Snow and sleet covers Sanford Stadium on February 12th, 2014. Image Credit: onlineathens.com
Snow and sleet covers Sanford Stadium on February 12th, 2014. Image Credit: onlineathens.com
Snow and sleet cover Sanford Stadium on February 12th, 2014. Image Credit: onlineathens.com

Winter really made its presence felt across much of the Eastern United States between December 2013 and February 2014. Even Georgia could not escape winter’s icy grip! From low temperatures in the single digits to numerous rounds of snow, sleet, and freezing rain, winter made us all wonder if the birds that fly south had the right idea all along.  Below, we’ll break down how Georgia and some of its cities, especially Athens, fared during the winter of 2013-2014 by investigating precipitation and temperature data. You may even be surprised by the time we finish our investigation!

Precipitation:

December 2013 - February 2014 Precipitation Rankings by state. Image Credit: NOAA.
December 2013 – February 2014 Precipitation Rankings by state. Image Credit: NOAA.

While it seemed that we were socked in with precipitation(rain, snow, sleet) for much of the winter, the reality is that the December 2013 though February 2014 period was near average in terms of precipitation in Georgia. Some cities saw above average precipitation during the same time frame. As you’ll see below, December saw above average precipitation pretty much state-wide, while January and February came in much closer to normal. In fact, some cities recorded below average rainfall in January and February. Note how dry the western United States was during December 2013 – February 2014. A persistent ridge of high pressure out west kept them pretty dry while a persistent trough in the east kept the storm track active for the East Coast.

Precipitation totals compared to average for Athens, Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon. Image Credit: NOAA
Precipitation totals compared to average for Athens, Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS

Overall, Athens, Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon recorded a wetter than average December 2013 – February 2014 period. Athens picked up 16.26 inches of rainfall during this three month span, more than 4 inches above the usual 12.26 inches of rainfall. This amount gave Athens its 33rd wettest December – February period on record. Atlanta came in with a similar 45th wettest period on record while Columbus and Macon recorded their 15th and 19th wettest December – February period, respectively. Athens saw most of its precipitation in December when it picked up 7.62 inches of rainfall, nearly 4 inches above the usual 3.73 inches for December. In January, Athens picked up 4.68 inches of precipitation. This was right in line with its usual 4.05 inches for January. February, however, came in a little drier than average. Athens recorded 3.96 inches of precipitation compared to its usual 4.48 inches.

Winter Snowfall Totals:

Snowfall Totals in Athens, Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon. Image Credit: NOAA.
Snowfall Totals in Athens, Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS.

We finally saw some snow across North and Central Georgia during the winter. After a few winters of no snowfall, it was a welcome sight! Two decent winter storms impacted the area during the winter. The first one, on January 28th, was mainly a light snow event for North Georgia. The second storm, on February 12th and 13th, brought a mixed bag of snow, sleet, and freezing rain to North and Central Georgia. Surprisingly, Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon recorded more snowfall than Athens during the winter. Athens only managed to squeeze out an inch of snow from both events which was below our average of 2.1 inches and a far cry from our record snowfall of 13.6 inches in 2010-2011. Atlanta recorded the most snow at 4.6 inches and was a healthy 2.5 inches above normal.

Remember Snow Jam 2014? Image Credit: AJC.
Remember Snow Jam 2014? Image Credit: AJC.

Precipitation Notables:

  • Atlanta recorded 2.6 inches of snowfall on January 28th which broke the record of a trace set in 2005.
  • Atlanta also recorded 0.6 inches of snow on February 13th which broke the record of a trace set in 2012.
  • A record total of 3.12 inches of rainfall fell in Atlanta on December 22nd breaking the old record of 1.78 inches in 1907.
  • Macon and Columbus both broke snowfall (2.1 and 1.2 inches, respectively) records on January 28th surpassing a trace of snowfall recorded in 2005.
Precipitation Extremes for December 2013 to February 2014.
Precipitation Extremes for December 2013 to February 2014. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS.

Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon all saw their highest precipitation total on December 22nd. Records were broken in both Atlanta and Columbus. Athens, however, recorded its highest precipitation amount of the December – February period on January 11th with 2.75 inches falling at Ben Epps Airport.

 Drought?

Could we being seeing areas of drought develop? Image Credit: NOAA.
Could we being seeing areas of drought develop? Image Credit: NOAA.

With February registering slightly below average precipitation across much of the state and March so far coming in as slightly below average as well, a few abnormally dry areas have popped up around the state. However, with the wet summer and winter we’ve seen, it doesn’t appear that drought conditions will worsen. If April somehow ends up as a dry month, though, we could be looking at a few more abnormally dry areas across the state.

Temperatures:

December 2013 -February 2014 Temperature Ranks. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS.
December 2013 -February 2014 Temperature Ranks. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS.

Winter 2013-2014 in Georgia will be remembered as one of the coldest in recent memory, but looking at the temperature ranking for Georgia for the December 2013 – February 2014 time period, it doesn’t look all that cold. Georgia came in near average for temperatures during a usual December to February period. Why, then, did it this winter feel so cold? The answer to to that lies with one month: January. January ended up as the 6th coldest January on record for the state of Georgia while December and February came in either near normal to slightly above normal overall. Average the three months together, and you get a temperature ranking for the winter right around near normal for a typical December to February period. It’s kind of amazing how one month can alter our perception so much, isn’t it?

Seasonal Average Temperature Rankings. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS.
Seasonal Average Temperature Rankings. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS.

Across the board in North and Central Georgia, temperatures during the December 2013 – February 2014 period came in below normal. Athens’ average temperature for this period was 43.9°F, which came in at 1.4°F below the usual 45.3°F, good enough for the 29th coolest December – February period on record. Columbus and Macon had similar rankings while Atlanta’s average of 44.1°F was 1.1°F cooler than its usual December – February average of 45.2°F. For December, Athens came in at 2.2°F above average, recording 47.6°F compared to its usual 45.4°F. In January, Athens recorded its 5th coolest January month ever with an average temperature of 37°F. This was 6.5°F below the average January temperature of 43.5°F. Athens also recorded its 3rd coldest average minimum temperature in January with an average minimum temperature of 25.6°F. February, however, was pretty close to average, with Athens recording an average temperature of 47°F compared to the usual 47.2°F.

January average minimum temperatures. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS.
January average minimum temperatures. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS.

Temperature Notables:

  • Athens, Atlanta, Macon, and Columbus each set a record low temperature on January 7th. Athens: 7°F, Atlanta: 6°F, Columbus: 11°F, and Macon: 11°F.
  • Athens, Columbus, and Macon all set a record low maximum temperature of 29°F on January 7th.
  • Athens and Atlanta each set a record high maximum temperature of 71°F on December 22nd.
Temperature Extremes for December 2013 - February 2014. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS.
Temperature Extremes for December 2013 – February 2014. Image Credit: Peachtree City NWS.

It was a pretty much a clean sweep across the board in regards to the date of the coldest temperature during the December – February period. The morning of January 7th saw the coldest air in Georgia in nearly two decades in some places. Spots in the mountains even recorded negative temperatures! Columbus saw its warmest day of the period in December, while Athens, Atlanta, and Macon experienced their warmest day in late February with mid to upper 70s recorded.

Spring in Athens, so far:

March summary so far in Athens. Image Credit: NOAA.
March summary so far in Athens. Image Credit: NOAA.

Spring in Athens so far in March has been about what you’d expect. We’ve seen wild swings in temperatures with near normal to slightly below normal precipitation. The highest temperature so far in March occurred on the 11th, when Athens saw its first 80°F day of 2014. The coldest high temperature occurred back on the 4th when Athens only managed to reach 41°F. We’ve had a few days in March where the temperature fell below freezing, with March 14th and 26th dipping down to 28°F. As we round out March, it appears we’ll be adding to our precipitation total and temperatures should start to really feel like spring as we start the first week of April.

Winter 2013-2014 Bottom Line:

An icy scene on Clayton Street in downtown Athens. Image Credit: RedandBlack/Hannah Pap Rocki.
An icy scene on Clayton Street in downtown Athens. Image Credit: RedandBlack/Hannah Pap Rocki.

The bottom line for winter 2013-2014 in Georgia is that temperatures were near normal to slightly cooler than normal with a significantly cooler January. Precipitation was near normal to slightly above average with the bulk of the rainfall falling in December. We also experienced some snow during the winter, which in my eyes, is always a win! While Athens saw a below average year snowfall wise (an inch is still better than nothing!), other cities around the state had near normal to above average snowfall. With one month of spring nearly in books, it’ll be time to review the next season soon enough. Do you think we’ll hit 90°F before June 1st, the start of meteorological summer? I hope not, but we’ll see what April and May have in store for us.

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Chris graduated from the University of Georgia in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography and a certificate in Atmospheric Sciences. Currently, Chris attends Kennesaw State University where he is pursuing a Certificate in Geographic Information Systems. Chris has competed in WxChallenge, the North American weather forecasting competition, as both a student at UGA and an Alumnus. Chris has finished within the top 280 forecasters four times. Outside of forecasting and meteorology, Chris is a former member of the University of Georgia Redcoat Marching Band. He is also an Alumnus of UGA's Kappa Mu Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, National Honorary Band Service Fraternity. Chris loves all kinds of weather but reserves special enthusiasm for tropical and winter weather! He also a member of the American Meteorological Society.

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