The Alabama Climate Report

Brought to you by the Office of the Alabama

Volume 11, Number 2 - May 2020

The coolish spring temperatures from April continued into May for most of the month.  The state experienced many days below average with a spell around the 10th due to an anomalous strong trough that sent a few temperatures below freezing … in May!  The US Forest Service station at Liri near the Little River Canyon dropped to a chilly 30°F.  That’s about as cold as it can get in May in Alabama.  The USDA station near the TN border in Madison Co. hit 31 °F while Hamilton and Sudduth Farms (Winston Co. elevation 772 ft) bottomed out at 32 °F.

There were some warm days too. Topping the list for a change was not the Andalusia-Opp Airport – they missed the state high by one degree to the Lock and Dam at Demopolis where the high was 96 °F on the 30th. Most of the state experienced their highest temperature towards the end of the month thanks in part to a ridge of high pressure and southerly flow ushering in tropical moisture and heat. Statewide, the average temperature was below normal by 1.9 °F with many, many delightful spring days.

Rainfall was a bit below the long-term average of 4.24 inches by 0.71 inches.  There were no remarkable totals reaching into double digits, but Talladega and Pisgah led the state with 8.37 inches each as the NE quarter of the state caught the most.  Almost everyone though saw at least 2 inches.  As we move into summer, the rainfall distribution will become more variable depending on where those random, heavy thunderstorms decide to drench.

The end of May signifies the unofficial end to the Alabama spring severe weather season. While May was quiet in terms of tornadoes (0 recorded), April saw numerous tornadoes from April 12th to 13th due to an outbreak on that spanned from Texas to Maryland with a preliminary total of 27 tornadoes in Alabama. Another smaller outbreak occurred along the Gulf states from Texas to Florida with a preliminary total of 14 tornadoes in Alabama. In total April saw 44 tornadoes which is 2nd most tornadoes in Alabama since 1950 if the total becomes official.

The "official" start of the Atlantic hurricane season starts with the end of May. This hurricane season is expected to above normal according to NOAA Climate Prediction Center with 13-19 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes (defined as Cat 3 or higher). Two named storms (Tropical Storms' Arthur and Bertha) developed in May for the third time in recorded history. Typically, tropical systems do not impact Alabama in May. In fact, only two storms have tracked across Alabama, tropical storm Alberto in 2018 and an unnamed hurricane in 1863. The latter had an impact on the Civil War.

[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