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A man naps on a lawn in downtown Los Angeles on a 70-degree day on Jan. 27, 2014. / Nick Ut, AP

January's weather was a case of "polar" opposites across the U.S.

Despite the now-infamous polar vortex and a seemingly endless parade of snow and cold, the USA as a whole was only slightly cooler than average in January, according to a new summary of the month's weather released Thursday by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

"The warm temperatures in the West counterbalanced the cold in the East, resulting in an overall monthly temperature slightly below average," the report noted.

The national temperature for January was 30.3 degrees, a mere one-tenth of a degree colder than the 20th-century national January average of 30.4 degrees.

Some of the coldest Arctic air outbreaks in several years chilled the East: Every state east of the Mississippi River, except for the three northern New England states, saw well-below-average temperatures in January. Alabama, for example, had its 4th-coldest January on record.

For parts of the U.S., especially the north-central states, January continued the chilly pattern that began in December: "It's been one of the coldest winters we've seen since the early 80s," said Jeff Weber, a scientist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. What's been most notable, he said, has been the duration and depth of the cold.

Many of us have been spoiled recently, Weber added, with winters that have barely registered as cold, such as in the winter of 2011-12, which was the USA's 3rd-warmest on record, according to the data center.

However, despite the intense cold outbreak, no state had their coldest January on record.

The western U.S. and Alaska had radically different temperatures in January than did the central and eastern U.S.: California had its third-warmest January on record, while Alaska had its 4th-warmest.

One spot in Alaska recorded a reading of 62 degrees on Jan. 27, tying the record for the warmest January temperature ever recorded in the state. Another weird weather fact was that Anchorage actually had a warmer January (29.4 degrees on average) than did Baltimore (27.4 degrees).

The cause of the Alaskan warmth? "A persistent ridge of high pressure set up across the state during much of the month," the climate report said. "This weather system pumped warm and moist sub-tropical air into the state, keeping temperatures above normal."

The same ridge of high pressure caused the warmth in California and much of the West.

Dry conditions dominated much of the western and southern U.S., with severe-to- exceptional drought engulfing much of California and Nevada. Nationwide, it was the fifth driest January on record. New Mexico had its driest January ever, Arizona had its second driest and California, its third.

The chilly month also led to an unusually quiet start to the severe weather season. There were only four reports of tornadoes across the USA in January, according to Storm Prediction Center data. A typical January sees 35 tornadoes, the NCDC reports.

The climate center will release the global climate and weather report for January on Thursday.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Chilly January in East was balanced by Western warmth

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