Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Not-So-Cold Season, 2011–2012

The National Climatic Data Center says the cold season from October 2011 to March 2012 was the second warmest on record in the contiguous United States. Temperatures were 3.8°F above average. March, which became known as “summer in March,” was a month for the record books, with temperatures averaging 8.6°F above average. Half of the states, essentially the inland states east of the Rockies, had the warmest March average temperatures ever recorded.

Cold-season average temperature is the most important weather statistic for energy use. It correlates with the energy demand for heating. A nation spending 10 percent less than usual on heat for the winter has some breathing room to recover from other economic difficulties. The reduced use of heating oil is helping to keep oil and gasoline prices temporarily below long-term levels, though that effect is not likely to last into the summer.

There is something of a warming trend recently, with the contiguous United States recording its second hottest summer in 2011, and before that, its fourth warmest winter.