As 2021 comes to a close, we look back at the year’s worst and most unusual winter weather. The weather has been anything but predictable, from heatwaves and tornadoes in December to severe cold snaps in February.
Rare December Tornado
Tornadoes in December aren’t that common with the cold air and snow common at this time of year, especially ones of the magnitude that hit five U.S. states on December 10th.
“It was really a late spring type of setup in the middle of December,” Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini said. “Usually, there’s not a lot of instability in the winter that’s needed for tornadoes because the air isn’t as warm and humid.”
Authorities are still counting the cost of the devastation, with the death toll so far unconfirmed.
Coldest February in More than 30 Years
The average temperature across the U.S. was 30.6°F below the 20th-century average. It was the coldest February in the country since 1989, and the 19th-coldest February since records began 127 years ago.
This was driven mainly by the coldest air since December 1989 in Texas. In February, Alaska was colder than usual, with all daily high temperatures below freezing.
Hottest December on Record in the U.S.
Montana, Wyoming, Washington state, and North Dakota have all recorded their hottest December on record as a heatwave swept through parts of the country. Much of the western part of the U.S. has recorded temperatures 35°F above average for this time of year. In addition, parts of British Columbia in western Canada hit 72.5°F, which ties for the national record for the highest temperature ever recorded in December.
Exceptionally Cold Weather in Areas Near the Arctic
Russia, Scandinavia, Alaska, and northern Canada have been experiencing temperatures tens of degrees below zero. According to The Washington Post, “The cold is related to a powerful polar vortex that has trapped bone-chilling air over the high latitudes, allowing little of it to escape to the south.”
Northeastern Siberia on Wednesday recorded a low temperature of minus -78°F, which is the lowest December temperature recorded in Russia since 1984 and one of the lowest temperatures to be reported in the Northern Hemisphere in several years away from Greenland.