Getting ahead of winter: How La Niña changes the weather

Getting ahead of winter: How La Niña changes the weather
(Source: NOAA)
(Source: NOAA)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - January 2017 went down in history. Not for the cold or snow, but instead for the number of tornadoes.

Two EF-3's tornadoes killed 16 and created millions of dollars of damage that we are still recovering from.

The tornado outbreak was set up by the sixth warmest and second wettest winter ever recorded.

Albany only had three freezes last winter and none in February which allowed blueberries and peaches to bloom early. A killing freeze then came in mid-March nearly wiped out the fruit crops.

The big players in winter weather can be the development of El Niño or La Niña. El Niño brings warming to the eastern equatorial Pacific waters, La Niña brings cooling.

These Pacific Ocean anomalies can have big impacts on the winter weather patterns.

The Climate Prediction Center has put out a La Niña Watch for the upcoming months.

That means La Niña conditions are likely.

That strengthens the northern storm track and weakens southern one across the U.S.

Typically it brings warm and dry winters to south Georgia. And that is exactly what the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting.

There is a high confidence that this winter will be significantly drier than the last two winters, especially December.

Last December was the second wettest and in 2015, we had the third worst flooding event ever recorded in southern Lee County.

We have not had a cold winter since 2010. That year we were coming off a moderate El Niño and heading to a strong La Niña in December.

December 2010 ended up being the coldest ever recorded.

And ironically there have been some significant cold outbreaks leading up to or coming off the strong La Niñas.

The two strongest Niñas in the last 50 years were in 1989 and 1973 and both have had big winter storms associated with it.

Bottom line is that this winter will most likely be warmer than average, but not as warm as the last two winters and there will be more freezes and even a possibility of a more significant cold outbreak.

As far as severe weather goes, the greatest threat for tornadoes should be father north late winter into spring.

That's because that is where the storm track will be. The 2011 Super Tornado Outbreak in the Mid-South came off of a strong La Niña.

This winter should be drier than average with 8"-12" of rain December through February. The temperature should be about three degrees above average.

We are expecting at least double the freezes we got last year.

Regardless of the weather, you can always stay updated on the go with the WALB First Alert Weather team.

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