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Dec. 5, 2020
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Glenn Burns weather

2020 was tough weather year, too


As we all know, 2020 has been horrible with the pandemic. It’s also been horrible in the weather arena as well. The 2020 season began early when Arthur formed on May 16. The extremely active season quickly went through the pre-determined list of 21 names, ending with Wilfred on September 18. Then for only the second time in history, the Greek alphabet was used for the remainder of the season, with Alpha forming the same day. We had a total of 30 named storms for 2020, which breaks the record for the highest number of tropical/subtropical storms in a single year. The previous record of 28 storms was set in 2005. Official records date to 1851.
 
The Atlantic hurricane season officially ended on November 30, but additional storms could develop this month. Our team of meteorologists, along with forecasters at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center continuously monitor the tropics for storm development and activity.  This time of year, we need to remain vigilant because storms tend to form more in the Gulf of Mexico.
 
If you are asking why this year has been so active, you are asking a good question. There are several factors. The Atlantic Ocean has naturally been in a warmer phase since around 1995, something called the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation. This added warmth creates more ideal conditions for hurricanes to form. We’ve also had La Nina, (ocean cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean) which brought to a halt the strong east-driving winds blowing through the Caribbean. These winds pummel hurricanes with “wind shear.” It shears or tears apart storms or does not allow them to form. This year, they had no obstacles. We also had a strong West African monsoon season. Most powerful Atlantic hurricanes are seeded by unstable air and thunderstorms traveling west from Africa. More clouds and storm activity in West Africa are linked to favorable conditions for hurricanes.
 
You may have also noted that November was very warm!  Indeed, it was and because of the same La Nina that gave us the active hurricane season. La Nina is not finished yet. The ocean cooling off South American changes atmospheric conditions in such a way what we will likely have a very warm and a very dry winter. I am not saying it’s not going to rain and be in the 80s every day. We will have cold periods and maybe even a shot at snow but overall, winter 2020-2021 will be warmer and drier than usual.
 
I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas and I can’t wait until 2021!  
 
 

Glenn Burns is chief meteorologist for WSB-TV in Atlanta.



  



November 2020 column

Hurrican Delta's direction change results in drenching


I thought our October weather was absolutely amazing! Moderate temperatures and below average rainfall for most of the month, except when we had that visit from Hurricane Delta that brought 4-6 inches of rain across north Georgia.
 
I had so many people ask me why we had a tropical system hit the Gulf Coast and Georgia in October. October is still very much hurricane season and the area they are most likely to form in October is the Gulf of Mexico. This past September and October we had La Nina develop. I won’t go into much detail about La Nina now, but the bottom line is, La Nina did not allow any wind shear to occur in the atmosphere that would have weakened Delta. It charged through Louisiana with a vengeance and then was supposed to move toward Ohio and weaken. Delta did not follow the prediction and instead moved toward Georgia like a rocket. Its outer band prompting a tornado watch for the metro area and a flash flood watch for the mountains. It was a Saturday night and I was in Severe Weather Center 2 when I saw the signature of our first tornado. It happed to be on during a certain football game! We did most of our warning and tracking on our web page. When it was all said and done by 11:30 pm, we had seven confirmed tornadoes and 4.6 inches of rain in Atlanta. From Lake Lanier to the mountains, we saw 4-8 inches of tropical rain with extensive flooding in many areas. It was quite a night but and we are so happy no one was hurt.
 
Onward we go into November and the Climate Prediction Center continues its predictions of a warmer and drier November than the 30-year average. We begin the month with an average high temperature of 68 degrees and an average low of 48. By November 15th, the average high and low are 65 and 45. By the last day of the month the average high is 59 and the average low is 41. The average rainfall for the month is 3.9 inches. However, as I mentioned earlier, we have a La Nina now and temperatures are expected to be well above average with a drier than average month. The first freeze dates have been as early as October 11th with the latest being November 13. The full “Beaver Moon,” according to the Old  Farmer’s Almanac, will be the morning of the 30th.
 
Hope you all have a wonderful month and wonderful Thanksgiving, despite all that’s going on.


October 2020 column

The twinge of cool temps are upon us


October is one of my favorite months. The long and hot days of summer are coming to an end and we will soon feel that first little twinge of cold, reminding us winter is coming. 
 
Speaking of cold, the average date for our first freezing temperatures is November 16th. However, back on October 11th in 1906, a major blast of cold air barreled out of Canada and poured into the Southeast. It is the earliest we’ve ever seen a 32 degree temperature in Atlanta.
 
This is also the month where the leaves turn. As you well know, we’ve had a lot of rain this summer. As of this writing, we have a near 14-inch rainfall surplus for the year! That’s great for the lakes.  It’s also good news and bad news for our fall color.
 
Let’s get the bad news over with. When we have had rain like we’ve seen this summer and fall, it tends to make the fall color a little “muddied” for lack of a better word. The color is OK but not great. During dry years our fall color tends to be spectacular with brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows.  So, the bad news is the fall color will not be very brilliant for the most part. By now, your asking what the “good” news is.
 
The good news is the abundant rainfall will give us a longer-lasting fall color. While dry conditions bring more vivid color, it does not last long. Rainy weather allows the leaves to remain on the trees longer, so we get to enjoy the fall color, as muted as it may be, for a much longer period of time.
 
La Nina continues to be 60 percent likely this winter. I am continuing to watch the colder sea surface temperatures build along the equatorial Pacific Ocean just off the west coast of South America.  This disrupts the global wind patterns in such a way as to bring us warmer than average temperatures for the winter. It also has a tendency to bring us drier than average conditions for the winter. It could still snow in our area, but the odds are against it.
 
As far as the temperatures go the daily high temperatures decrease by 9 degrees, from 77 to 68, rarely falling below 57 or exceeding 84. Daily low temperatures decrease by 11 degrees, from 59 on October 1st to 48 by the 31st, rarely falling below 37 or exceeding 6.
 
Hope you enjoy one the best weather months of the year!  

September 2020 column

Time to look at fall, winter predictions

Happy September everyone! The Autumnal Equinox, or the first day of fall, will be on Tuesday, September 22 (specifically at 9:30 a.m.). I have heard from many of you here at the TV station in recent weeks, asking if we are expected to have a cool fall, cold winter, and snow! I have been looking into that and here’s what I’ve found.
 
There is good evidence to support a developing La Nina. Just off the west coast of South America, there is a rather significant ocean cooling that is currently under way. The colder ocean water will tend to bring us drier than average conditions beginning late fall and continue through the winter. Normally, you get a lot of precipitation that will form over warmer ocean water.

It’s just the opposite for cold water. That means our global wind patterns will be transporting that drier air over the United States, resulting in a drier than average late fall and winter. La Nina will not only bring us drier conditions, it now has a 60 percent chance of bringing us warmer than average temperatures beginning late fall and winter. By now you are asking, does that mean no snow? Probably. However, there could be times we get a decent shot of cold air with a Gulf of Mexico storm. It’s just not the likeliest scenario.
 
We also should remember the months of September and October are still hurricane season. September is actually the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. La Nina tends to create ideal conditions for tropical storms and hurricanes. Some of the strongest hurricanes in history have been in September, as they typically form in the Atlantic and have a large chunk of the ocean to intensify. In October, the prime breeding ground is the Gulf of Mexico, where storms have a better chance of impacting Georgia. And this worries me.
 
As we all know, this summer has been an extremely wet one for most of north Georgia. Tropical storm or hurricane rains falling on already saturated ground is a worst-case scenario for us. However, we have our favorite lake coming to the rescue if needed. Lake Lanier is fun to fish, swim and boat. However, its primary function is flood control. During times of heavy rainfall, runoff waters are stored in Lanier to help prevent flooding downstream of Buford Dam. manner. Then the excess water is released slowly downstream.

I worry about all the islands that need rip-rap and how they would handle a flood situation. Lake Lanier has the floodwater storage capacity to rise 14 feet above its full pool to prevent downstream flooding. The highest the lake has been to date was in 1964 when the lake reached over 6 feet above its full pool. There were some extenuating circumstances and they were addressed. We’re much better able to withstand hurricane rainfall now. Let’s just hope to don’t.   
 

August 2020 column
 

Here's why we get spectacular sunsets on Lanier


On my Facebook page, you will generally see a great many sunset pictures from viewers all over north Georgia. And many of them are from Lake Lanier. July and August have been great months for snapping shots of the beautiful yellow, orange, and red hues of the canvas Mother Nature paints in the western sky almost every evening (and many mornings too) in mid to late summer.
 
This time of year we get a lot of moisture that moves into north Georgia with a prevailing southwest wind off the Gulf of Mexico.  We also have a little more pollution this time of year because the air is a bit more stagnant. The number of fronts moving in that would normally scour out the stagnant air are essentially non-existent. Therefore, the small particles of particulate matter remain suspended in the air.
 
We have been seeing some incredible sunrises this past month.  Sunsets have been even more spectacular. The white sunlight we see during the day is a mixture of all the colors in the rainbow.

Some colors have a short wavelength.  Some colors have a long wavelength. Consider ocean waves coming ashore along the beach. The distance from one wave to the one following it is the wavelength.  Light also has a wavelength. The color blue and the cool colors of the rainbow have short wavelengths. The warmer colors like orange and red, have much longer wavelengths. When the sun sets in the west, there are more particles of dust, sand, salt, and pollution on the horizon. When shorter wavelength colors hit that, the color becomes scattered.

For example, when the color blue hits the debris, it gets scattered and cannot penetrate through. On the other hand, the yellows, oranges, and reds of the sun, with the longer wavelength of light, blast through and are not blocked. That’s why we see the reddish hues at sunset. I expect with the prevailing wind this summer off the Gulf of Mexico, there will be more particles in the air, ranging from pollution to sea salt.  Watch for more brilliant sunsets this month on the lake. They will continue to be spectacular! 
 
The August outlook from the Climate Prediction Center is for continued above average temperatures and above average rainfall. 
 
Also, remember the tropics will become very active this month. I would expect, after a lull in July, we will see tropical storm and hurricane formation on the increase.  Remember, the revised hurricane outlook is now calling for 20 named storms this year. We’ve already had six named storms, so we have a way to go! 
 

July 2020 column

Recalling the record-breaking deluge of July 2005

Hope everyone enjoyed those cool temperatures we saw in June. From what I can see right now, we are heading into a pattern that will feature above average temperatures and above average rainfall. July, on average, is the wettest month of the year. Based on the past 30 years, we usually see about 5.27 inches of rain. However, back in 2005, we had 14.63 inches of rain.
 
On July 9 and 10, 2005 Hurricane Dennis churned through the eastern Gulf of Mexico toward the Florida Panhandle. The center of circulation passed through northwestern Florida, western Alabama, into northeastern Mississippi. This track was far enough west to spare most Georgians from any wind damage. However, Dennis brought buckets of rain to the state which led to some flash flooding around the Atlanta metropolitan area. Eventually many rivers rose above flood stage.
 
The outer bands of the storm arrived in northern and central Georgia late on Saturday the 9th of July. Rain continued through Sunday (the 10th) before tapering off on Monday (the 11th). A particularly heavy and persistent band of rain caused rainfall of 8-12 inches in a north-south band that stretched from around Americus through Thomaston into the western half of the Atlanta metro area.
 
Severe flooding occurred Sunday night and Monday in Cobb, Douglas and Clayton counties and in portions of Cherokee, Fulton, Fayette and Coweta counties. Water levels along Sweetwater Creek near Austell reached record levels, cresting at a height of 21.8 feet around noon on July 12. This exceeded the previous high water mark of 20.0 feet which occurred back in July of 1916!
 
It was a wicked storm. The tropical weather season was off to a rambling start, as we had three named storms before the hurricane season even began on June 1. July is actually a relatively quiet month for hurricanes. August and September are brutal. Those are when we see the big storms form near the West Coast of Africa. They can and do develop into monsters as they cross the ocean by “feeding” on the warm ocean waters with very little wind shear to stop them. I am not looking forward to next month.
 
In the meantime, July is when I get concerned for the boaters out enjoying the lake for what begins as the warm sunny day but ends in a hail of rain and lightning. So many times I have seen people unaware of approaching storms only to be racing back to the ramp as one of our massive July storms moves down the lake. Download our Severe Weather Team 2 App before you go! I will alert you well before a storm approaches so you can take action to protect you and your family. Lightning is the major concern during summer storms. I will alert you when lightning is detected near your location. I just want you to be prepared and make sure you and your family are safe during the summer storm season. 
 
Be safe everyone.


June 2020 column

Enjoying a rare spring weather

I get quite a few emails every day, mostly with questions about the weather. There has been one underlying theme this spring. My viewers have all been saying this is the first time in decades we’ve actually had a spring. 
 
Yes indeed! I remember last year we went right from winter into the 80s. This year, right up until just before the Memorial Day weekend, we had lows in the 40s in the mountains, 50s across most of north Georgia for morning lows. Highs were only in the 60s and 70s into late May! I did a little poll on social media and about 70 percent of my followers loved the cooler weather.
 
You may be asking if the cooler spring weather will continue into the summer. I am glad you asked! The Climate Prediction Center has given north Georgia a 60 percent chance of above average temperatures. I personally think we will spend most days in the mid to upper 80s and not 90s. 
 
Why you ask? It’s because the Climate Prediction Center is also predicting above average rainfall. Afternoon summer storms are nature’s temperature regulators. If we have frequent summer storms, temperatures will stay down.
 
Here are the rainfall averages for the summer months. This of course can vary greatly if we have a tropical system or two, but here are the numbers based on the average monthly rainfall over the past 30 years. In June, we average just under four inches of rain. July is the wettest month of the year for north Georgia where we average 5.27 inches of rain. In August, the average drops dramatically to 3.9 inches.

As I said, the prediction is for us to exceed these monthly averages. In addition, the National Hurricane Center is also predicting an above average hurricane season. The bottom line here is we are not going to have to worry about low lake levels like we have in the past.
 
I know we’ve had a tough go with the COVID-19 virus, but at least we will be able to get out on the lake and enjoy the great outdoors. 
 
I wish you all a great summer. We’ll chat next month as the tropics begin to heat up. We’ve already had Tropical Storm Arthur a week before the official start of the season. That could be a clue as to what to expect later in the summer. I will keep you posted, as always.


May 2020 column

 

Say goodbye to stormy April

April certainly lived up to its expectations of being the peak of our severe storm season. The Wednesday before Easter, I was in Severe Weather Center 2 and my colleague, meteorologist Brad Nitz and I (Brad is working from home) had the same reaction when we saw the afternoon model run data for the upcoming Easter weekend.  We both texted each other about the same time, with the same reaction. OMG!
 
The severe storm parameters were off the chart. The wind shear being predicted was in the ridiculous mode. It looked like what we saw back in 2011, maybe even a little worse. We alerted the news department that we would need all hands on deck, as this would likely be the “big one” of the season.  Friday before Easter nothing had changed with the models. It was going to be an epic severe storm outbreak from Texas to North Carolina. We had been alerting our viewers since Wednesday and they were craving new information. Is my county included? How bad would it be Where would tornadoes be more likely? All great questions we would not know the final answer to until Easter morning. The one thing we knew for sure was the timing.
 
On Holy Saturday, all the models were in agreement. The storm system with all its fury would be coming in Easter night and continuing overnight into Monday morning. This is a worst case scenario.  The storms are violent and scary.  It’s in the middle of the night.  Moms and dads would be huddled in basements or hallways and bathrooms. The darkness and hour adding to the horror and confusion of horrific wind and rain. And then the storms began.  
 
The first tornado warning came around 8 p.m. Easter night. It was for Chatooga County in northwest Georgia. These were going to be long-track tornadoes. We began tracking it on radar, warning people in the path as it moved around 50 mph to the northeast, toward Murray and Whitfield counties. It was a bad one. 
 
As it turned out, the EF 2 carved out a path of destruction from Chatooga to Murray counties and five people lost their lives.  Another man in Barrow County would lose his life when a tree fell on his house and crushed him. By the time it was all said the done, we had 22 tornadoes in Georgia.  
 
  The strongest was the EF 3 with winds estimated at 165 mph.  We were looking at the wind velocities on radar as we were tracking it. We could not believe it’s size.  This tornado tracked through Upson County for about 40 miles and it was a half mile wide! 
 
By 4 a.m. we finally saw the end of it. We had been on the air for hours. We just would not know the full extent of the damage until the next morning. When I got up and turned on the news, there was a reporter standing in front of a house that was in the middle of the street. He was in Upson County.  That tornado had ripped the house from its foundation, hurled it into the air, and laid it down in the road, mostly intact! I’ve never seen anything like it. It then had to be torn down. There was no one in the house at the time and I could not believe there was not a single person hurt from that tornado!
 
In case you are wondering, the most tornadoes in a single day was 42. The year was 2018. We are now breaking out of tornado season and entering one of the prettiest months of the year in north Georgia. Hope you can get out, social distancing of course, and enjoy some of the best weather of year.
 


April 2020 column

Weather patterns remain stuck in neutral

These have certainly been some challenging times, to say the least. I am hoping we can all keep a positive attitude until we get back to normal. 
 
On to the weather. I am extremely happy severe storm season has been off to a slow start for north Georgia. I know the rain has been relentless but that is having both positive and negative effects. Our favorite lake is at full pool and we are not concerned about low lake levels as in the previous past five years. For those of us who suffer from allergies, the rain has certainly kept the pollen counts way down. I have been looking at the weather patterns and from what I’ve seen, we are likely to see the above average rainfall continue.
 
Most years we have an El Nino weather pattern or a La Nina pattern. Both are the result of changing sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Nino is ocean warming and La Nina is ocean cooling. El Nino will bring us colder temps and above average rainfall. La Nina brings more sunshine and above average temperatures. We don’t have either. We are in what is called a “neutral” pattern, which has resulted in this relentless rainfall and the above average winter temperatures we had this year.
 
A neutral pattern like this is fairly unusual and there’s just not a lot of data to look at. From the extended forecast models I have seen, this wet pattern will be relentless this spring. With more clouds, we will likely see a more stable atmosphere, resulting in fewer severe weather days. As cold fronts continue to become weaker by the end of the month and on into May, we just might have an entire severe storm season with only a couple of outbreaks. I am keeping my fingers crossed!
 
I have been looking at new data coming from the Climate Prediction Center regarding our summer weather patterns. The CPC is betting on the neutral pattern to break down but there’s no timing on that. If it does, we may see some good drying in June. I will keep you posted.

March 2020 column

We must keep an eye on the sky this month

When I visited Lake Lanier recently, it was actually pretty horrifying. The lake was almost the color of chocolate milk. There was debris everywhere. All I could picture was a bass boat speeding along and then smashing headlong into one of the huge tree trunks floating along, about three-quarters submerged. Tree trunks, tree limbs, and all kinds of shoreline debris were everywhere. Nearly 10 inches of rain for the month will certainly do that.
 
So far this season, as you may have already guessed, our winter has been very warm. By the time it’s all said and done, we might end up with one of the 15 warmest winters on record for north Georgia. We did not have an El Nino this year. El Nino is a cooling of the eastern or central Pacific Ocean. We did not have a La Nina, which is just the opposite. La Nina brings warm surface water to the eastern Pacific Ocean. Both can and do disrupt global wind patterns. El Nino usually results in colder than average temperatures and above average rainfall, or sometimes some robust snowstorms. La Nina on the other hand, generally brings drier than average conditions to Georgia. This year, we did not have either. Conditions are neutral and we have ended up with many more wet days than dry days, along with some unseasonably warm stretches.
 
The first day of spring is Friday, March 20. I am dreading it. It could be a rough go this spring. I also remember March 13, 1993. I came into my office on March 10. I began looking over the latest model guidance and could not believe what I was seeing. It was a neutral year, just like this year. The storm I was seeing on the models was unlike anything I had ever seen in winter. It was going to be like a hurricane in winter. Any and all modes of weather were going to happen and indeed they did.

Supercell thunderstorms, 11 massive tornadoes, and a 12-foot storm surge slammed the Florida Gulf Coast. Six inches of snow buried the Florida Panhandle. Dry Tortugas near the Bahamas recorded a 109 mile per hour wind gust. Winds in Myrtle Beach, SC were more than 90 miles per hour. Double digit snowfalls were measured from Alabama to Maine. Here in Atlanta, white-out conditions were recorded. Birmingham, Alabama had 17 inches of snow with six foot drifts. Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland set records for the deepest snow in history. 270 people were killed in 13 states and the damage was estimated at $5.5 billion in 1993 dollars. It was called SuperStorm ’93.
 
As we head into March, I know we’re going to see numerous tornado outbreaks in the South. You can be sure, I am also keeping a close watch on the Gulf of Mexico. Rainfall this winter has been too much for the ground to absorb. Hopefully, as trees and plants awaken from their winter slumber, they will help absorb some of this rainwater. I suspect we are going to have ongoing flood concerns this month.
 
I know we all want to get back out on the lake with the warming temperatures and get in on that spring bass bite. However, we are all going to have to be patient and extra diligent, as our weather will likely be in the extreme category this month. More flooding, more severe storms, and of course, watching intently at the Gulf of Mexico. 
 
Stay safe everyone.


February 2020 column

Keep an eye on the sky this month

I hope your holidays were great and you are enjoying this “winter” weather! On my way to work today I was thinking about what I would write about. I passed by a couple walking their two dogs along the side of the road. I could not remember when I ever saw anyone walking in shorts this time of the year!
 
When we are in a neutral pattern, that is, without an El Nino (eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean cooling) or a La Nina (eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean warming) we generally see a lot of rain. We were in a pretty good drought this fall and now we are enjoying a nice rainfall surplus! That worries me. We are heading into the wettest months of the year and the ground simply can’t hold much more rain. Many trees are still dormant and there is nothing to soak up the rain.

In February, we average 4.6 inches of rain. Our average for March is 5.5 inches. For April, we average 4.3 inches. That’s about 14 and a half inches. With a continuation of above average rainfall expected, we are going to see some flooding. Creeks, rivers, and streams have been at near flood stage or over since the heavy rain began in January. You should prepare for your home. Make sure your gutters are all cleaned out. Address any problem areas where you had flooding issues.

I know we are going to see a lot of rain in the months ahead. It may not be all rain. Thunderstorms will also be rumbling in with the parade of fronts expected. Some of these storms will likely produce tornadoes. I have seen a general uptick in tornadoes this time of year of the past several years. Cobb, Fulton, and Coweta counties were among the hardest hit. Straight line winds are also a major concern. With all rain and saturated ground, it does not take much for trees to fall. Even healthy trees can come down.
 
I want to make sure you are adequately warned when severe weather approaches. A weather alert radio is your best bet. There are many of weather apps for your phone, including ours here at WSB. Ours is free of charge and it is actually me that will alert you when severe storms are approaching. 

Be safe everyone. Severe storm season is getting under way this month.


January 2020 column

Recalling winter storms, wondering about this year

Happy New Year everyone! Hope your holidays were wonderful. We are now in 2020 and we are still in a neutral weather pattern. There is no El Nino that typically brings cold and wet weather. There is no La Nina, which generally brings mild and dry winter weather. We are simply neutral.
 
Last month we had some good cold punches but also some significant warming during the month. We ended December about 2.5 degrees above the 30-year temperature average. Now, as you know, we are entering the coldest part of winter. I was doing some research and we’ve certainly had our fair share of winter weather hijinks during January’s past. 
 
Some of you may remember the ice storm of 1973 that paralyzed much of north Georgia for a week! Then we had Snowjam ’82. It came in so quickly many drivers just abandoned their cars. In 2014 we had another similar storm. The granddaddy of them all however, came on March 13, 1993. The Blizzard of ’93 was also called the Storm of the Century. It dropped five inches of snow in the city with 30-plus inches in the north Georgia mountains.
 
Although the Blizzard of ’93 was 27 years ago, I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the Weather Center watching for the latest model data to print out. When the first run was completed, I thought it was showing a hurricane developing in the Gulf of Mexico. However, I then saw the frigid arctic air up to the north. I was not believing what I was seeing. It was an epic storm. I gave my afternoon weather briefing to the newsroom but I am not sure any believed me when I suggested the snow totals I thought we could see. Even my boss asked me if I was confident enough to go on the air and tell our viewers what I was seeing. Having spent three years working and going to graduate school in Minneapolis, I felt pretty confident. The rest is history!
 
Am I suggesting another blizzard? The short answer is no. However, in my line of work, you learn never to say never! I do believe there will be a trend toward colder weather this month. There may however, be a different dynamic at work this month. We have seen a great many “wedges” this fall and winter. The scientific name is Cold Air Damming. Cold air is thick and dense, like syrup. When a cold area of high pressure settles across New England, it will send cold air down south. The mountains of north Georgia act like a dam, funneling the cold air into north Georgia. If we were to get a storm system in the Gulf of Mexico, it could transport moisture northward, into the cold air.

Before you get your sleds out, be advised, this scenario would more than likely, mean ice. It’s been decades since we have seen a significant ice storm here. A neutral pattern can do that! I will keep you posted.
 

December 2019 column

Might want to get extra firewood this winter

Last month I was fairly confident in telling you about the weather patterns I expected to evolve as a result of not having an El Nino or La Nina to deal with this winter. I continue to look at some of the winter weather events of significance when we have had the neutral conditions that are evolving now. You may remember Snowjam ’82. I know you will remember this winter event. How about the Blizzard of ’93! Yes, that occurred during neutral conditions like we are experiencing now!
 
To answer your question, no, I am not predicting another epic, history-making, winter weather event like the Blizzard of ’93. I am also not ruling out that possibility. Look at what happened last month on the 12th. 148 record low temperature records were broken across the United States when that first blast of cold Arctic Air bore down on the nation’s heartland and spread into the Southeast.
 
I have also been seeing what is likely going to give us a colder than normal winter. It has to do with what is going on in the eastern Pacific Ocean. From time to time in the news, you may have seen reports on the abnormal heat that has been occurring from California to Washington. It seems there is this massive area of high pressure that has now taken up residence in the eastern Pacific Ocean and has been giving the western states a westerly wind instead of the usual east wind off the ocean. This westerly wind has caused record setting heat.
 
As you may know, the air around high pressure flows clockwise. While the lower half of the Pacific High Pressure is causing a westerly wind in the western states, the northern extent of the high pressure is now the steering current for cold fronts to plow down from the far reaches of northern Canada into the nation’s heartland, and eventually here in north Georgia. There is also a lot of snow on the ground already from northern Canada down into the plains. This is going to keep the air very cold as it moves in our direction. I would expect little, if any, moderation as it moves our way. I would say we are going to see many mornings this winter with lows in the teens and 20s.
 
Now, to answer the question I know you are about to ask. Are we going to see snow this winter? I would say we have a chance for several snows. Here’s what we look for. When a cold front arrives and sinks south of Georgia into the Gulf of Mexico, they will sometimes stall and become stationary. When this happens, an area of low pressure can form along the front and become a winter storm. This is what happened with the Blizzard of ’93. I am not saying we’re are going to have a “blizzard” but I would expect to see this scenario play out several times this winter. It will certainly be challenging to say this least. 
 
Winter officially begins Saturday, December 21st. I am always up for a good challenge so stay tuned! You might want to invest in an extra cord of firewood!


November 2019 column

Here's my best forecast for winter

I always keep my eye on the Gulf of Mexico in October. Last month I was actually hoping for a tropical system to develop and move our way. I was not hoping for a strong one, just one that would give us the potential of a good soaking rain. Tropical Storm Nestor filled the bill quite nicely, giving much of north Georgia 2-3 inches of rain.  With a 6-inch rainfall deficit for the year, we made a pretty good dent in our ongong drought. We still have a way to go, but I think during November we should see a pretty good uptick in rainfall with each passing cold front.
 
November is that transition month going from fall into winter. It can be beautiful with cobalt blue skies and mild temperatures. It can also be a time for strong and severe storms. November it a very volatile month in North Georgia. High temperatures average in the 60s with low temperatures in the 40s. I have also seen some signals in the atmosphere that would suggest above average rainfall!
 
Winter, as we all know begins next month. The Winter Solstice is Saturday, December 21st. I have, as usual, been getting many emails from viewers wanting to know what I expect this winter to be like. As we remember, last year was abnormally warm without a flake of snow. I have been looking at the science and have also been looking in my own backyard, to see how Ma Nature is preparing. I’ve noticed the squirrels building their nests much lower in the trees than last year. That’s usually an indication of a cold winter. However, in looking at the science, there’s a contradiction.
 
El Nino ended months ago. We no longer have El Nino nor do we have a La Nina. We have what are called Neutral Conditions. The Climate Prediction Center says there is an 85 percent chance we will stay neutral as we move into winter. Without an El Nino and without La Nina, what kind of winter will we likely have during neutral conditions? I am glad you asked!
 
I went through our climatology over the past 30 years. During the times when we have had no El Nino or La Nina, the coldest winter air has stayed well to our north with brief surges from time to time. I did not see any extremely cold weather for north Georgia that lasted more than a couple of days. What about snow? Last year we did not see any. I am not sure we will this year. I cannot say for sure but over the past 30 years during neutral conditions, it has been too warm for snow and it has been rain. Lots and lots of rain, as the southern branch of the jet stream unloads tons of moisture from the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.
 
I did a lot of research on this and this is the best prediction I have for the upcoming winter. I am going to know much more as we move into December. We will begin to see more trends developing. I will be updating my winter forecast and I will also give you the official winter forecast from the National Weather Service. Stay tuned!
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