Remarkable February Cold

Following a relentless cold pattern across the northeastern U.S. this past month will go down in history as the coldest on record for both major climate sites in Connecticut (Hartford area and Bridgeport).

Bridgeport – Monthly Records

  1. February 2015 – 19.9 degrees
  2. January 2005 – 21.9 degrees
  3. January 1981 – 22.1 degrees

Average February Temperature – 32.4 degrees

Hartford Area – Monthly Records

  1. February 2015 – 16.1 degrees
  2. February 1934 – 16.5 degrees
  3. January 1970 – 16.8 degrees

Average February Temperature – 29.7 degrees

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The large-scale flow across the northern hemispheric was remarkably consistent through the month and remarkably cold for southern New England! You  can see large ridging over the western US, Alaska, Bering Strait, and Kamchatka in eastern Russia. This -EPO pattern essentially allowed a continuous feed of Arctic air into New England with a giant drop in the jet stream and cross polar flow.

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It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the only substantial “cold” anomalies at the surface across the northern hemisphere were right here in the eastern U.S. and eastern Canada.

One thing that did come to mind when we were breaking the record is that using “months” as cut-offs for coldest periods is a bit arbitrary. What if you had an even more impressive ~30 day period of cold centered between January 15 and February 15? You wouldn’t break any records even though the cold was just as impressive. As it turns out if you go and look at the coldest 28 day stretches this one wasn’t the coldest on record – in Hartford’s case not by a long shot.

Top 3 Coldest 28 day stretches / Hartford Area (end date indicated, multiple days in a year excluded)

  • 2/13/1961 – 12.1 degrees
  • 1/16/1981 – 12.9 degrees
  • 2/11/1948 – 13.6 degrees

In fact this year, the coldest 28-day stretch ended 3/1/2015 with an average temperature of 15.8 degrees. That was actually ties the 2004 cold outbreak with a 28-day mean of 15.8 degrees ending 2/3/2004.

In Bridgeport, the coldest 28 day stretch occurred in 2004 with an average temperature of 18.7 degrees ending 2/3/2004 with the 2015 stretch coming in more than a degree higher at 19.8 degrees (ending 3/1/2015).

Bottom line is that statistics can always be found to make something seem more or less impressive than it really was. Make no mistake that breaking the coldest month record was pretty wild – but it’s not unprecedented. Other, colder, 28-day stretches have occurred but they didn’t fall neatly in the Gregorian calendar like the 2015 cold snap did.

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