January was cold, but February was colder

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The average temperature for February was just over 27 degrees

By Scot Johnson

February is usually three or four degrees warmer than January. This year, February’s average temperature of just over 27 degrees in Los Alamos, was a degree colder than January, which was already colder than normal. February was six degrees below average. Surprisingly, one need only look as far back as 2004 to find a colder February at slightly below 27 degrees. The coldest February on record belongs to 1939 with an average of 23 degrees.

New Mexico continued to lie on the centerline of the storm track last month. And although the month’s snowfall total of 18 inches pales in comparison to a number of record-busting storms over major east-coast cities this season, the total is well above normal. Los Alamos has seen 51.6 inches of snowfall so far, eight inches more than normal at this time in the season.

Three small storms left snow in Los Alamos County on Feb. 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10. After that, skies were fairly clear and sunny until about Feb 20, although temperatures remained below normal during that time. High pressure, which is associated with fair weather, also indicates flow from the north, so cold temperatures during sunny weather are not uncommon during February.  

The biggest storm of the month came during Monday, Feb. 22, from about 9 a.m. until noon. Schools were inclined to close for the rest of the day and LANL followed suit. One final storm passed through on the last day of the month, bringing the total liquid equivalent precipitation in Los Alamos to 1.23 inches in February, a healthy 40 percent above normal. In White Rock, the liquid equivalent was 1.16 inches, nearly 85 percent above normal.

The average minimum daily temperature in both Los Alamos and White Rock was 19 degrees compared to normals of 22 and 21 degrees, respectively. The average maximum daily temperature of 36 degrees in Los Alamos was nearly eight degrees below normal in February. In White Rock, the average maximum of 41 degrees was seven degrees below the normal of 48 there.

An average wind speed of 5 mph and an average maximum daily gust speed of 19 mph were about 20 percent below normal in Los Alamos. Winds in White Rock were a bit stronger than that, but still about 10 percent below normal.

El Niño conditions are expected to remain in the tropical Pacific, and the NCEP seasonal forecast continues to indicate greater-than-average precipitation in the area lasting into April or May. Beginning in June, however, conditions are expected to swing back to warm and dry across New Mexico.

Scot Johnson is a Meteorologist in the Waste and Environmental Services Division, Environmental Data and Analysis Group, at Los Alamos National Laboratory.