How Did This Winter Compare to North Carolina’s Warmest Ever?

Written by Angie Menjivar
Published: March 12, 2023
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North Carolina is known for its kind people, varied geography, and mild winters. There is a place for people from every walk of life, whether they’re retired and looking for a small town to settle down in or at the peak of their careers, looking for the hustle and bustle of city life. Residents can enjoy the coast where many visitors arrive to vacation; they can settle comfortably into the state’s central region, where the largest cities are found, or go further toward the western regions for mountainous environments. The winters are mild in this state, allowing residents to enjoy a shift in weather without it being too disruptive. But how did this winter compare to North Carolina’s warmest ever?

The Warmest Winter Ever Recorded in North Carolina’s History

In North Carolina, the winters are mostly wet and mild. Highs typically don’t exceed 53 °F, and lows don’t often dip below freezing. Every once in a while, the temperature may spike up to the 60s or dip down into the teens. Mountainous areas see more snow than the city. For example, Raleigh, the state’s capital, typically sees about 6 inches of snowfall during the winter season.

The warmest winter ever recorded in North Carolina’s history occurred in the winter of 2015. The average temperature for the month was 53.64 °F. The previous record was 3 degrees below that and was set in 1956. During the winter of 2015, Christmas was not the typical bundled-up, gather-around-the-fireplace affair, with North Carolinians donning t-shirts in the midst of the mild weather on Christmas Day. In several cities, including Fayetteville, New Bern, and Wilmington, it felt much more like summer, with temperatures just above 80 °F.

Along with being the warmest winter the state has experienced to date, it was also the wettest. This was thanks to the El Niño weather pattern. Before 2015, 2009 experienced the wettest winter. Just as quickly as the cold season came, it disappeared the following month in January, when temperatures returned to average (and even below average). Even as the last month of the meteorological winter rolled around, temperatures remained normal on average for the state.

Longest Rivers in North Carolina - Cape Fear River
In 2015, in Welmington, Wilmington, Chriistmas Day felt much more like summer, with temperatures just above 80 °F!

©Paul Brady Photography/

Average Highs and Lows This Year

This year is similar to the warmest winter in 2015 in that it’s both warm and wet. However, it hasn’t been nearly as wet as the 2015 winter when the state received an average of 7.84 inches of rainfall. This January, the state made it to the 43rd-wettest ranking since 1895. Around the middle of November, Hurricane Nicole‘s residuals passed through the western and mountainous areas of the state, but the southern and eastern regions were significantly drier.

During the first week of January, a cold front affected these wetter regions as well, but there was almost no rain along the coast. Weather patterns shifted in the later part of January when a coastal low-pressure system emerged, followed by another cold front. Eastern regions of the state were welcomingly drenched as drought recovery brought relief. This January has reached the 8th-warmest spot in the state with an average temperature of 46.8 °F.

In December, Asheville temperatures remained between the 30s and 60s, while Wilmington was warmer, staying between the 40s and 50s. Charlotte, the state’s largest city, had temperatures in the high 30s up to the mid-50s. In January, Asheville recorded a low of 29 °F and a high of 47 °F while Wilmington recorded a lot of 38 °F and a high of 57 °F. Charlotte’s low in January was 34 °F, and the high was 52 °F. In February, temperatures warmed up even further. Asheville had a low of 28 °F and a high of 54 °F while Wilmington had a low of 38 °F and a high of 62 °F. Charlotte’s low was 34 °F with a high of 59 °F.

Animal Migration in North Carolina

Spring migration in North Carolina is quite a sight to behold. Then, finally, around the middle of March, the skies start clearing and the trees provide shelter for passing birds that wake residents with an array of aubades. Some of these birds call North Carolina home year-round while others grace residents with their presence only for a short while. Throughout the month of March, birders can feast their eyes on a variety of birds, including purple martins, Louisiana waterthrushes, chimney swifts, and ruby-throated hummingbirds.

In April and May, there is even more to witness. Orioles, warblers, and tanagers pass through the state heading north, where they can breed. One species to look out for is the blackpoll warbler, which heads off to Alaska and Canada, where they can find boreal forests. Aside from a wide variety of birds, there is also the Monarch butterfly migration to enjoy. The best time to spot them is between May and July.

Rocky Mountain Ruby-Throated Hummingbird sitting on a branch.
Throughout the month of March, birders can admire Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds in North Carolina.


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About the Author

Angie is a writer with over 10 years of experience developing content for product and brand reviews, focusing much of her time on animals of all types. A cat owner herself, she enjoys writing articles on beloved pets that both inform and entertain her audience.

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