The Alabama Climate Report

Brought to you by the Office of the Alabama
Climatologist

Volume 7, Number 4 - January 2017

January 2017 won't be the warmest or wettest January in the state's weather records, although it might end up in the top half dozen for both warm temperatures and rainfall — especially rain.

Several sites across the southern half of Alabama reported January rainfall in excess of 10 inches. That includes Chatom, which recorded 10.4" of rain on January 3 — it's wettest one-day January rainfall on record (by more than four inches!).

A CoCoRAHS volunteer in Foley recorded a total January rainfall of 17.49". The average January rain reported by four volunteers in Foley came in at 15.04". Other sites reporting significant January rain (including the number of CoCoRAHS rain gauges) were:

Prattville (1)                 15.41"
Foley (4)                      15.04"
Uriah (1)                      14.88"
Jackson (1)                           14.71"
Millbrook (2)                 14.54"
Phenix City (1)              14.36"
Ramer (1)                     13.94"
Wilmer (1)                    13.85"
Seale (1)                      13.69"
Pollard (1)                    13.13"
Selma (1)                     13.13"
Silverhill (2)                  13.11"
Loxley (1)                    13.06"
Tillmans Corner (2)        12.85"
Roanoke (2)                 12.82"
Wetumpka (3)              12.80"
Fairhope (5)                 12.46"
Saraland (1)                 12.40"
Tuskegee (1)                12.39"
Summerdale (1)            12.23"
Mobile (9)                    12.15"
Daphne (5)                   12.09"
Salem (1)                     12.04"
Deatsville (1)                12.03"

CoCoRAHS stations in Alexander City, Auburn, Clayhatchee, Elberta, Grove Hill, Jackson's Gap, Spanish Fort and Toxey all recorded January rainfall between 11.0" and 11.99", while stations in Bon Air, Camden, Dothan, Excel, Montgomery, Pine Hill, and Rehobeth all saw more than 10" of rain in January.

In the past, that much rain in certain south Alabama watersheds would have caused potentially devastating flooding. While some flooding was reported across the length of the state (and a family had to be rescued from its home in Foley), it was for the most part minor flooding that covered a few streets and bridges, and damaged a restaurant in Jackson.

January 2017 isn't likely to break the January 1936 statewide rainfall record (averaging 11.49" over the entire state) in large part because the northern half of Alabama saw rainfall that was normal or not much above normal for the month.

For instance, while Montgomery, with 11.17" of rain, had its wettest January on record and Mobile, with 10.93", had its 4th wettest, Birmingham's 6.71" ranked only 19th wettest and Huntsville's 6.4" only 23rd.

While the southern third of the state is now free of drought, the northern two-thirds remain in some level of water deficit, including a slice from Tuscaloosa County across to St. Clair and Talladega counties that remains in an extreme drought.

Likewise, what seemed an un-winterlike January for much of the month will probably end up in the top 5 or 10 warmest Januaries, but not the warmest. It was Huntsville's third warmest January on record, with an average temperature of 50.9°. That's 8.7° warmer than normal for January. Other major cities in the state saw:

Birmingham, tied for 4th warmest at 52.5°, +8.7°
Montgomery, 4th warmest at 55.8°, +9.2°
Mobile, 5th warmest at 58.5°, +8.1°

There was, however, a serious cold front that went through the state in January. Sylacauga set a record low for Jan. 8 when temperatures there dropped to 7°. Birmingham and Fort Payne set daily snowfall records: 0.31" on Jan. 6 at the Birmingham Airport, and 0.51" at Fort Payne on Jan. 7.

The National Weather Service received reports of freezing rain on Jan. 6 in Choctaw and Clarke counties, an inch of sleet near Pelham, an "ice storm" in Sumter County, and from half an inch up to an inch and a half of snow from Jackson and DeKalb counties to Jefferson, Walker, Shelby, Tuscaloosa and Pickens counties.

The storm front that moved through the state on Jan. 21 brought with it hail, strong wind and 24 reports of mostly small (EF-0 and EF-1) tornadoes. While some of those might include multiple reports for one tornado, added to the four tornadoes reported from earlier in the month, and January 2017 might go into the books as having the most January tornadoes in the past 20 years. January 2012, however, had more damaging tornadoes.

It is another reminder that there really is no completely quiet season in Alabama weather. The best time to be weather prepared and weather aware is always, right now.

- John Christy