Of course you knew it had to be. 2020, a year that left us all shaking our heads, was not a normal year in the weather world either, at least not in our area.
First, it was our second-wettest year on record. The 71.33" that fell missed the existing record set just two years ago by the tiniest margin (0.27"). We had our wettest ever first quarter and first half of a year as well. This led to some pretty serious flooding with roads damaged in the county in February.
Then there was the Easter Sunday tornado outbreak across the South. One hundred and five tornadoes slammed mainly southern parts of the nation. Twenty one tornadoes in Georgia killed eight people with another 16 deaths reported in other states. A rogue hailstorm hit the county May 22, bringing one-inch hail that damaged roofs and automobiles. And who can forget the hyper-active crazy hurricane season?
A total of 30 named storms occurred in the Atlantic basin, double the seasonal average, breaking the old record of 28 set back in 2005. Three of those storms had significant impact on our area: Sally, which hit Gulf Shores, AL in September and gave us over four inches of rain, Delta, which hit Louisiana in October and brought severe flooding to the Atlanta area, and Zeta, which hit near New Orleans in late October and brought wind gusts of 40-50 mph across North Georgia.
Over a million were without power in Georgia at the peak of the storm and three people were killed, all from falling trees. It wasn't all chaos and mayhem, however. Remember the pretty little two-inch snow we had in February? All the snow had disappeared by the next afternoon: my kind of snow. Then we had a great summer for gardening: cool with normal rain in June, a hot and humid July, and a wet August for the late gardens (and deer plots of course).
We actually had a normal fall as well, with no 90-degree highs after Sept. 3, and the first day of fall featured a low of 46 and a high of 68 with sunny skies. Last, but not least, we actually had a cold Christmas. The high of 32 that day made for the coldest Christmas since 1983, the year we had a low of one degree above zero and a high of 21.
Speaking of cold, we should all be on the lookout for more bouts of cold later this month, similar to what we had around Christmas. An event called "sudden stratospheric warming" (SSW) is taking place near the north pole as we speak. This begins a process that can have a significant effect on our weather a few weeks later. Basically it helps to shove the polar vortex further south. Parts of Siberia have been very cold recently (duh), and near record high pressure has been observed in Mongolia with near record low pressure near the Aleutian islands off Alaska's west coast. All these extremities may signal big changes ahead for the eastern U.S. later January into February. This would be very similar to what occurred in our best analog winter of 1970-71. The million-dollar question is will this translate into a big snowstorm for you snow lovers?
The answer is yet to be determined, but historically it certainly increases our snow chances for the second half of January and the first part of February.
Weather averages for December, 2020: Avg. low: 33. Avg. high: 54. Lowest: 19. Highest: 68. Mean: 43.6 (-0.9). Rainfall: 3.36" (-0.90"). 2020 total rainfall: 71.33" (+21.19"). Other 2020 stats: 37 days above 90, 38 days below 32, 87 cloudy days, 98 sunny days, 181 partly cloudy days, 50 days with thunderstorms, 111 days with fog, and 133 days with measurable precipitation.
Mark Jenkins is Madison County’s cooperative weather observer.