Winter got off to an early start across much of the Nation, with very cold air settling into the western and central United States and snow covering more than half of the country for several days.
December storminess was widespread, except in the West, where a potential third consecutive winter of drought got underway in California and the Great Basin. In addition, an early-season cold wave gripped much of the West during the first half of the month, possibly harming citrus in California's San Joaquin Valley and sending temperatures plummeting below -40°F at a few locations in Montana.
Meanwhile, several impressive storms affected the East, where multiple rain and snow events chipped away at autumn precipitation deficits. At times, snow also blanketed portions of the Plains and Midwest, with winter's chill deepening in those regions as the month progressed. By the end of December, temperatures across the upper Great Lakes region rivaled those observed in the West a few weeks earlier.
However, the Southeast was spared from the cold weather, with temperatures regularly topping 80°F and remaining unusually high through month's end. In fact, several Southeastern locations set or tied records for December warmth.
Elsewhere, most of the Nation's winter wheat headed into its period of dormancy with few concerns. On the Great Plains, well over half of the wheat was rated in good to excellent condition at the end of December in states such as South Dakota (70% good to excellent), Nebraska (65%), Oklahoma (63%), Montana (60%), and Kansas (58%). However, drought concerns persisted on the southern High Plains, including Texas' northern panhandle.
See the data, read the biggest news and listen to analysis of today's collection of major USDA reports.