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May-June 2011

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U.S. Weather Highlights 2010: A Year of Extremes

Talk about a year of extremes! It was like going from the freezer to the oven. Only months after epic winter snowfalls buried seasonal records going back more than a century, summer heat waves also established new all-time standards.

Snowmageddon Plus

Although February grabbed most of the weather headlines during the winter of 2010, January had its fair share of wintry weather too. The year began where 2009 left off, with severe cold gripping much of the country, as frigid Canadian air stretched from the Plains to the East Coast. Record minimum temperatures on January 2, for example, included −33°F at Fargo, North Dakota, and −36°F at International Falls, North Dakota. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, registered −30°F for the first time since 1974.

The cold air made its way to the Sunshine state, and a damaging freeze affected the Florida Peninsula. The lowest temperatures hit the citrus belt on January 6–7 and 10–12. Minimum readings dipped into the crop-damaging range of 20 to 25°F on January 10–11. Gainesville's low of 17°F on January 11 was its lowest reading since Christmas Eve, 1989, and West Palm Beach recorded its coldest 12-day period ever from January 2–13, averaging 49.9°F. It was not your typical beach weather.

Florida's citrus crop escaped devastating damage, but the cold harmed the state's economy by damaging or destroying tropical fish, ornamentals, and nursery crops.

Weatherwise Contributing Editor DOUGLAS LECOMTE is a retired meteorologist formally with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Maryland.

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