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Riding the winter weather roller coaster

By Skip Rigney
You may have forgotten, but it’s winter. Even though it’s January, the temperature hasn’t fallen into the 30s in the last ten days. Every day this week except one, the high temperature has been in either the 60s or 70s.
Hopefully, you didn’t pack away your heavy coat, because the winter weather roller coaster is reaching the top of a hill today and then plunging down into a valley.
Tonight a strong cold front will usher in our coldest weather since December 18-20. Sunday’s temperatures will be in the 40s and 50s.
Forecasters expect lows to be near or below freezing Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights.
The cold air over the next few days may feel like a shock, but it really shouldn’t come as a surprise, any more than the mild weather over the past week.
For those of us in the Deep South, and especially for those of us who live within one hundred or so miles of the Gulf of Mexico, winter is always a roller coaster.
Whereas in the summer it gets hot and stays hot, winter here is marked by alternating periods of mild and cold.
Take a look at the graph of temperatures observed at the Poplarville Experiment Station. The vertical bars depict the daily temperature range since November 1st through Wednesday of this past week. The dark solid lines show the so-called “normal” highs and lows, which are just the averages of what happened on those dates in Poplarville between 1981-2010.
One thing you can count on here during the winter (unlike summer), very few days are going to have exactly “normal” temperatures.
As the graph shows, we usually have a few days milder than average, then a cold front passes and we have a few days cooler than average.
Sometimes it’s a whole lot warmer or colder, which is demonstrated by the jagged lines at the top and bottom of the graph.
Those are the extreme daily record temperatures at the Poplarville Experiment Station since their record keeping began in 1896.
Because of a shift in the jet stream pattern and changes in the upper atmosphere high above the Arctic, forecasters expect that during the next couple of weeks the majority of days in our area are likely to be cooler-than-normal.
But, even if that turns out to be true, the roller coaster will almost certainly pull us up a few hills where we’ll briefly get back to the 60s and maybe even the 70s.