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NOAA predicts relatively mild January

By Skip Rigney

The first weekend of 2021 is off to a seasonable start in terms of temperatures with highs near 60 and lows in the middle to upper 30s. Sunshine, especially on Sunday, along with light winds, will at least partially offset the chill in the air.

January is our coldest month of the year in Pearl River County. Although temperatures vary greatly as mild air surges out of the Gulf ahead of cold fronts and is then replaced by several days of cold air behind the fronts, the fluctuations average out over the course of the month. The multiyear averages of daily high and low temperatures are nearly the same for the beginning and end of January. That is quite a different story from February when we begin to get a glimpse of spring causing the average daily temperatures to be about five degrees warmer at the end of the month compared to the beginning.

Our coldest mornings of the winter occur most often in January, with the 16th through the 20th being the most likely five-day period for the temperatures to bottom out. However, there is significant variability from year to year.

The approximately 100 years of records at the Poplarville Experiment Station show that the coldest morning of the winter has occurred as early as mid-November and as late as mid-March.

Not surprisingly, snow has been recorded several times in January, although February narrowly wins the prize for most occurrences of that rare event in our area.

Given our southern location not far from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, there are some January days so warm that it’s hard to believe that it ever snows here. Poplarville has been as warm as 84 degrees in January three times over the past century. The temperature makes it into the 80s about once out of every 15 Januarys.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center anticipates that temperatures this January are likely to fall on the milder side of average across most of the southern United States, and precipitation is likely to be normal or a little below normal. CPC thinks that the biggest factor affecting this month’s weather in our area will be the atmospheric patterns associated with the continuation of cooler-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical eastern and central Pacific Ocean, the phenomenon known as La Nina.

The latest CPC seasonal, monthly, and 8-14 day outlooks are available online at www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov.