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NOAA: Winter temperatures cooler than normal

CAMP SPRINGS, Maryland (CNN) -- Average winter temperatures in most of the United States were cooler than normal in the three-month period ending in February, according to numbers released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Still, drought took its toll and a warming trend continued at opposite corners of the country, with Alaska experiencing its warmest winter temperatures on record.

NOAA's data for the winter period of December to February showed it to be the 26th coolest winter for the 48 contiguous states since temperature record-keeping began roughly 130 years ago. That marks a sharp contrast to the previous two winters, which were the warmest on record.

Winter Weather

It was the first cooler-than-average winter since the 1993-94 season.

The warming trend continued in Alaska, which saw its mildest winter temperatures since data collection began there in 1918.

The Northwest and extreme Southeast experienced drought conditions during the three-month period. Washington and Oregon saw their second driest winter ever recorded -- deeply impacting snowpack, river flows, and ultimately the water available to feed the region's hydroelectric dams. The drought was cited in January as a factor in power shortages along the Pacific Coast.

Florida continued a three-year-old pattern of drought with its third driest winter ever -- prompting more than 1,300 wildfires in the state since January 1, record-low levels in Lake Okeechobee, and various water-use restrictions across the state.

Despite lower temperatures in much of the United States, NOAA said, the average temperatures worldwide during the three-month period were the 7th warmest on record. The ten warmest winter periods on record worldwide have all occurred since 1983.

The European winter was particularly warm, as was that of the world's entire Arctic region, NOAA's data revealed. But China, much of central Russia, and northern Australia all recorded unusually cold temperatures for the three-month span.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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