Does a mild December mean a colder rest of winter?


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – December of 2019 ended on a mild stretch with the final 10 days being above average and even a new record high for December 26 (63°). Overall the month ended with a mean temperature of 34.1° which is 5° above average. Snowfall was also about half of what we see in a typical December. The warmer than average conditions lead to some questions on whether or not we will pay the price in terms of cold and snow for February. So let’s look at similar years that had December average temperatures within a few tenths of a degree to see if there is any correlation between them when it comes to the later winter months.

December 2019 finished with a mean temperature of 34.1° which is 5° above average.

There are four years that we will examine, they are 1911 (33.8°), 1941 (34.4), 1957 (34.4) and 1987 (33.4).

January’s across those 4 years resulted in ABOVE and BELOW average temperatures. With 1911 being an extreme 10 degrees below average so there wasn’t much correlation there. February did surprisingly bring about some correlation with all 4 years having similar BELOW average trends. However, even with these four years being below average for February, it’s not a guarantee that the same will be the case for this year. This will become evident when we look at the warmest December on record.

Average temperatures for January and February following a mild December.

When it comes to precipitation all four years did have BELOW average precipitation and snowfall in January. While February snowfall and precipitation were still varying greatly.

Average precipitation (green) and average snowfall (blue) for the January and February following a mild December.

Looking at the extreme case of a mild December, the warmest December on record was in 2015 with a mean temperature of 41.5°, which as a whopping 12 degrees above average. The remaining winter months following that had above-average temperatures throughout and below-average precipitation.

All of this being said, we don’t really know what the impacts of the mild December will be, because as we all know there are many ebbs and flows throughout the winter season.

For what it’s worth, the Climate Prediction center does favor our area to experience above-average temperatures in our 8-14 day outlook. Remember the below-average precipitation trend that the 4 similar Decembers had the following January, the CPC is favoring above-average precipitation in the 8-14 day outlook.

You can always get the latest forecast from the Live Doppler 15 Fury Weather team here.

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