By: Chris Long
What a strange December we had. Not just in North Carolina, but across the whole country. At the same time that very strong EF 4 tornadoes were ravaging towns in the Dallas area, freezing rain caused cars to slip and slide on the western side of the same state. Temperatures were also way out of the ordinary. Out of all the fifty states, none had below average temperatures for the month of December. In fact, every state east of the Mississippi River had their warmest December on record. Records have been kept on the east coast since 1895. To have the entire eastern third of the country have record setting Decembers is unprecedented.
Like the temperatures, the United States also set the record for the wettest December on record. In the local area, flooding has caused problems, especially around the rivers. While many people don’t know, central North Carolina was actually in a small drought earlier this year. The wet fall took care of that problem. Falls Lake was at capacity in some of the last days of 2015 and by January 3rd, the dam was releasing water into the Neuse river at full strength. This led to flooding in many areas along the river, including a large part of the Neuse River Greenway Trail. Jordan Lake has also had some issues. Just like Falls Lake, Jordan Lake was so high that water was being released at full strength into the Cape Fear river. On January 4th, helicopter video from local news outlets captured boat ramps and storage areas under water. The local residents near the lake had been quoted saying that the lake was a whopping seventeen feet above “full pool.” Luckily, apart from the few flurries and the one day of rain that fell earlier this month, there has been very little precipitation to start 2016. Had the rain continued to fall, the triangle would have been in big trouble with flooding.
All in all, what was described above does not sound anything like winter. So that poses the question: Where is winter?
While having the warmest December on record in Raleigh doesn’t help the view of winter, it is important to remember that winter only starts four days before Christmas. The cold blast of January 5-6th was the first true feel of winter in central North Carolina. As the temperatures did rebound back to average quickly, it is likely that those days will not be the only days feeling like winter this season.
El Niño should still have a large influence over the weather pattern for the rest of this winter. As a refresher, El Niño winters are generally characterized by colder than average temperatures and greater than average precipitation. As this January continues, we will likely see temperatures continue to be around the average mark for the season. The average high temperature in Raleigh for reference is 51O in the month of January.
However, most long range forecasts show the month of February more closely following the El Niño pattern. Forecasts have temperatures being below average and precipitation above average. For snow lovers, this is probably good news since Raleigh averages the majority of winter weather in the month of February. Of course, a forecast is a forecast and what will really happen can’t be determined. But remember, winter has just begun. We’ll wait to see what mother nature has in store for us.