The winter of 2011-12 featured little in the way of sustained cold, especially east of the Rockies. However, even in a winter without much cold weather, Florida's peninsula endured a brief freeze on January 4-5 in addition to several other minor cool snaps.
Farther north, winter wheat largely escaped without significant cold-season damage, despite a general lack of snow cover and occasional high winds. Nevertheless, the southern High Plains wheat crop, not to mention rangeland and pastures, continued to suffer from aftereffects of the historic drought of 2011.
Meanwhile, precipitation was considerably below normal across much of the western United States, except for unexpectedly heavy December rain and snow in the Southwest and periods of mid- to late-winter storminess in the Northwest.
Drier-than-normal conditions also plagued parts of the Atlantic Coast States, which led to worsening drought across the lower Southeast. Notable winter wetness was generally confined to the Nation's midsection, stretching from portions of the central and southern Plains into the Ohio Valley.
According to preliminary information provided by the National Climatic Data Center, the meteorological winter of 2011-12 was overall mild and dry. In fact, it was the 4th-warmest, 20th-driest winter on record. The only warmer December-February periods occurred in 1999-2000, 1998-99, and 1991-92. It was the Nation's driest winter since 2001-02.
The contiguous States' winter average temperature of 36.8 degrees Fahrenheit was 3.9 degrees above the historic mean, while the average precipitation of5.70 inches was 88 percent of normal. State temperature rankings ranged from the 41st-coolest winter in New Mexico to the 2nd-warmest winter in Delaware,New York, and five of the six New England States.
Top-ten values for winter warmth were observed in twenty other States from the Dakotas into the Midwest and East. Elsewhere, top-ten winter wetness was confined to Kansas, while top-ten values for dryness were observed in California, Idaho, Montana, andOregon. California experienced its second-driest winter on record, behind 1976-77.