Where did winter go? Spring begins early as winter in US was warmest on record

A jogger runs along Lake Michigan as temperatures climbed to near 60 degrees, more than 20 degrees above normal on February 08, 2024 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

With winter ending next week, much of the country hasn’t consistently endured the bitterly cold conditions that are a hallmark of the season, making it the warmest winter on record in the nation.

Areas where the temperatures tend to drop significantly in the winter, like Burlington, Vermont, and Portland, Maine, never saw the temps plunge below zero. 

In the midwest, Minnesota officials called the last three months  "the lost winter," warmer than its infamous "year without a winter" in 1877-1878, the Associated Press noted.  And Michigan offered disaster loans to businesses affected by a lack of snow, while the Great Lakes set records for low winter ice.

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Citing the Rutgers Snow Lab, the AP reported that snow cover in the United States in February was the second-lowest on record and third-lowest in December, with only January above normal.

In different regions of the country, from Colorado to New Jersey and Texas to the Carolinas, spring leaves are popping up three to four weeks earlier than the 1991-2020 average.  These findings are from the National Phenology Network, which monitors the timing of plants, insects and other natural signs of the seasons. 

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Citing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the AP noted that the winter of 2023-2024 was the warmest in nearly 130 years of record-keeping for the United States. The Lower 48 states averaged 37.6 degrees (3.1 degrees Celsius), which is 5.4 degrees (3 degrees Celsius) above average.

Separately, it was also the warmest U.S. winter by a wide margin, with the past three months at 0.82 degrees (0.46 degrees Celsius) warmer than the previous record set eight years ago.

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As temperatures warm up, trees and flowers may bloom early. The AP reported that the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., are predicted to peak roughly two weeks earlier than they did in 2013. But early blossoming can impact the timing of pollination of flowers. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  This story was reported from Washington, D.C.