Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Saturday: 1 February 2014

The Month of January  -  @ 17:26:21
It's The Month of January, Number 96 in a series, and therefore end the eighth year!

The word for January, in the eastern half of the country, was cold, but not unprecedented by any means, nor earth shaking. If you were outside of the eastern US, and paying attention, you knew about much warmer than normal temperatures in Europe, northern Asia, and record breaking high temperatures in Australia.

Still, for us, the average of the daily low temperatures this January was the 3rd lowest since 1920, beat out only by 1977 and 1940. Even the average mean daily temperature was the 4th lowest since 1920. Only peripherally related was the snowfall of January 28th, but we had less than an inch here, much less than that of Feb 2010, Dec 2010, and Jan 2011.

Nationally:

Here are the usual temperature anomalies products, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Displayed are the high and low temperature anomalies.

Click on the image for the high and low anomaly graphic on a new page:



We switched from a warmer than usual December to a colder January here in the southeast US, while much of the western US was as much warmer than usual.

It's as stark a picture as any - warmer than usual sharply gave way to colder than usual across a line nearly bisecting the US from north to south.

We find the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center's precipitation plots here.



Almost as stark was the level of dryness over much of the country. California's extreme drought began to make its way eastward through much of the southwest into the south. There was a continued deficit of precipitation in the central plains. The northwestern states including Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and parts of Utah and Colorado got normal to above normal rainfall, which was the fate of a lot of the northeast as well.

For the Athens, GA area:

Below is my usual daily rain/temperature plot visualizing the changes in temperatures and precipitation. The spiky lines are temperatures recorded roughly ten times a day, and the lighter blue columns are Wolfskin rainfall measurements.



The black line is the normal average daily temperature, and you can see that we're now starting to creep upward. We only had a few scattered days of average temperatures, usually associated with modest amounts of rain. We had three periods of much colder than usual weather, the first occurring around Jan 7, and that was the most intense of the three. It was the last cold spell that brought the snow and ice to the southeast a few days ago, but as you can see the liquid phase of the precipitation was actually quite small.

Below in blue are the daily low record temperatures for Athens, GA. Red show last year's daily averages (a much warmer January!) and green are for January 2014. The black dots are unconnected daily averages for 1990-2011, and give you an idea of the spread.



On average, we were cold in January. The Athens area mean temperature during January was 6.4 degF below the normal 43.2F. Even so, we only matched one low temperature record of 7 degF, on Jan 7, where the green hits the blue.

We had only 2 days more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs (average is 5.2 days), and that reflected the colder month. In contrast, we had 12 nights with temperatures more than 1 standard deviation below normal lows (average is 4.2 nights). It was definitely a colder month by this count.

Let's look more closely at the breakdown in temperature ranges in January. Our average low was 25.6 degF, 7.5F below the normal monthly low, and the average high for January was 6.4F below the long term average high. Both days and nights were colder, but nights were more anomalously cold than days.

The monthly histogram below shows the breakdown of high and low temperature range counts from January 1948 on. The error bars are just plus/minus one standard deviation, which I arbitrarily set as the limits outside of which are "significantly" anomalous.



The high temperature events fall on or within the error bars, but the two coldest ranges just barely scrape significance. The low regime shows the normal number of 30-40 degF lows, more or less, but there's a significant loss of warmer nights (>41F) shifted into the much colder nights (20F and below).

Below is the monthly accumulation of rain in Athens, GA. The river of peach is the long term standard deviation of all the daily black dots in the last 15 years, and the red line is the daily cumulative average. We're the green line this year, and for almost half the month it cradled that surplus of blue above the one standard deviation mark.



Almost all our rain was due to a nearly four inch rainfall over the period January 9-11, just after the first cold spell. There was a fair amount of variation in this rainfall, and Athens got more than we did. With all the other rains, the official Athens rainfall in January was 4.68 inches(4.05 inches average for January). Out here in Wolfskin we had only 3.56 inches.

We had virtually no rain in the last three weeks of January, and with windy, extremely dry air most of the time experienced a lot of brush fires. On several days Oglethorpe County VFDs were being called to as many as three outbreaks per day.



Prognosticator stuff:

What is the prognosticator telling us?

First, for us here in the southeast, it had been accurate over the last five months for temperature and precipitation, but its prediction of drier and warmer in the last half of December certainly failed for rainfall predictions. That mushy success rate continued in January. We did get a big rain, followed by a dry period, but the normal to warmer weather that was predicted for January was not correct.

So for what it's worth, as of 1 February, we'll have a higher than normal chance of precipitation for the next month, then an equal chance of normal precipitation in the early spring.

Temperature-wise, it tells us in the Southeast that we can expect a couple of more weeks of colder temperatures, which coupled with the above increases our chance for more snow (!). After February, there is a higher probability of warmer than usual weather in March and April.

There is also seasonal drought outtakes on that page. Take a look at the best 3-month guess ahead for your own region!

ENSO stuff:

The folks at CPC have a version of PDF or HTML that is much different from their previous presentations, but at least it's there and the link isn't broken.

As of 27 January, ENSO neutral conditions continue, and are expected to remain neutral, now through the Northern Hemisphere summer. We've remained ENSO neutral now for 21 months. The last time we had such a lengthy period without an El Niño or La Niña must be at this point in the 1990s.

NOAA's Monthly State of the Climate product for December is available. Winter storms in New England, top 10 cold temperatures in the northern tier of states, and drought in the Pacific states, especially California which just now completed its record driest year.

You'll find that and more in the preliminary annual report for 2013 regionally, nationally, and globally. NOAA will add to and modify it over the course of the next few months.



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