After a hot and dry January, many people probably packed away their winter clothes by early February. But a cold, wet storm that moved in mid-month had us ditching the shorts and flip-flops for our jackets and scarves.
The average temperature last month fell short of 58 degrees, more than 2 degrees warmer than the average February temperature of 55.3, according to the National Weather Service in Tucson. Despite this fairly normal average temperature, “we had a little bit of everything” in February, said Michael Crimmins, a University of Arizona climatologist.
February began hot and dry, similar to January. The hottest day was 84 degrees on Feb. 8 — 10 degrees above normal.
There were 11 days of 75 degrees or warmer in February — six days of 80 or warmer — all within the first 11 days of the month
“For much of the winter, the eastern U.S. and Midwest were in a deep freeze and bitter cold,” while we were hot and dry, said Glenn Lader, meteorologist at the NWS. “But then that all flipped.”
Valentine’s Day was the pivot point.
“The large-scale weather pattern change across North America … brought below-normal temperatures and a few bouts of rain” to us in the west and warm weather to the eastern U.S., Lader said.
In Tucson, temperatures dropped to average or just slightly above average, with some highs nearly 30 degrees below the warmest days recorded earlier in the month. We also saw the first significant rain since the start of the year — 1.76 inches between Feb. 14-20, nearly a full inch above the 0.83 of an inch that is February’s average rainfall.
Temperatures continued to fall. On Feb. 24, the daily high of 57 was 11 degrees below normal; a high of 55 on Feb. 20 was nearly 30 degrees below the 84 degree high seen on Feb. 8.
The storm system that blew through Wednesday brought 0.20 of an inch more of rain and even hail in and around town, edging February into place as the 10th wettest on record, beating out 1942’s 1.92 inches.
The wettest February ever recorded was in 1905 when 4.15 inches fell on Tucson.
Despite this above-average rain, the region is still in a drought. “In the short term we did well, but in the long term, there’s still a rain deficit,” Lader said.
The rain and snow on Mount Lemmon is great for us, but other parts of Southern Arizona, such as Pinal County, are still parched, the UA’s Crimmins said.
And where we get our water, mostly snowpack in Colorado, “picked up more snow,” he said, but the likelihood of more is not great. “There is still time though, but the door is closing for sure.”
La Niña, which brought the region the recent warm and dry conditions, seems to be “weakening and probably losing its grip,” Crimmins said.
More normal winter weather patterns could overtake the region, ushering in mild temperatures and less rain.