The 1976–77 Winter in the Contiguous United States in Comparison with Past Records

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  • 1 National Climatic Center, NOAA, Asheville, NC 28801
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Abstract

The 1976–77 winter season is compared with earlier winters with respect to temperature and beating degree days. Comparisons are based on 1) station data; 2) composite indices derived from a combination of a few very long-term station records; 3) areally weighted state and regional temperature averages; and 4) population weighted beating degree days. Major conclusions are as follows:

1) January 1977 was possibly the coldest month experienced in the eastern half of the country in the past 200 years.

2) The 1976–77 winter was not a record-breaker for temperature for the contiguous 48 states as a whole, but set a new record for fuel demand because of the extreme cold in highly populated areas.

3) Relatively coarse networks of stations can be used for monitoring large-scale anomalous weather features; they allow use of continuous records covering more than 100 years for which dense networks do not exist. They also allow near-real-time assessment of anomalous weather events at a small fraction of the time and money needed to process data from a large number of stations.

Abstract

The 1976–77 winter season is compared with earlier winters with respect to temperature and beating degree days. Comparisons are based on 1) station data; 2) composite indices derived from a combination of a few very long-term station records; 3) areally weighted state and regional temperature averages; and 4) population weighted beating degree days. Major conclusions are as follows:

1) January 1977 was possibly the coldest month experienced in the eastern half of the country in the past 200 years.

2) The 1976–77 winter was not a record-breaker for temperature for the contiguous 48 states as a whole, but set a new record for fuel demand because of the extreme cold in highly populated areas.

3) Relatively coarse networks of stations can be used for monitoring large-scale anomalous weather features; they allow use of continuous records covering more than 100 years for which dense networks do not exist. They also allow near-real-time assessment of anomalous weather events at a small fraction of the time and money needed to process data from a large number of stations.

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