The Alabama Climate Report

Brought to you by the Office of the Alabama
Climatologist

Volume 5, Number 3, December 2014

It looks like 2015 is going to start in much the same way 2014 did: Cold.

This week might not be quite as icy as the three Arctic blasts that rocked Alabama a year ago, but it might be close. Low temperatures a year ago included -1° in both Valley Head and Russellville during different cold spells. Statewide, the average temperature in January 2014 was an icy 7 degrees colder than normal.

The thing everyone will remember from January 2014 is the "snowpocalypse" that dumped snow and ice over much of southern and central Alabama, stretching up the I-20 corridor to Atlanta and beyond. Tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people were stranded when cars and trucks could no longer negotiate the ice-covered streets and highways.

January wasn't our only nasty cold month in 2014. November saw a strong cold front yo-yo temperatures as much as 62 degrees in less than two weeks. Temperatures that were in the mid 70s on Nov. 11 dropped as low as 11° in Addison on Nov. 19, then bounced back up into the mid to upper 70s by Nov. 24!

It makes your joints ache just to think about it. Or it does mine.

Statewide, 2014 was a relatively quiet year in terms of severe weather. There were 54 reported tornadoes, with 73 people injured and "only" two fatalities, both in an April 28 EF-3 tornado that hit Billy Barb's Trailer Park in Limestone County.

Even so, our colleagues at the National Weather Service and researchers at UAH are working diligently to produce earlier and better warnings so one day we may report no fatalities.

As frequently happens in Alabama, we saw periods of both extreme rainfall and drought in 2014. Some stations in Mobile and Baldwin counties reported more than 25 inches of rain just in April and May. That included Mobile getting more than 11 inches of rain just on April 29, its third wettest day on record.

Then September saw rainfall statewide that was less than half of what is normal for that month. Huntsville got less than half an inch of rain in September, while Gainsville Lock and Dam reported only 0.52".

Looking at our statewide sample of cities, 2014 was slightly cooler than normal, with an average temperature of 61.74° compared to the norm of 63.04°. And statewide, we came up just over two inches short on rainfall, with an average of 54.64 inches statewide compared to the norm of 56.72".

Looking back somewhat farther into Alabama's weather history, 2015 will be the 40th anniversary of the wettest year in the state's 120+ year climate record. The average statewide rainfall in 1975 was 76.23 inches, or about 20 inches more than normal.

No doubt that was somewhat the result of Hurricane Eloise coming ashore in September of that year. While hurricanes can bring with them quite a bit of rain, Eloise was also unique in that it held together as a hurricane until after it passed over Auburn!

August 29 will mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the last major (Cat. 3 or larger) hurricanes to hit the U.S. coast (Wilma, later that year was the last). This is already a record for the longest period between major hurricanes in the U.S.

And Sept. 4, 2015, will mark the 90th anniversary of the hottest day in Alabama's climate record, with a high temperature of 112 degrees Fahrenheit recorded in Centreville. That September was apparently fairly miserable, with a statewide average temperature of 83.1°.

If you are looking for more details about weather events in 2014, the National Weather Service office in Birmingham has an excellent web page with that kind of information at: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/bmx/?n=climo_2014review

- John Christy