Warmest Winter in US History Ignites Environmental Concerns

Nature scene depicting the effects of climate change with pronounced 3D glasses effect, showcasing an unusually warm winter in the United States in 2024.

Record Wildfire and Seasonal Anomalies Underline Climate Crisis

In an unprecedented climatic development, the 2023-24 winter season has been officially declared the warmest on record for the contiguous United States. This historical phenomenon, combined with a devastating wildfire in the southern Plains, underscores the escalating urgency of the climate crisis.

“The 2023–24 winter season has set unprecedented records, ranking as the warmest on record for the contiguous U.S.,”

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Seasonal Records Overturned

The contiguous U.S. not only endured its warmest winter but also faced extreme weather events that accentuated environmental concerns. The Smokehouse Creek wildfire, scorching over a million acres across Texas and Oklahoma, marks a grim milestone as the largest wildfire in Texas history.

NOAA map showing mean temperature departures from average across the United States in February 2024, with widespread above-average temperatures highlighting a record-warm winter.
Source NOAA

The Chill of Change: Minimal Winter’s Grip

A significant departure from the norm, February 2024 emerged as the third-warmest February ever recorded, with precipitation levels plummeting to rank among the driest thirds historically. Regions traditionally blanketed in snow experienced unusually mild conditions, leading to historically low ice coverage in the Great Lakes and escalating wildfire risks.

Alarming Warmth Across the Board

From the Upper Midwest to the Northeast, eight states experienced their warmest winters on record. The warmth was not confined to the continental U.S.; Alaska also witnessed temperatures well above the long-term average, contributing to the national narrative of a changing climate.

Precipitation Patterns Shift

While February saw drier conditions in several states, leading to their second-driest February on record, the overall winter precipitation was notably higher, ranking in the wettest third for the season. This juxtaposition of extreme conditions points to the increasing unpredictability of weather patterns, a hallmark of climate change.

Drought Dynamics and Future Outlook

The U.S. Drought Monitor highlighted fluctuating drought conditions, with some regions experiencing expansion and intensification of dry areas. Looking ahead, forecasts predict above-average temperatures across much of the eastern U.S., with varying precipitation expected from coast to coast, signaling ongoing climatic challenges.

Billion-Dollar Disasters on the Rise

The season also bore witness to another billion-dollar disaster, reaffirming a troubling trend in the frequency and intensity of weather and climate events. The cumulative cost of these disasters since 1980 surpasses $2.67 trillion, reflecting the massive economic and human toll.


The winter of 2023-2024 stands as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address climate change. With record-breaking temperatures and natural disasters, the time for action is now. As NOAA continues to provide vital climate services, the call for informed decision-making and proactive measures has never been clearer.


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