As much of the United States, particularly in the East and the Great Lakes region, suffered through nasty winter weather Thursday, the latest meteorological data show that 2014, at least, ranked high on the warm record charts.
The weather caused deadly traffic accidents in Pennsylvania and school cancellations from the deep South through the Northeast and Midwest. From a few inches to more than a foot of snow fell, while wind chills dropped into negative territory.
In Atlanta the temperature approached single digits Thursday morning, while Detroit hit 3 degrees. But those were relative heat waves compared with upstate New York, where morning temperatures were minus 23 in Saranac Lake and 6 below zero in Albany. The bone-rattling cold was accompanied by winds and lake-effect snow.
The cold air, an Alberta clipper, led the National Weather Service to post blizzard and winter weather advisories, watches and warnings for an area stretching through the Dakotas and Minnesota.
In 2014, however, the nation saw a slight increase in average temperatures, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.
"The 2014 annual average contiguous U.S. temperature," NOAA said, was 52.6 degrees, a half-degree above the 20th century average."
"This ranked as the 34th-warmest year in the 1895-2014 record. Very warm conditions dominated the West, while the Midwest and Mississippi Valley were cool," the agency found.
Globally, 2014 is expected to go down as the warmest year on record. Japan has already calculated 2014 as the warmest year worldwide, and NOAA is scheduled to announce global 2014 figures next week.
According to the latest numbers, California, Nevada and Arizona had the hottest year in 120 years of record-keeping, while Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and New Mexico had one of their five warmest years on record.
Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Michigan had one of their 10 coldest years on record.