What will 2013 bring?

Almost every morning this week has started with a blanket of fog across much of the French Broad River Valley, creating what looks like an ocean of clouds when viewed from above.

While the fog can create difficult driving conditions for those of us who are trying to get to work, it is a truly beautiful site when viewed from a different perspective — one that highlights the natural beauty of our region and its diverse landscape.

Weather conditions in our region so far this year have been described as “mild” — with average temperatures at Asheville Regional Airport running slightly above normal for all but three days since the start of the New Year. And, while it’s hard to find too many folks who complain about mild temperatures in January, it does force the question: How will the weather of 2013 compare to that of 2012? You may remember that we had a warm winter and a very warm spring last year.

This week, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (located here in Asheville) released a preliminary State of the Climate report declaring 2012 to be the warmest on record across the contiguous U.S. (the lower 48 states and the District of Columbia) since records for the nation began in 1895.  The report also lists 2012 as the second most extreme year on record, declaring it to be “a historic year for extreme weather that included drought, wildfires, hurricanes and storms; however, tornado activity was below average.”

As a whole, North Carolina escaped much of the extreme heat and drought that plagued the Great Plains and Central U.S during 2012 (the drought continues there still). You can see in the table below from NCDC’s report that the Spring of 2012 tied for the 6th-warmest season on record for the state, while the calendar year of 2012 was also the 6th-warmest on record for North Carolina.

Table from: NOAA’s NCDC Annual 2012 National Overview Supplemental Material

So, what does the forecast look like for the rest of winter?  The long-range forecast is indicating the possibility that some very cold arctic air may move into the Central and Eastern U.S. late next week, but we’ll have to see if the forecast models continue that trend. 

If you are interested in learning more about the large-scale climate patterns that help bring wintery weather to NC, take a look at today’s Winter 2012-13 Climate Pattern Update from the State Climate Office of North Carolina. It’s fairly technical, but it does provides a hint about how complex these large-scale patterns are and why long-range weather forecasting can be so difficult.


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