February 2017 warmest on record in central Indiana

Thursday, March 9, 2017

February may make us shiver but February 2017 belied that old song-lyric notion with temperatures 10 to 13 degrees above normal on average across central Indiana, the National Weather Service Indianapolis Office reports.

The month, however, started out on the cool side with highs the first four days largely below 40 degrees.

In fact, many locations experienced their coldest morning of the month in the lower teens Feb. 4. Temperatures warmed over the following few days, peaking in the upper 50s and lower 60s on the 7th, before much colder air briefly returned late on the 8th and into the 9th, bringing the only snowfall most saw during the month. The 9th was the coldest day for many as highs struggled to get any higher than the mid to upper 20s.

A return to southerly flow brought a rapid return to above-normal temperatures with highs climbing into the 60s on the 11th and 12th. After another cooldown that would last through the 16th, an extended period of well above-normal temperatures with daily highs above 60 would begin on the 17th and last for eight days.

This period of unusually warm weather established records at Indianapolis for the number of February days at or above 60 degrees, and number of consecutive days at or above 60 in February.

The warm stretch was highlighted by highs rising into the 70s on the 23rd and 24th. Much of central Indiana made it into the mid 70s on the afternoon of the 24th. That included a high of 74 in Indianapolis which ended up not only being the warmest February day in 17 years, but just missed the all-time February record high of 76 as well.

The passage of a cold front late on the 24th brought an abrupt end to the early season warmth, with temperatures the following day 40-45 degrees colder. The cooler weather was again short lived as a return to southerly flow ahead of another strong storm system brought temperatures into the 60s again the evening of the 28th.

The average temperature of 43.3 degrees at Indianapolis during February broke a 135-year-old record, besting the previous record warm February of 1882 by nearly a degree. Eleven of the 28 days saw temperatures rise above 60 degrees, 10 of those days at or above 65 degrees.

In fact, February 2017 saw almost as many 65-degree or warmer days in Indianapolis as had been experienced in February since 2000.

At Indianapolis, there were 22 days with above normal-average temperatures and six days with below-normal temperatures.

February 2017 finished as the warmest in the Indianapolis area since weather records began in 1871.

Meanwhile, monthly precipitation was below normal to normal for much of Indiana during February. Much of the state received one to three inches during the month.

A prolonged dry spell began in Indiana on the 10th and continued through the 23rd. Many areas of the state received little or no precipitation during this period. February 2017 was the 19th driest in the Indianapolis area since weather records began in 1871.

Monthly snowfall was below normal for the entire state because of the warm weather that prevailed for most of February. Monthly totals ranged from a few tenths in southern Indiana to six inches in east central Indiana. Much of northern and central Indiana received between one and three inches during February while southern Indiana received less than one-half of an inch.

The official Climate Prediction Center outlook for March indicates a much greater chance for above-normal temperatures. At Indianapolis, the average temperature for the month is 42.2 degrees. Average precipitation for March at Indianapolis is 3.56 inches, with 2.6 inches of snowfall.

The official outlook for meteorological spring (March-May) indicates a greater chance of above-normal temperatures. At Indianapolis, the average temperature for the spring season is 52.6 degrees. The average spring season precipitation is 12.42 inches along with 2.8 inches of snowfall, most of which typically falls during March.

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