Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January 2012 Ended Mild ( No Records )


January 28, 2012
View From Pine Mountain State Park
Looking To Cumberland Mountain of HKL
Valley Fog Glows In Morning Light - Bell County, KY
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The High Knob Landform

A beautiful array of valley fog decorated the enchanted mountain landscape situated between Pine Mountain State Resort Park and famous Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Bell County, Ky., during early hours of January 28.

Reference this section of my website to view a gorgeous sunrise series of photographs by Roddy taken last year from this same area near Pineville, Kentucky of the Cumberland Block.


While January 2012 ended milder than average it was not even close to being the warmest or least snowy on record.

Climate Statistics
For January 2012

Clintwood 1 W - Elevation 1560 feet
Average Daily MAX: 46.8 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 23.9 degrees
MEAN: 35.4 degrees
Highest Temperature: 62 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 8 degrees
Total Precipitation: 2.63"
Total Snowfall: 10.1"
Days of 1" or more depth: 8

City of Norton - Elevation 2141 feet
Average Daily MAX: 43.4 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 22.4 degrees
MEAN: 32.9 degrees
Highest Temperature: 59 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 7 degrees
Total Precipitation: 4.11"
Total Snowfall: 11.7"
Days of 1" or more depth: 8

Nora 4 SSE - Elevation 2650 feet
Average Daily MAX: 43.0 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 26.7 degrees
MEAN: 34.8 degrees
Highest Temperature: 60 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 10 degrees
Total Precipitation: 2.40"
Total Snowfall: 10.2"
Days of 1" or more depth: 6

( Northern Edge of The Cedars )
Jonesville 3.1 WSW - Elevation 1422 feet
Average Daily MAX: 49.7 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 26.0 degrees
MEAN: 37.8 degrees
Highest Temperature: 64 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 9 degrees
Total Precipitation: 4.46"
Total Snowfall: 1.7"


In the High Knob highcountry January temps varied from middle 30s to low 40s above 2700 feet by day to 20-25 degrees at night.

A general 4.00" to 5.00" of precipitation fell across the massif area in January, including 12" to 19" of snow above 2400 feet ( * ).

*Essentially all the snow fell during January 1-15 with only a couple of dustings on High Knob during the second half of the month ( 35" to 40" of snow in the main crest zone this season ).

Turkey Tail ( Trametes versicolor )
Colorful Polypore Fungi - January 2012
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Gary Hampton, Superintendent of the Big Stone Gap Water Plant amid South Fork Gorge, and his staff measured 4.70" of January precipitation at Big Cherry Dam to make 11.32" since December 1 and the start of meteorological winter 2011-12 ( evaporation & snow losses not included ).

This was well below the 6.32" per month average observed at Big Cherry Dam during the past 38 months, and marked the driest month in a year 
( since February 2011 ).

January 26, 2012
Long Ridge of the Tennessee Valley Divide
Color In Winter - Awesome Morning Sunrise
Photograph by Genevie Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Thoughts...
"In spite of it being winter, color is still 
there for us to see if we just look."

[ Beautiful mountain wave clouds can be seen in the above photograph as strong SW winds blew across the High Knob Massif and Tennessee Valley Divide ].

Mean west to southwest winds ruled January along with a significant north to south gradient in precipitation amounts that placed the High Knob Landform within a transitional zone of 4.00" to 6.00"+ ( heaviest at its southwest end around Norris Lake ).

Locations lying east to northeast of its massif got the least total precipitation with enhanced robbing of moisture on downsloping air flow.

January 2012 Precipitation Totals
Northeast To East of High Knob Massif

Lebanon: 1.93"

Nora 4 SSE: 2.40"

Grundy: 2.49"

Richlands: 2.62"

Clintwood 1 W: 2.63"

These precipitation totals were the least reported in far southwestern Virginia, with an increase in amounts from the High Knob Massif south across the Great Valley into the Blue Ridge province.

January 26, 2012
Gorgeous Sunrise Above The Highlands
Photograph by Genevie Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wow, that is a beauty!

Colder air & much more snow was observed during January 1-15 from the High Knob Massif northward, but snowfall water contents were not great enough to make up for moisture losses on downslope flow in sites with least precipitation.

[ It should be noted that snow cores taken at Clintwood 1 W showed significant rain gage undercatches occurred with the snowfall due to strong winds, such that January totals in places getting 10" or more of snow were higher than rain gage catches ].


Rank Of January 2012
In Climatological History

Weathered Wood & Old Timey Door Lock
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Unlocking the vault of weather records its easy to see that January 2012 was not even close to being the warmest and least snowy on record in the Mountain Empire.

January 2012 ranked in the 20% to 33% range for warmest first months of the year across the area, with some 15 Januaries being warmer in the Clintwood-Wise area during the past 45 years.

The 1989-1993 period was a stand out, with 4 to 5 Januaries in a row ( depending on location ) all being warmer than January 2012.

They were also much less snowy 
as exemplified by:

Snowfall In Clintwood

January 1989: 1.6"

January 1990: 3.9"

January 1991: 3.1"

January 1993: 0.6"

Total: 9.2"

Adding all 4 Januaries together still comes up 0.9" below what was measured during January 1-15, 2012 at Clintwood 1 W.

[ Although much more snow fell on the High Knob Massif during the above Januaries, totals were WAY below average ].

Outside the mountains, amid the Great Valley of eastern Tennessee, January 2012 ranked as the 14th warmest on record in the Tri-Cities and as the 26th warmest in Knoxville.

In fact, the 50.1 degree mean temperature in the Tri-Cities during January 1950 produced 310 total degrees of surplus warmth above that of January 2012 ( i.e., January 1950, their warmest on record, was an average of 10 degrees per day warmer than January 2012 ).

The bottom line, January 2012 was not even close to being the warmest on record.


The Changing Pattern
of Winter 2011-12

The winter season of 2011-12 has been UP and Down, with more UP in the mean to generate mass media cries of "Where Is Winter?"

More seasonal cold during February 8-10 gives way to an arctic blast by February 11, followed again by significant warming next week ( at least, initially ).  Although sounding similar, this is part of a changing pattern toward more extreme weather variations for the eastern USA ( and Appalachians in particular ).  

February 3, 2012
Along The Virginia Coal Heritage Trail
The Hidden Church In The Winter Woods - Dante, VA
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Virginia Coal Heritage Trail

Wayne Riner Thoughts...
"Across the railroad tracks, hidden in a small hollow was a church that had once been the center of a coal mining camp.  Now it is slowly giving way to the winter woods."

The climatic system is extremely complex such that no single factor works alone to drive it during any given season.

Oceanic Nino Index ( ONI )
Critical ENSO 3.4 Region 
The Climate Prediction Center

[ RED color denotes El Nino ( +ENSO phases ) while the BLUE color denotes La Nina ( -ENSO phases ), with all others being neutral ( i.e., neither El Nino nor La Nina were running in the equatorial, tropical Pacific Ocean ) ].

From the above chart it can be seen that the 2010-11 winter season featured a moderate La Nina, or 
-ENSO, while this winter is coming in toward the weak La Nina end ( all numbers are not yet in ).

If mildness this winter is only driven by a weak to at best moderate La Nina, then last winter should have been even warmer with its moderately strong La Nina ( i.e., if La Nina was the only major factor ).

The reality, of course, is that many factors work together to force the winter pattern amid this fluid atmosphere.  Like water waves which originate at different points in a pond, the interactions of all these different factors determine the wave pattern which results to dominate any given cold season in any given section of the fluid in question.

Graphs of major teleconnections over time are perfect to illustrate the wave nature of these forcings on the fluid atmosphere.

[ A teleconnection is where a persistent weather anomaly over one region on Earth tends to impact other places far way across the planet.  When a teleconnection is "running" it is typically described as being in a positive or negative phase, with far away influences tending to be opposite in nature as the teleconnection changes phase in ideal settings ( with lag times to full impact ) ].

The East Pacific Oscillation ( EPO ) also known as
The East Pacific - North Pacific Pattern ( EP-NP )
Courtesy of The Climate Prediction Center


The wavy, cyclic nature of the teleconnection known as the East Pacific Oscillation can clearly be seen above as it changes phase from positive to negative.

[ The -EPO during 2009-10 and 2010-11 tended to support cold and snowy weather; however, the stronger -EPO this winter has not.  A +EPO during 1995-96 was part of one of the snowiest winters on record.  There is more to this puzzle! ].

Standardized 3-Month Running Means of PNA Index
The Pacific-North American Oscillation ( PNA )
The Climate Prediction Center - PNA Index

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