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February 2011 climate report fot Tucson Arizona
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February 2011 climate report for Tucson

Headlines
Arctic cold blast hits area to start the month
All-time February low temperature approached on 3rd and 4th
33rd coldest and 32nd driest February on record
34th warmest and 11th driest Winter on record
 

February 2011 will be remembered by Tucsonans for the arctic cold blast to start the month and the strong winter storm that brought snow to the area at the end the month. As expected, thanks to moderate to strong La Nina conditions in the tropical Pacific, winter 2010-11 saw much below normal precipitation. Due to the dryness that the area has seen since Fall 2010, drought conditions deteriorated to severe conditions during February.

 

The month start off with a cold Arctic air mass settling in over the area behind a departing weather system. Strong gusty winds accompanied the arctic air mass on the morning of the 3rd. Lows on the 3rd bottomed out in the mid to upper teens while the mountains saw lows between 8 and 12 below zero. With the wind gusting up to 35 mph at times, wind chill values were in the single digits while in the mountains had wind chill temperatures of 20 to 30 below zero. Officially, the International airport recorded a low of 18 degrees on the 3rd, which easily broke the daily record and was one degree off of the all-time February low temperature of 17 degrees which occurred back in 1899. This is the first time that Tucson has recorded a low temperature in the teens during February since 1933 and ranks as the 26th coldest low temperature all-time on record (1895-2011).

 

With such a cold air mass over the area, the thermometer struggled to get to 40 degrees on the afternoon of the 3rd. Between 1 PM and 2 PM, the thermometer warmed above 32 degrees, which ended an incredible 18 straight hours of freezing temperatures. The airport only warmed to 38 degrees which was one degree off the all-time February record coldest high temperature on record (see table) and ranks as the 7th coldest high temperature on record (see table)

 

Much less wind and not quite as cold area wide on the morning of the 4th with lows ranging from the upper teens to the lower 20s. The airport still dipped to 18 degrees which set a new daily record. It was much warmer in the mountains with lows in the single digits to the mid teens.

 
Top 5 coldest February lows
Rank Low Date
1) 17° Feb. 7, 1899
2T) 18° Feb. 4, 2011
18° Feb. 3, 2011
18° Feb. 8, 1933
5T) 19° Feb. 18, 1910
19° Feb. 17, 1910
Top 5 coldest February highs
Rank Low High Date
1) 37° Feb. 6, 1899
2) 38° Feb. 3, 2011
3) 40° Feb. 1, 1985
4) 42° Feb. 2, 2011
5) 43° Feb. 2, 1956
All-time coldest temperature: 6° on Jan. 7, 1913 All-time coldest high temperature: 36° on Jan. 4, 1949
Period of record (1895 - 2011)
Top 10 coldest highs for Tucson
Rank Low Date
1T) 36° Jan. 4, 1949
36° Jan. 3, 1949
36° Jan. 21, 1937
36° Jan. 6, 1913
5T) 37° Jan. 5, 1910
37° Feb. 6, 1899
6T) 38° Feb. 3, 2011
38° Dec. 8, 1978
38° Dec. 8, 1971
38° Jan. 2, 1906
 

Temperature returned to near normal levels over the next week then became very warm from the 13th to the 15th as daytime highs were in the lower 80s.

 

A strong Pacific storm impacted the area on the 19th and 20th, first with very gusty winds on the 19th and then some light showers/mountain snow showers on the afternoon of the 20th.

 

A much stronger and colder Pacific storm hit the area over the last weekend of the month. It was not as windy on the 26th, thanks to the increased cloud cover. This cold storm dropped the snow level down to around 2500 feet on the morning of the 27th with rain turning over to snow above 2500 feet with one to two inches of very wet snow accumulating in areas like Dove Mountain, Oro Valley, Catalina, the Foothills and Vail. Snowfall did fall in the city but little accumulation occurred. (see image below)

 

February 27 2011 snowfall totals in and around Tucson

 

Rainfall amounts across the metro area for the month, using several sources like rainlog.org the Pima County Regional Flood Control District gages and CoCoRaHS, ranged from 0.15" to 0.80". The International airport, which is the official recording location for Tucson, was on the low end across the metro area and recorded only a quarter of an inch /0.25/". This goes into the record books as the 32nd driest February on record.

 

Temperature extremes for the month ranged from a high of 82 degrees on the 15th to record lows of 18 degrees on the 3rd and 4th. The monthly average temperature of 51.9 degrees is 3.1 degrees below normal and ranks as the 33rd coldest February on record.

 
February 2011 daily high temperature departure from normal February 2011 daily low temperature departure from normal
Click on image above for larger view
 
 
February 2011 stats
Month
Normal
Departure
Average high temperature
66.9°
68.4°
- 1.5°
Average low temperature
36.9°
41.6°
- 4.7°
Average temperature
51.9°
55.0°
- 3.1°
Rainfall
0.25"
0.88"
- 0.63"
2010-11 Water Year rainfall (Oct-Feb)
1.17"
4.78"
- 3.61"

Winter 2010-2011
 
The forecast for winter 2010-11, issued by the Climate Prediction Center, called for enhanced probabilities for BELOW normal precipitation and ABOVE normal temperatures. This was due to moderate to strong La Niña conditions in the equatorial Pacific. Although the forecast called for ABOVE normal temperatures, during a La Niña there is a tendency to see more freezing temperatures than normal and cooler than normal temperatures.
 
Three distinct temperature periods (one warm and two very cold) occurred during the 2010-2011 Winter season. The Winter season started off very warm with highs in the 70s to mid 80s from December 1st through the 15th, capped off by record high temperatures on December 13th (84°) and 14th (80°). The 84 degrees on the 13th was one degree shy of the all-time December record high. The first arctic blast of the 2010-2011 winter season occurred as the calendar closed out 2010 and began 2011. Starting on December 30th and ending on January 5th, the International airport recorded seven straight consecutive days with daily lows being 32 degrees or colder. This is the longest streak since 1976 when eight consecutive days of 32 degrees or colder were recorded. The new year opened with a record low being set (21°).
 
The second arctic cold blast of the 2010-2011 winter season occurred from February 2nd through the 5th. This cold blast was noteworthy on how really cold it got and the length of subfreezing temperatures. The low temperatures of 18 degrees on the 3rd and 4th set new daily records and were one degree off the all-time February record low set way back in 1899.
 
A strong cold Pacific storm closed out the 2010-2011 Winter season by bringing snow to portions of the Tucson metro area on February 27th.
 
Winter 2010-2011 goes into the record books as the 34th warmest on record with an average temperature of 53.4 degrees, which is a half of a degree above normal. Low temperatures were the story during the 2010-2011 Winter season. There were 16 days that the daily low temperature was 32 degrees or colder, which was four more than normal. What was more noteworthy was that for the first time since 1988 and the second time since 1970, the airport recorded five days with lows 25 degrees or colder. Normally, the airport hits 25 degrees or colder once during the winter. Temperature extremes for the winter ranged from a record high of 84 degrees on December 13th to a record low of 18 degrees on both February 3rd and 4th.
 
Winter 2010-2011 daily high temperature departure from normal Winter 2010-2011 daily low temperature departure from normal
Click on image above for larger view
 

As forecast by the Climate Prediction Center, La Niña conditions in the equatorial Pacific kept the storm track north of the area. A few Pacific storms did move through the area and brought some valley rain and mountain snow. However, precipitation amounts across the metro area for the winter season, using several sources like rainlog.org, the Pima County Regional Flood Control District gages and CoCoRaHS, ranged from a half an inch to two inches with localized spots up to two and a half inches on the far north side (Dove Mountain east to Catalina). The International airport was not representative of the area as it was on the lower end of the area totals. Officially, the airport recorded around seven-tenths of an inch /0.71"/ which is 2.19" below normal and goes into the record books at the 11th driest winter on record.

 
Winter 2010-2011 stats
Season
Normal
Departure
Average high temperature
68.3°
65.8°
+ 2.5°
Average low temperature
38.6°
39.9°
- 1.3°
Average temperature
53.4°
52.9°
+ 0.5°
Rainfall
0.71"
2.90"
- 2.19"
# of days with daily lows 32° or colder
16
12
+ 4
# of days with daily lows 25° or colder
5
1
+ 4

Looking ahead into March
La Niña conditions in the equatorial Pacific will slowly weaken during March. The Climate Prediction Center forecasts slightly enhanced probabilities for above normal temperatures and precipitation.
  Daily normals | Daily records
Normal monthly high temperature 73.3°
Normal monthly low temperature 45.1°
Normal monthly temperature 59.2°
Record high temperature 99° on March 26, 1988
Record low temperature 20° on March 4, 1965
Warmest March (avg.) 66.7° in 2004
Coldest March (avg.) 51.5° in 1973
Normal rainfall 0.81"
Wettest March day 1.42" on March 25, 1903
Wettest March 3.88" in 1905
Driest March 0.00" in 1984/1956/1933/1928
Record March snowfall 6.0" in 1922
   
The number of daylight hours will increase from 11 hours 30 minutes on the 1st to 12 hours 29 minutes on the 31st, a gain of 59 minutes.
 
Looking ahead into Spring 2011
La Niña conditions are expected to weaken during meteorological spring. Thus expect drier than normal conditions, which started in the later part of 2010, to continue during meteorological spring. Drought conditions across the metro are likely to deteriorate over the next several months. On the temperature side, the Climate Prediction Center forecasts enhanced probabilities for above normal temperatures.
   
Normal high temperature 81.7°
Normal low temperature 51.4°
Normal seasonal temperature 66.5°
Warmest Spring (avg) 72.0° in 1989
Coldest Spring (avg) 59.0° in 1905
Normal Spring rainfall 1.33"
Wettest Spring 7.43" in 1905
Driest Spring 0.01" in 1959
   
The vernal equinox, otherwise known as the beginning of spring, will begin on March 20th at 4:21 PM when the sun crosses into the northern hemisphere.
   
Glueck

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