Colder drier weather on the way – really

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The good news is that all of us in Pearl River County have used less energy to heat our homes this December than we normally do this time of year.
The bad news is that our electric bills will reflect a lot more air conditioning costs than usual for December.
I think I have run my air conditioner more this month than in any December during the past three decades that I’ve lived in Picayune.
“It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity.” That’s not usually a phrase I use in winter, but it’s certainly been appropriate this month. The real purpose for running the air conditioner, especially this past week, was to keep mold and mildew from starting to grow on the Christmas decorations over the fireplace.
Every time we walked outside last week we risked slipping and sliding onto our backsides, but it certainly wasn’t because of ice. My back patio and front porch, not having the benefit of air conditioning, remained slick with condensation because of the abnormally high humidity and the relatively cool temperature of the concrete.
As if all that humidity didn’t make it wet enough, we had between four-and-six-inches of rain across the county over the past week, sending area creeks and rivers to high levels.
Since warmer air is able to hold more water vapor than cold air, the unusually warm temperatures have been a key enabler for the high humidity and rainfall totals.
Temperatures across the central Gulf Coast region have been abnormally warm most of December. In Gulfport, 22 of the first 26 days this month were warmer than the long-term averages or “normal” for those dates. On 11 of those days, the daily average, which is the average of the high and low temperature on that day, was more than 10 degrees above normal. Two days were over 20 degrees warmer than normal.
A number of record-high temperatures were set across the Gulf South last week, including on Christmas Day.
However, a cool front passed through on Monday, finally bringing us a little cooler air.
The cool front quickly became stationary not far to our south and will still be in our vicinity when another cold front approaches tonight. The interaction between the fronts and a trough in the upper atmosphere will increase rain chances Tuesday night and Wednesday.
There’s a chance that we could have a return of rain on Friday and Saturday before the atmosphere finally dries out on Sunday and into early next week.
This week’s rain totals will be far less than last week’s, but the added rain will slow the fall of local stream levels.
The cold front passing through on Wednesday night or Thursday will be the strongest we’ve seen in awhile. It will finally begin to feel a little more winter-like to begin the New Year. Highs are forecast to be in the 50s and lows in the 30s Friday through next Tuesday.
Who knows. We might even need to turn on our heaters.

By Skip Rigney

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