The Alabama Climate Report

Brought to you by the Office of the Alabama

Volume 10, Number 11 - February 2020

The weather news for February and the winter (Dec., Jan., Feb.) as a whole was wet, wet, wet.  It has been so wet this winter that the statewide average inched past the previous winter record total set in 1962 (by a scant 0.12 of an inch) to achieve the wettest value in the past 125 years at 24.22 inches.  Stations in a swath starting with Sumter, Pickens and Lamar counties in the west heading eastward all the way through central Georgia claimed record amounts.  Tuscaloosa, Anniston and Birmingham were drenched with winter-record totals.

Considering just the month of February, an incredible 146 Alabama stations received over a foot of rain led by the rain gauge measured by one of our volunteer CoCoRaHS observers at Lake Purdy with 17.73 inches.  Huge swaths of land in the western US don’t receive that much in a year.  In fact, several California stations broke or tied their all time record dry February totals, including San Francisco at a bone-dry 0.00 inches.  The last time that occurred was 1864.  So, the normal variation of storm tracks that spreads rainfall more consistently across the country did not occur this year, it being stuck on “dry” out west and “wet” here.  The swings in rain can occur in the same area too.  It was just last September when several of our stations recorded their driest September on record and now they are soaked.

The temperature for February was modestly above normal – a common situation when the weather pattern is dominated by moist air flowing from the south to support the rain systems.  Alabama was warmer than average by +2.9°F at 50.9°F.  This isn’t much when you consider that in the past 126 Februaries the state has seen it as cold as -10.6°F below average (37.4°F, 1895) and as warm as +10.0°F (58.0°F, 2018) above average – a swing of 20°F among the years for which we have records.  We should note that the now second wettest winter in 1961-62 was also warm, pushing the thermometer to 7.4°F above the overall average.

Our usual hot spot for the hottest day was again the Andalusia-Opp Airport peaking at 84°F.  One of the Agricultural stations near the Tennessee border in Madison County dipped to 12°F for the state’s coldest temperature this month.

[Note:  with my extra duties as interim Dean of the College of Science and the unexpected demands arising from COVID-19, these monthly reports will be considerably delayed for a while.  Thank you for your patience. JRC]

- John Christy
The Alabama State Climatologist