Historic early cold snap sets records this week

Published 11:10 pm Saturday, October 22, 2022

By Skip Rigney

You knew it was cold this week, but you may not have realized just how unusual the cold air was that immersed Pearl River County and much of the central and eastern United States.

This past Wednesday morning, October 19, 2022, was the earliest autumn freeze that has been observed in many locations in Pearl River County. A few areas remained above freezing, but a look at publicly available weather observations in and around the county indicates that most locations probably dropped into the 30 to 32 degree range, and some undoubtedly dipped into the upper 20s.

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Stennis International Airport near the Kiln bottomed out at 28 degrees, Slidell recorded a record low of 31, and Bogalusa and Hattiesburg both hit 32 on Wednesday morning.

Many minimum temperature records for October 19th were set across the central and eastern United States. A number of these qualified as “super record lows,” meaning that they were the coldest temperatures ever observed at those stations so early in the season.

Before Wednesday’s record cold, the earliest freeze observed at the Poplarville Experiment Station was on October 20, 1989. Those records go back virtually uninterrupted to 1919. Unfortunately, the Experiment Station’s minimum temperature sensor has not been working recently, so this week’s unusual cold will not officially set a new record for that station.

As more proof of how unusual this week’s cold was, south Mississippians have now experienced colder weather this fall than Billings, Montana, where so far this autumn, the coldest it has been is the upper 30s. Perhaps even stranger, it was colder in Picayune on Wednesday morning than it was in Anchorage, Alaska, where the morning low was a balmy 38 degrees.

The cold air, which a week before had been in Arctic Canada, warmed up during the day on Wednesday thanks to the still warm ground and abundant sunshine in our area. But most of that energy was radiated away to space on Wednesday night under clear skies resulting in temperatures on Thursday morning falling back into the lower 30s, although many locations appear to have been a degree or two warmer than Wednesday morning.

A more robust warming trend has been underway since Friday as onshore winds blow warmer air in from the Gulf. This weekend should be beautiful with seasonable October morning lows in the 50s and afternoon highs near 80 degrees, all under mostly clear skies.

Clear skies mean we are bound to continue our long dry stretch, at least through Monday. Most of Pearl River County is now characterized as having moderate drought conditions according to the latest Drought Monitor analysis. The Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is updated online at www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu each Thursday.

Our next chance of rain will come on Tuesday and Wednesday as a weak cool front approaches Mississippi. However, even if the front does manage to kick off a few showers, any rain is forecast to be on the light side, probably less than one-tenth of an inch. That’s according to the National Weather Service’s seven-day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast, which is updated twice daily online at www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov under the QPF tab.