The Alabama Climate Report

Brought to you by the Office of the Alabama
Climatologist

Volume 12, Number 10 - January 2021

January 2021 experienced quite the drastic shift in weather from a relatively quiet December. The month started with near record/record high temperatures for much of the state. About a week and half later, north/northwestern Alabama experienced widespread measurable snow (up to 3 inches in some locations) on January 11th. Two weeks later, an EF-3 tornado tracked across Jefferson County, north of Birmingham, on January 25th due in part to the anomalous warm (near record/record high temperatures across the state) and moist conditions. More information here: https://www.weather.gov/bmx/event_01252021

On average, January was drier and warmer than normal. For the third consecutive month, Alabama experienced drier than normal conditions. January was 1.65 inches drier than normal. The Gadsden Municipal Airport was the driest station of the month with only 0.26 inches of rainfall recorded. This is also the driest month on record for this station (albeit only a 11-year station record). In total, 14 stations had less than 2 inches of rain for the month. Drought is starting to appear in the parts of southwest (Butler, Clarke, Choctaw, Concecuh, Dallas, Lowndes, Marengo, Monroe, Sumter, and Wilcox counties) and north (Cullman, Lawrence, Morgan, and Winston counties) Alabama given the consecutive dry months. If the drier than normal conditions trend continues into February, expect drought conditions to expand.

Temperature-wise, January was slightly warmer than normal by 1.6°F statewide. As stated before, numerous stations saw near-record/record high temperatures at the start of the month and on January 25th. The Eufaula Weedon Field Airport was one such station with a record high temperature of 81°F on January 25th, which also was the hottest spot of the month. In contrast, the Russellville 4 SSE station recorded the coldest spot of month at 17°F on January 13th after the snowfall on the 11th.

The relatively warmer and drier weather of this early winter is consistent the general weather which occurs during a La Niña event in the central tropical Pacific.  When sea water temperatures are much cooler than usual there. They have a tendency to affect large-scale weather patterns, that include a warmer and drier situation for the southern half of the Gulf Coastal states. Thus, so far, this La Niña is fitting the pattern – but things can always change. 

Some may think tornadoes are rare in the winter months of December, January, and February. However, tornadoes are more common in winter months than in the summer months of June, July, and August based on data from 1950-2019. It is important to stay weather aware even during these cold winter months. Do not wait until severe weather is happening to have a plan. Know where to go in case of a tornado warning.

- John Christy
The Alabama State Climatologist