Last month was the coolest January since 1994, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C.

Across the contiguous United States, the average January temperature was 30.0 F, which is 0.8 F below the 1901-2000 average. And despite several large winter storms across the country, last month was the ninth driest January on record, much drier than normal. Average precipitation across the contiguous United States was 1.48 inches, 0.74 inch below the 1901-2000 average.

This monthly analysis, based on records dating back to 1895, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides.

U.S. Climate: January Highlights

• Cooler-than-normal conditions dominated most areas east of the Rocky Mountains, while the western coastal states of California, Oregon and Washington had above-normal temperatures in January.

• Several winter storms struck the northeastern U.S. during January, breaking January snowfall records in New York City and Hartford, Conn. Hartford’s Bradley International Airport broke the city's record for all-time snowiest month with 57 inches.

• The snowstorm that traversed the northern plains, Great Lakes and Northeast on January 9-13 was a Category 3, or “Major” snowstorm, according to preliminary analysis on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS). The NESIS score of 5.31 was slightly greater than the “Christmas 2010” blizzard and slightly less than the storm of late February 2010. This storm also affected the Southeast and ranked as a Category 2, or “Significant” snowstorm, based on preliminary analysis of NOAA’s Regional Snowfall Impact Scale.

• As of Feb. 1, 24.1 percent of the United States was affected by moderate-exceptional drought. At this point last year, only 8.5 percent of the United States was affected. Some rain improved drought conditions across Virginia and Southern Illinois, while conditions worsened across the southwest desert into southwestern Texas.

• New Mexico set a record for driest conditions (0.55 inches of below normal precipitation), while Arizona and Nevada had their second driest January. Notably, Nevada’s extreme dryness followed a record-wet December for the state. Other states also experiencing much below normal precipitation averages were: Virginia (fifth driest), Oklahoma (eighth), North Carolina (ninth) and California (10th). Meanwhile, much-above normal precipitation fell in North Dakota and Nebraska.