Published on 10/02/03

Extreme cold expected this fall and winter

Weather this fall and winter should be very variable across Georgia and an early freeze and extreme cold weather is expected, according to the University of Georgia’s state climatologist.

“There is a high likelihood that south Georgia will experience lows between 20 and 25 oF. [Temperatures in the] teens are not out of the realm of possibility,” said David Stooksbury, UGA state climatologist. “In middle Georgia, lows in the low teens to single digits are expected, while the mountains can expect lows around zero or below.”

Associated with the variable nature of this winter’s weather, Stooksbury says cold periods will be separated by relative mild periods.

“It will seem as if the air temperature is on a roller coaster,” he said.

Precipitation is expected to be near normal, but “because of the variability in temperatures, more than normal snow [fall] would not be a surprise,” he said.

The amount of snow depends on the right combination of cold air and moisture. With more variable conditions, the likelihood of the necessary combination for snow occurring is increased.

Unlike recent years, neither El Nino or La Nina weather patterns are expected to develop this fall and winter. Without either pattern, the atmosphere is considered to be in a neutral pattern.

“Under the neutral weather pattern, the southeast is more easily invaded by cold air from Canada,” said Stooksbury. “However, Georgia is far enough south that the cold air is usually modified within a few days.”

With more Canadian cold fronts expected this fall and winter, the likelihood of severe weather including thunderstorms and tornados is higher.

Severe weather during the fall and winter is common across the state.

“In Georgia, severe weather can occur at any time,” he said. “Tornado outbreaks at night are just as likely as during the day.”

Stooksbury says he views the purchase of a NOAA weather radio as a wise investment to help insure your family’s personal safety.

“An inexpensive NOAA weather radio can warn of impending danger as well as give updated weather conditions and forecasts,” he said.

Farmers and gardeners alike should plan ahead for the up-coming weather conditions.

“Agricultural producers and home gardeners should plan for high variability in fall and winter temperatures,” said Stooksbury. “Late in the winter, the primary concern will be plants breaking dormancy before the last hard freeze.”

Because of the expected cold weather extremes, energy demand for heating is expected to be high this fall and winter, too, he added.

(David Emory Stooksbury is the state climatologist and a professor of engineering and atmospheric sciences in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

David Emory Stooksbury is associate professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.