More warm winter records in Baton Rouge
This winter has been warm, really warm. Since January, the WBRZ Weather team has been providing updates to note that the current meteorological winter (December through February) is well on its way to becoming the warmest on record in Baton Rouge.
After a pair of 80 degree days over the weekend, bringing Baton Rouge to a total of six for the month of February, a quick data check revealed another warm record about to be shattered. With 17, the Capital City has already tied a 1957 benchmark for most 80 degree days in a winter season, with a solid two weeks to go! Forecast models suggest several more 80 degree days could come.
Many unseasonable spring-like afternoons have boosted the region into the third spot for warmest winters. These records, like the 80 degree statistics go back to 1930 at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.
The Baton Rouge area isn’t alone in knocking down warm winter records. Since December 2016, there have been 4,840 record highs to just 2,168 record lows in the United States. This past weekend saw some particularly impressive records fall. Northern Texas, Western Kansas and Oklahoma, and Eastern Colorado set all-time February records for warmest temperatures. Beaver, Oklahoma hit 93 degrees on Saturday, February 11! The previous monthly record at that site was 90 degrees set on February 28, 1904!
Will the Warmth Continue?
It sure seems that way. Any way you look it, from the Climate Prediction Center Outlook through March, to the upper level forecast charts—February 2017 should wrap well above average meaning both impressive warm records should fall.
What is the Cause?
While many would be quick to jump on the global warming wagon—a common culprit for long-term rising temperature trends—this warm winter in Baton Rouge is most likely part La Niña and part anomaly. During the winter months, El Niño’s cooler counterpart in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean tends to cause warmer temperatures across the Southern Tier of the United States. Oddly, a drier pattern is often noted as well, though this winter has been particularly wet due to isolated extreme rain events in January.
In addition to La Niña spurring warmer southern winters, the Gulf of Mexico has been unseasonably warm of late. As areas of high pressure set up along the East Coast of the United States, warm southerly breezes have been transporting warmer air inland and boosting thermometers.
Can I Plant my Garden?
Since 1930, the last freeze in Baton Rouge has averaged out to occur on February 24. A freeze between now and then seems highly unlikely. However, freezes have occurred as late as April 13 with 122 freezes after February 24 over the last 86 years. But, just like the near term, the long term favors a warm pattern making another freeze a tough proposition. By the books, it seems a little early. By the forecast, you might just get away with it.
Stick with the WBRZ Weather Team as we continue to monitor the warm records and bring you long-term forecasts for the coming weeks.