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

Saturday: 8 March 2014

The Month of February  -  @ 08:12:14
It's The Month of February, Number 97 in a series.

Much was made of continuing unusual cold, and for the northern half of the US it was continuing cold, at least in the eastern half. It's been hard to convince people around here that February for us was just about average.


Here are the usual temperature anomalies products, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Displayed are the mean temperature anomalies, not the absolute temperatures.

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

As I mentioned above, much of the eastern part of the country continued unusually cold weather. But the northern cold anomaly moved west in February, and retreated from the southeasternmost states.

Excepting Washington and Oregon, the Southwest continued much warmer than usual February temperatures.

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

The monthly precipitation anomalies across the country look remarkably the same as in January. Some relief from the drought came to much of California in February. Precipitation surpluses also picked up in the northwestern quadrant of the country. But normal to lower than normal precipitation remained the rule almost everywhere else.

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.

As far as cold is concerned, well, not that much. The only plunge below freezing occurred along with most of our precipitation for the month, resulting in sleet and snow for us Feb 11-12. It's that winter storm that people around here are remembering, not the unusually warm seven or so days that we enjoyed toward the end of the month. It did result in three snow days where many stayed home, and south of us the effects of that winter storm were much worse. Here we got dryish ice pellets; there it was damaging frozen rain with extensive power outages.

Our temperatures, unlike a lot of the country's, were just about average in February. The Athens area mean temperature during February was a little less than half a degree below the normal 47.4F. We came nowhere close to breaking any record low temperatures, but on Feb 20 did come within 1 degF of breaking a 78F record high.

We had only 5 days more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs (average is 4.8 days). And we had only 4 nights with temperatures more than 1 standard deviation below normal lows (average is 5.3 nights). By these criteria, temperatures in February averaged out very close to the norm.

The monthly histogram below shows the breakdown of high and low temperature range counts from February 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 ranges fall on or within the error bars, but there are two low temperature ranges significantly different from the norm. We had fewer lows in the warmer 41-50F range, and these reappear in the average low range of 31-40F. Average days, slightly cooler nights.

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.

We had three significant periods of precitation in February, and still came out considerably below the average 4.48" rainfall for the month: 3.96" in Athens and 3.67" out here in Wolfskin.

The main February event was, of course, the snow and ice system that moved through mid month.

During the nearly rainless final week of February, there were numerous brush fires reported in Oglethorpe County. Warm daytime humidity got down to less than 20%, which is very dry for us.

Prognosticator stuff:

What is the prognosticator telling us (as of March 7)?

First, for us here in the southeast, we'll have a higher probability of cooler weather for the next couple of weeks. Temperatures will trend back toward a somewhat higher probability of warmer than usual weather over the three month long term period.

We'll have a below average chance of precipitation over the next couple of weeks. From then on there seems to be an equal chance of normal precipitation in April and May.

There is also the seasonal drought outlook on that page, and it doesn't look good for the southwest and west over the MAM period.

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 3 March, ENSO neutral conditions continue, and are expected to remain neutral, now through the Northern Hemisphere spring. We've remained ENSO neutral now for 22 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.

(There has been some discussion of signs that an El Niño may be gearing up for later in the summer.)

NOAA's Monthly State of the Climate product for January is available. Extensive ice cover in the northeast, and snow everywhere in the East. Balancing that out are above normal temperatures in the West, with continuing exceptional drought in the Pacific states, especially California.

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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