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Assessing the U.S. Climate in January 2023

Atmospheric Rivers ushered in record rain and snow to parts of the West; Much of the Northeast had a record warm January

Flooded vineyard with mountains in the background in the Salinas Valley, CA.
Courtesy of Getty Images

Key Points:

  • The average temperature of the contiguous U.S. in January 2023 was 35.2°F, which is 5.1°F above average, ranking as the sixth warmest January on record. New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and Maine each had its warmest January on record.
  • January precipitation for the contiguous U.S. was 2.85 inches, 0.54 inch above average, ranking in the wettest third of the historical record. 
  • A series of nine Atmospheric River events from December 26 to January 17 caused significant flooding, power outages and mudslides in California that resulted in at least 21 deaths, 1,400 rescues and 700 landslides.
  • For the first time since 2017 and only the third time since 1950, over 100 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service during the month of January. 
  • According to the January 31 U.S. Drought Monitor report, about 42.7% of the contiguous United States was in drought. Severe to exceptional drought was widespread from the Great Basin to the Pacific Coast and across much of the Great Plains to Mississippi Valley, with moderate to severe drought in parts of the Great Lakes and Southeast and moderate drought in parts of the Northeast and Hawaii.


Other Highlights:



Generally, temperatures were above average across much of the contiguous U.S. east of the Rockies with near- to below-average temperatures from the central Rockies to the West Coast. New York, Pennsylvania and Indiana each ranked second warmest, with 17 additional states experiencing a top-10 warmest January on record. 


The Alaska statewide January temperature was 10.9°F, 8.7°F above the long-term average. This is the 13th-warmest January in the 99-year period of record for the state. Temperatures were above average across most of the state, while parts of western Alaska and the Aleutians experienced near- to below-average temperatures for the month.



Precipitation was above average from California to the Great Lakes, from the southern Mississippi Valley to New England and in parts of the Southeast. Precipitation was below average from the Pacific Northwest to the northern Plains and in the Florida Peninsula and parts of the southern Plains and Mid-Atlantic. On the dry side, North Dakota experienced their 13th driest January in the 129-year record. Conversely, an abundance of precipitation received during the month resulted in Nebraska ranking third wettest on record. Massachusetts ranked fourth and Rhode Island ranked seventh wettest on record, with four additional states experiencing a top-10 wettest January on record.


Monthly precipitation averaged across the state of Alaska was 3.06 inches, 0.33 inch above average, ranking in the middle third of the 99-year record. Conditions were wetter than average across the North Slope, West Coast, southeast Interior and in parts of the Panhandle. Much of the Gulf of Alaska and northeast Interior experienced near-average conditions while much of central Interior Alaska and the western Aleutian Islands experienced below-average precipitation for the month. 

Other Notable Events


A series of nine atmospheric river events from late December into mid-January dumped a record amount of rain and mountain snow across parts of the western U.S., hitting California particularly hard and causing significant damage to the region including power outages. In California:

  • The perpetual deluge resulted in at least 21 deaths and prompted more than 1,400 rescues throughout the state.
  • California’s Geological Survey mapped more than 700 reported landslides due to rainfall.
  • The San Francisco Bay area experienced its wettest three-week period in 161 years.

January had several notable weather systems that brought severe thunderstorms and an unusually high number of tornadoes to portions of the United States. Over 100 tornadoes have been confirmed by the National Weather Service.  This is the third time since 1950 that January had more than 100 tornadoes during the month.

  • On January 2-4, a tornado outbreak occurred across portions of the southern Plains, Southeast and Illinois. A total of 61 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service. The tornadoes and severe thunderstorms with hail caused significant damage to the region. Nine of these confirmed tornadoes occurred in Illinois on January 3 – the highest number of tornadoes in January for the state since 1989.
  • On January 12, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes swept through parts of the Midwest and Southeast. The National Weather Service confirmed 69 tornadoes during this outbreak including two EF-3 tornadoes.
  • On January 16, two tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service in Iowa – the state’s first January tornadoes since 1967.


According to the January 31 U.S. Drought Monitor report, about 42.7% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down about 3.6% from the beginning of January. Drought conditions expanded or intensified across portions of the southern Plains, the Florida Peninsula and parts of the Rockies, Pacific Northwest, Midwest and Hawaii. Drought contracted or was eliminated across large parts of the West and Midwest, and portions of the Plains, Great Lakes, Southeast, Northeast and Puerto Rico.

Monthly Outlook

According to the January 31 One-Month Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, areas from the southern Plains and Great Lakes to the East Coast and Alaska Peninsula favor above-normal monthly mean temperatures in February, with the greatest odds in southern Florida. The best chances for below-normal temperatures are forecasted from the central Rockies to the West Coast. Much of the eastern U.S. and portions of the Northwest and northern Plains as well as southwestern Alaska are favored to see above-normal monthly total precipitation. Below-normal precipitation is most likely to occur across the southern Southwest, south Texas and much of Florida. Drought is likely to persist across much of the West, Plains and portions of the Southeast Coast. Some improvement and/or drought removal is likely to occur across portions of northern California, Oregon, eastern Oklahoma, southeast Kansas,, Michigan and Hawaii. Drought development is likely across parts of Texas and in the Florida Peninsula.

According to the One-Month Outlook issued on February 1 from the National Interagency Fire Center, portions of Texas, Georgia and Florida have above normal significant wildland fire potential during February.

This monthly summary from NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making. For more detailed climate information, check out our comprehensive January 2023 U.S. Climate Report scheduled for release on February 13, 2023.