below 0s on February 14. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we take a look at typical February climate conditions and Climate Normals for several lovely U.S. locations.

February U.S. Climate Conditions

But, it’s not just Valentine’s Day that often sees drastically different weather conditions from year-to-year. Throughout the entire month of February we often endure atmospheric swings as meteorological winter comes to a close in the Northern Hemisphere.

Temperatures

Climatologically speaking, February is the third coldest month of the year—with December and January typically being colder. The contiguous United States average temperature is around 34°F for the month.

The coldest February on record for the Lower 48 occurred in 1936 when the average temperature for the contiguous United States was a frigid 25.2°F. During that month, every state except Utah had a temperature below the 20th century average. Eight states across the Northwest and Northern Plains were record cold. The statewide average temperature for North Dakota was a bone-chilling 14.1°F below zero—26.0°F below average—and the average nighttime temperature for the state was a whopping 23.4°F below zero. February 1936 is the coldest month of any month on record for North Dakota. And, North Dakota’s average temperature of −14.1°F that month remains the all-time coldest monthly temperature for any state in our 123-year period of record.

Map of February 1936 mean temperature departures from average in the United States

Conversely, the contiguous United States saw its warmest February on record in 1954 with an average temperature of 41.4°F. Every state in the lower 48 was warmer than average in February 1954, and seven states across the Great Plains were record warm. The warmest state, compared to its own history, was North Dakota with a temperature 17.1°F above average—43.7°F warmer than its coldest February in 1936.

Map of February 1954 mean temperature departures from average in the United States

Since 1895, the contiguous U.S. temperature has increased at a rate of 3.1°F per century. When looking at the country’s entire period of record, February is warming faster than any other month of the year.

Snow Cover

During an average February, 1.2 million square miles of the contiguous United States—about 4.5 times the size of Texas—is covered in snow. Since 1967, when satellite records began, the largest February snow cover extent for the Lower 48 occurred in 1978. That month, 1.9 million square miles or 64% of the contiguous United States was covered in snow. The smallest February snow cover extent for the Lower 48 occurred in 1992 when just 0.8 million square miles or 29% of the contiguous United States was covered in snow.

According to the Regional Snowfall Index, several large snow storms have impacted the United States during February. Some of these historic storms include:

  • The Valentine’s Day Storm of 1940
  • The Great Blizzard of 1978
  • The President’s Day Snowstorm of 1979
  • The Megalopolitan Storm of 1983
  • The President’s Day Blizzard of 2003
  • The Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011
Satellite image of snow cover in the central and northeastern United State on February 2, 2011
A blanket of white covered the central and northeastern United State on February 2, 2011, as the Groundhog Day Blizzard dumped more than 5 inches of snow on 22 states
Courtesy of NASA

Tornadoes

Tornado activity varies widely during February, with some years seeing a very active month and others seeing few tornadoes. The most active February occurred in 2008 when the country had over 140 confirmed tornado reports. The least active February occurred in 2010, when only one tornado was reported. On average, the United States experiences 29 tornadoes during the month of February.

Map of average number of February tornadoes in the United States

Tornado-related fatalities are rare during February, but they do occur. In 2015, seven tornado-related fatalities were reported. And, 15 were reported in 2012. The most significant tornado outbreak to impact the country during February was the 2008 “Super Tuesday” outbreak. On February 5–6,  86 tornadoes touched down across a large portion of the south-central United States. Tennessee and Kentucky were the hardest hit with 50 tornadoes observed across the two states. Of the 86 tornadoes, 17 were classified as “strong” EF-2 tornadoes, 5 as “severe” EF-3 tornadoes, and 5 as “devastating” EF-4 tornadoes on the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Scale. Throughout the course of the outbreak, 10 of these tornadoes took the lives of 57 people.

February 14 Climate Normals for Lovely U.S. Locations

In such a geographically and climatologically diverse country, average conditions can vary from day to day and from place to place across the United States. From Kissimmee’s warmth to frigid temperatures in Romeoville, the table below shows the normal minimum, maximum, and average temperatures on February 14 for 10 locations with Valentine-themed names, according to our daily 1981–2010 Climate Normals data.

Location Minimum Temperature Maximum Temperature Average Temperature
Diamond, Missouri 26.0°F 49.9°F 37.9°F
Hart, Texas 24.1°F 55.6°F 39.9°F
Hartford, Connecticut 20.7°F 38.2°F 29.5°F
Hartsville, Tennessee 29.7°F 50.9°F 40.3°F
Kissimmee, Florida 49.8°F 73.6°F 61.7°F
Loveland, Colorado 15.3°F 46.0°F 30.6°F
Romeoville, Illinois 19.3°F 35.0°F 27.1°F
Rosebud, New Mexico 22.7°F 53.0°F 37.9°F
Valentine, Nebraska 14.0°F 39.5°F 26.8°F
Valentine, Texas 29.8°F 65.3°F 47.6°F

While our Climate Normals provide average temperatures throughout the United States, the actual conditions this Valentine’s Day may vary widely based on weather and climate patterns. For prediction of your actual local daily temperature, check out your local forecast office on Weather.gov.