CHARLOTTE — With 2023 coming to an end, the year has earned its spot in Charlotte weather history.
This year tied 2019 as the second warmest year on record in terms of average temperatures for the city. Last winter’s snow drought continued, as 2023 ended without a single snowflake.
According to the North Carolina State Climate Office, this record warmth isn’t due to a particularly hot summer. 2023′s high temperature maxed out at 97 F in Charlotte, well below the 104-degree record set in 2012.
Our average nighttime lows, however, were abnormally warm this year. Even traditionally cooler months like February and November saw above-average temperatures.
“When you just get that progressive warmth throughout the year, that can lead to lead to a warm year like this,” Assistant State Climatologist Corey Davis said.
The warmest year on record is 1990.
When it comes to precipitation, despite a prolonged fall drought and very little tropical rain in the summer, Charlotte ended 2023 with a slightly above-average rain total, 46 inches.
“You would look at that and tend to think it was a pretty uneventful year,” Davis said. “But having that extreme dry weather along with the warmer temperatures at the time really helped that severe drought emerge quickly.”
This year, lake levels dropped and cattle pastures died out early. Wet weather returned in the fall, but Davis said this year’s precipitation pattern falls into a troubling trend that’s been emerging over the past few years. Instead of steady rain events, the state is seeing more prolonged dry stretches and wet stretches, creating so-called “flash droughts” and setting the stage for flooding when rain returns.
“We saw both of those switches from very wet to very dry and then dry to wet just in those last few months of the year,” he said.
While the 2022-2023 season marked the first winter without even a trace of snow in Charlotte history, that pattern continued into the start of the 2023-2024 season. Charlotte has not seen measurable snow since January 2022.
While an El Niño pattern means the year is likely to see a wetter-than-average winter, Davis said Charlotte’s chances of getting snow come down to whether or not our temperatures can get below freezing for very long.
“When you think about these winter storms, when they come through, it often comes down to just a degree or two in the atmosphere, whether we see snow or sleet or freezing rain or rain,” Davis said.
January and February are traditionally the snowiest months in Charlotte.
The National Center for Environmental Information is still compiling the statewide data but Davis said information collected through November shows Charlotte’s experience is not unique among North Carolina cities. The year was on track to be one of the top ten warmest statewide.
All but four of the top five warmest years, 2019, 1990, 2017, 2016 and 1998, have been recorded in the past 25 years.
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