Statistics agree: first half of winter unusually cold

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, January 23, 2018

After last week’s frigid Arctic blast, many people will remember the winter of 2017-18 as an especially cold one.

Statistics bear out the perception that temperatures have been colder than normal in much of the Eastern half of the country since December 1st. That is the date meteorologists and climatologists use as the start of winter for record keeping purposes. Up to this point, this winter is the fifth coldest on record in Poplarville, where weather records go back 122 years to 1896. Of course, that ranking may change between now and February 28th, which marks the end of the winter season for climate statistics.

The ranking is the result of analyses made available by the University of North Carolina’s Southeast Regional Climate Center (SERCC) at The rankings use data from the Poplarville Experiment Station, which is operated by Mississippi State University.

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Our cold weather has been typical of much of the eastern United States this season. Using SERCC’s analysis tools, the average of this winter’s daily low temperatures ranks in the coldest 10 to 25 percent of winters on record from Texas and Oklahoma eastward into Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and northeastward into the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast.

The graphic included here for the Poplarville Experiment Station shows the deviation of the daily low temperature above or below the historical average low temperature for each day since December 1, 2017 through yesterday.

We have had three very cold stretches this winter when daily low temperatures were 10 to 25 degrees below the historical average low temperatures.

Last week’s cold snap was the most dramatic when low temperatures in the teens across the county were 20-25 degrees below the historical average of 38 degrees.

However, the graphic also reminds us that, even in a cold winter, winter temperatures in the Deep South are a roller coaster ride. We have had four warmer-than-average spells. Sunday, with a high of 72 degrees and bright sunshine, seemed more like spring than winter.

A cold front passed through the South yesterday. However, the high pressure system behind the front originated over the Pacific Ocean rather than over northern Canada. So, the air is not nearly as cold as what we experienced behind last week’s arctic cold front.

Forecasters expect the high pressure system to dominate our weather through Thursday. Skies should be sunny during the day and mostly clear at night. Temperatures will be very close to average for the latter half of January with highs around 60 and lows in the upper 30s.

After the deep freezes we’ve had earlier this winter, this week’s “typical” winter weather will feel pretty good.

By Skip Rigney