December 2018 Extreme Weather

Each month we scour the continental U.S. looking for the warmest, coldest, wettest, snowiest, sunniest and cloudiest locations. Did your town make the list this month? Let’s find out…

Warmest City (compared to average)

Our warmest spot in the nation this December is not one that is usually familiar with winter-time warmth. That is, warmth in the sense of us more temperate folk where winter temperatures wax and wane through periods of relative chill and relative thaw. In Williston, North Dakota, winters are cold. Their average afternoon highs stay below freezing into March; their lows do the same through April. So when a city as typically cold as Williston finishes the month ten degrees warmer than average, it’s merely a drop in the temperature bucket. That’s exactly what they did this December, finishing the month with their 13th warmest on record. Twenty-six of the month’s thirty-one days saw above average temperatures with five of them soaring to at least twenty degrees above average. Despite all that, not one single temperature record was set during the month. Check this out for variance. Williston’s coldest December temperature comes in at a bone-chilling -50 degrees set back in 1983. Their warmest December temperature is a full 113 degrees warmer than that at 63 degrees (set in 1939). This month the temperature spread was just 61 degrees (warmest day: 50 degrees, coldest night: -11 degrees). So, Williston, enjoy the little thaw that December brought – you’ve probably earned it by now.

While there was certainly more warm than cold across the US in December, what warmth there was was generally tepid. Only 68 cities managed to finish the month with one of their top 10 warmest Decembers and none had their warmest on record. In contrast, unlike November there was hardly any lasting cold air to be found. Just 7 cities broke into their top 10 coldest Decembers on record.

Then there’s 2018. Two hundred and ninety-four cities had one of their top 10 warmest years on record!

Here’s where I would usually show more of a breakdown on the warm temperatures. However, that stinkin’ government shutdown has me locked out of NOAA sites that would normally provide additional data for us to peruse. Not to get political, but, FIX IT!

Coldest City (compared to average)

As if you needed further proof that there was an absolute lack of cold anywhere in the US this month, look no further than our spot for coldest. At a paltry three degrees below average, a slow, long, low, sarcastic party horn sound effect of congratulations goes to Rock Springs, Wyoming. With their 14th coldest December under their belts, Rock Springians rocked through December with relative weather- ease. Twenty-one days saw below average temperatures with eight of those coming in at least 10 degrees below average. No temperature records were set this month. On the year, Rock Springs had its 9th warmest and 5th driest on record.

Rock Springs was part of just 6% of all weather reporting stations in the US to see below average temperatures this December. That’s right; an incredible 94% of us saw warmer than average temperatures this month. On the year that makes eight months with more than 50% of us seeing above average temperatures. That number climbs to 19 of 24 when looking at the last two years. Needless to say, no matter how you slice it, it has been a warm couple of years.

Wettest City

Well, well, well; looks who’s back again. Quillayute, which made the list last month for wettest place in the US said hold my umbrella and did it again in December. Unlike last month where their raininess didn’t even touch their wettest Novembers on record and was actually below average in terms of monthly rainfall, this month drops in as their 3rd wettest December on record. They did this with a whopping 24 days with measurable rainfall. Eight days saw at least an inch of rain and a record setting four days saw at least two inches. On the year, Quillayute had its 19th wettest year on record and 13th warmest year.

While Quillayute’s dot on the map above kinda stands alone in the Pacific Northwest, look at the deluge of green dots stretching from Texas to Rhode Island! Each of these dots represents a city that saw one of its top 10 wettest December on record. For those counting at home, that’s 378 cities that cracked the top 10. Of those 378, 47 had their wettest December on record including places like Tallahassee, Asheville, and Pensacola.

The stats look eerily similar on the year as a whole. Here, 410 cities would crack into their top 10 wettest years on record with at least 111 seeing their wettest year on record. Some cities to this include: Washington DC, Baltimore, Wilmington, Pittsburgh, and Louisville. Speaking of Wilmington, North Carolina, they ended the year with 102.4” inches of rain and absolutely blew their records out of the water (no pun intended)!

Severe Superlatives

It was yet another month here down the stretch that saw a higher than average number of severe weather reports. That makes five straight months of above average severe activity after a fairly quiet spring. Much like October and November, December was book-ended by rather stormy days. The first saw over 30 tornadoes in the state of Illinois alone from a late afternoon-evening complex spawning an EF-2 at its strongest.

Two EF-3 tornadoes occurred in December; one in Illinois and one in Georgia. That makes twelve EF-3 tornadoes on the year with zero fours or fives.

Billiard ball sized hail fell from a complex of storms that rattled Texas with strong winds and large hail.

An 85 MPH gust was clocked by the automated weather sensor in Hawkins, Kentucky. This was one thunderstorm in conjunction with a line of storms that spawned three EF-1 tornadoes across the mid-South.

2018 will end as the 4th least active tornado year in the last 20 here in the US.

Snowiest City

Ladies and gentlemen, we have yet another repeat. November’s snowiest city is back again to grace us with its presence in December. Congratulations go to Marquette, Michigan and their 39 inches of snow which gets them the top spot this month. As snowy Decembers go in Marquette, this wasn’t one of them. Even with over three feet of snow, this will go down as their 24th snowiest December on record. To put this into perspective, 39 inches of snow would be the snowiest December in places like Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. Marquette got this much snow on 18 days with measurable snowfall. Two named winter storms, Carter and Eboni, would bring them the lion’s share of snowfall. Carter dropped 14.8 inches while Eboni dropped another 10.5. On the year, this was Marquette’s 5th wettest and 20th coldest on record.

Sunniest City (average % of sky cover)

Once again, our sunniest place takes us to super sunny Southern California. With less than 1% total cloud cover on average throughout the month, Imperial, California tops our list this month. Twenty- eight days saw mostly sunny or better conditions and there was just one day that could be classified as cloudy. They did manage to see two days of rainfall which was enough to make their 3rd wettest December on record. On the year, Imperial had its 6th warmest and 19th wettest year on record.

Cloudiest City (average % of sky cover)

Our final stop is back in the Great Lakes where we find our cloudiest city. Youngstown is no stranger to this superlative as it is one of the cloudiest cities in the US, especially during the winter. With 90% of the sky being covered on average throughout the month of December, Youngstown, Ohio saw about as much sun as bear hibernating in a cave. Twenty-four days were mostly cloudy or worse including 13 completely overcast days. Seventeen days saw measurable rainfall and 6 had measurable snow. It was their 14th warmest and 12th least snowy December on record. On the year, Youngstown had its 18th warmest and 2nd wettest year.

There you have it, the extremes for the month that was December 2018. Make sure to check back next month to see what January has in store! And a Happy New Year to all in the We Love Weather community!

What weather extremes did you face in December where you live? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. well well here in Forks, WA (Quilayute station) we for sure saw a lot of rain. and several really strong wind storms two of which knocked out power for at least 12 hours due to trees falling on power lines. Not unusual for the area but strongest storms normally arrive in November. Storm enthusiasts should vacation here during our winters if they want excitement.

  2. I know the Plains can get strange winter weather and dramatic temperature changes, but typically Williston, ND is one of the coldest spots in the U.S. during the winter. Who would have thought Williston, ND would be the warmest spot in December? Crazy!

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