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WARM WINTER WEATHER HAS RECORDS MELTING AWAY.

Byline: Staff and Wire Services

WASHINGTON - Early winter in the United States was pretty much missing in action this year: The past three months were the warmest November-through-January on record, according to U.S. temperature data.

The average U.S. temperature over those three months was 39.94 degrees - a whopping 4.3 degrees warmer than the three-month average for the previous 106 years, according to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

The old record for that period, 39.63 degrees, was set only two years ago.

``There were a lot of places where (winter) didn't show up for quite a long time ... east of the Rockies,'' said Kevin Trenberth, the head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., where the daytime high was 65 degrees last weekend.

Technically, November is not part of winter, which begins in December, but it marked the beginning of a shift in the weather pattern that is keeping Arctic air away. More than two-thirds of the nation recorded extremely warmer-than-normal temperatures for November.

``A lot of the cold air has been bottled up in Canada,'' said climate center meteorologist Richard Heim.

``This is one manifestation of global warming,'' said Trenberth, one of the world's leading climate scientists. Others, including Heim, say that while global warming is real, it's difficult to blame it for the temperature change over such a short period.

Whatever the reason, the 48 contiguous states were warmer than normal in November, December and January. For 23 of those states, it was the hottest or second toastiest ever, the climatic data center reported. In seven states, the November-through-January period ranked among the five warmest.

Although warmer than in two-thirds of its past early winters, the coolest state was California, despite the one-day record of 88 degrees set Thursday in downtown Los Angeles, National Weather Service meteorologist Bruce Rockwell said.

Cool winter nights have prevented temperatures from reaching record- setting highs during the day, Rockwell said.

Temperatures from November through January averaged one or two degrees lower than normal, he said. February, so far, is running about a half degree above the average of 70 degrees - a pattern that's not unusual, Rockwell said.

While it might not have been warmer in the Southland this winter, it has been drier. Since July, Southern California has received less than 4 inches of precipitation - about 6 inches less than normal for this time of year, Rockwell said.

On top of all that, last month was the warmest January on record globally, 1.24 degrees above normal and slightly warmer than the old record, set in January 1998, according to the climate center.

The mild weather generated the lowest-ever demand for heating energy for the three-month period, Heim said.

But don't get too used to the early blooming crocuses and golf games. Much cooler-than-normal temperatures are forecast for most of the nation - from the Rockies west, south of New England and north of central Florida - for Monday through Thursday, according to the Climate Prediction Center in Camp Spring, Md.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 22, 2002
Words:511
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