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Posted: January 14, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Warmer winter prediction falls flat

Climatologists had predicted a warmer-than- average winter, but that hasn't quite been the case. Changing weather patterns have caused a series of Arctic blasts to blow through Georgia bringing record cold and abundant snowfall.
Several cities across the state had record cold temperatures in December and experienced the coldest December since 2000. Covington's average temperature last month was six degrees lower than average, and with those lower temps, came higher heating bills.
For the second straight winter, Newton County residents have faced brutally cold conditions. Covington's 9,273 electric customers had an average bill of $95.40 in December, while the 8,213 gas customers shelled out $80.44.

January hasn’t been much better, as the Atlanta region received 3 inches of snowfall, in addition to some sleet and freezing rain accumulation.

Although climatologists have been surprised by the extreme influx of Arctic air, they are still expecting warmer winter weather to come sooner or later.

"The million dollar question is when will this end. It’s tough to say," Assistant State Climatologist Pam Knox said Thursday.

Knox said the state could see a rapid return to warmer conditions, but this combination of weather systems has not often been seen, and it’s difficult to predict how things will play out.

Utility customers may still come out ahead compared with last year, when January and February were bitterly cold. In addition, electricity usage was down 12 percent in November.

Despite all the snowfall and winter precipitation, climatologists were correct in their prediction for a drier winter. Most cities were a couple of inches below average in December, although January’s storm may help a bit. Farmers generally depend on the winter months to replenish soil moisture.

 

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