Last Two Months Of 2000 The Coldest In U.S. History

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The suspicions of millions of shivering Americans were confirmed Friday by government weather experts. It was the nation's coldest November-December period.

``Two months in a row of much below average temperatures resulted in the coldest November-December U.S. temperature on record, 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit,'' said Jay Lawrimore, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at the National Climatic Data Center. This broke the old record of 34.2 set in 1898.

It was the country's second coldest November nationwide and the seventh coldest December, according to records kept by the Center in Asheville, N.C.

And the outlook isn't cheering.

National Weather Service Director Jack Kelly said the weather of 2000 was shaped by variability and extremes, which will continue throughout the winter.

``The eastern and western United States will experience additional cold outbreaks at least through March with periods of moderation in between,'' he said. The wintry weather was not unexpected, however, with the Weather Service calling for a return to more normal winter conditions after several years of mild winters, Lawrimore noted.

The El Nino-La Nina weather phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean has faded into a near neutral state, eliminating that strong weather influence of the last few years.

Now conditions are more like those of the 1970s, he said, with the jet stream, the fast, high-level wind that helps direct the movement of weather, forming a trough in the central and eastern United States, bringing cold arctic air southward.

It's a little bit unusual for this pattern to persist for two months, however, rather than having a period of cold followed by a warmup then more cold, Lawrimore explained.

Forty-three states within the contiguous U.S. recorded below average temperatures during the November-December period, according to records kept by the Center, a division of the government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The only states with near-normal temperatures were Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. The national averages do not include Alaska and Hawaii.

The report noted that severe conditions hit the Central and Southern Plains particularly hard. It was the coldest November-December on record in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri and the second coldest such two-month period for Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Heavy snow also accompanied the cold in many areas.

The record cold was a sharp change from most of last year, which began with the warmest winter on record. Above normal temperatures continued through October and made the January through October 2000 period the warmest such ten-month period since national temperature records began in 1895.

Preliminary data indicates that 2000 will wind up the 13th warmest year on record in the U.S., 1.2 F above the long-term average of 52.8, the Center reported.