ESSC Alabama Climate Report
Excerpt from the May 2013 Alabama Climate Report:
How cold was this past spring (March-May)?
I have a new way to tell. I’m a modest runner (modest in terms of skill, not attitude) and when the weather gets warm and humid I reduce the length of my runs and replace the lost miles by swimming laps at the neighborhood pool.
I usually start this switch by the beginning of May. This year I didn’t dip my toe in for the first time until June 1 — and the water was still cold! I conclude, therefore, that it was a cold spring.
Lest you think the state climatologist relies on anecdotes instead of statistics, the numbers confirm my impressions. Our statewide sampling of weather stations shows that the mean temperature for May 2013 (68.1 F) was more than two degrees cooler than a normal May (70.5).
Two degrees might not sound like much, until you look at some of the specifics. On May 4, Dauphin Island had its coolest May temperature (50.0 F) in the 37 years that station has been reporting.
Ten stations saw record-setting lowest maximum May temperatures. Two of those, Scottsboro and Talladega, have climate records going back 114 years. On May 5, Scottsboro's high temperature for the day was only 48.9° F. That broke the previous record of 50° F set on May 20, 1894! The Sand Mountain Sub Station also set a May record that day with a high temperature that was only 46° F. Those low temps mean that for a large portion of north Alabama the high temperatures that day didn't reach 50.
Yes, it was cool in May. It was also very cool in March: According to the Southeastern Regional Climate Center, March 2013 was the seventh coolest March since 1895, with a mean temperature that was more than 5.5° F cooler than normal.
April was slightly (0.9° F) cooler than normal, so it will be interesting to see where the spring of 2013 ends up in the record book once May's cool temperatures are added to the tally.
I’ve been in touch with organizations which forecast general hurricane activity for the Atlantic basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico. Every group I’ve checked is forecasting “above” normal to “much above” normal activity for the 2013 hurricane season, which began June 1.
This is especially interesting because the U.S. is experiencing its longest drought in major hurricanes to strike our coasts since recordkeeping began in 1850. As of today, we have gone 2,782 days (7+ years since Wilma on Oct 24, 2005) without a major strike.
I don’t believe that’s a trend. I think it is a warning: Mother Nature eventually balances out the statistics, so we are due. Certain patterns in ocean temperatures and atmospheric winds now present are associated with higher incidences of Atlantic hurricanes.
The average number of named storms (hurricanes and tropical storms) is 12 per year, with forecasts for 2013 ranging from 13 to 18. Here are a couple of quotes from forecasters: “We anticipate an above-average Atlantic basin hurricane season due to the combination of an anomalously warm tropical Atlantic and a relatively low likelihood of El Niño,” Klotzbach and Gray. “A wild season is on the way, and the ‘major hit drought’ on the U.S. coast should end,” Joe Bastardi.
I don’t know where or when such storms may hit, and I hope Alabama is spared but keep tuned to the coming season. It could be noteworthy. Watch for these names as the year unfolds: Andrea (already a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico), Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Ingrid, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van, and Wendy.
- John Christy
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