2017 was the warmest year ever for Georgia, state climatologist says

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Last year might have ended with some record-breaking cold temperatures for Georgia, but 2017 was actually the warmest year on record for the state, according to a new report.

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The annual average statewide temperature for 2017 was tied with 2016 for the warmest on record with 65.8 degrees as the average mean temperature, according to Georgia state climatologist Bill Murphey.

Atlanta broke records throughout the entire year, too, as it had the third warmest winter and spring on record. For the city, 2016 and 2012 were the No.1 and No. 2 warmest years, respectively, he explained.

Last month, President Donald Trump dismissed the effects of global warming in a tweet. He wrote, “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against.”

However, the majority of the country had “much above average” temperature ranks for 2017, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.


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Murphey said there were many factors that could have contributed to the warmth in Georgia, including very warm nighttime low temps, the clouds which affect infrared radiation cooling, and evaporation. He also noted a La Nina period occurred from about Apr. 2016 until about June 2017.

El Nino and La Nina are the periodic warming and cooling periods of the equatorial eastern and central Pacific Ocean. It can shift weather patterns over a period of months, and the last La Nina brought on warm and dry conditions for Georgia.

“Recall how dry it was in Georgia, especially during the fall and winter La Nina event of 2016, with all the north Georgia wildfire activity,” he said. “In fact annual average temperatures for 2016 for Atlanta were the warmest on record...The annual average statewide temperature for 2017 was tied with 2016 for the warmest on record.”

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The El Nino phase that followed the La Nina event of 2016, brought on wetter-than-average conditions in 2017, he said. Atlanta had its first-ever tropical storm warning with Hurricane Irma, and Georgia had 113 tornadoes. Plus, the Bermuda High pressure system, which is responsible for prolonged heat waves in the Eastern part of the country, also helped with the warmer than normal temperatures in 2017.

What about predictions for 2018?

Murphey said “it’s tough to say looking that far ahead.” However, La Nina conditions are still currently prevalent and will likely continue through winter with an El Nino transition during the spring.

“So pretty much anything in terms of winter precipitation is still fair game during a La Nina winter for Georgia,” Murphey said. “Looks like more seasonal temps are on the near horizon, after this latest winter precipitation event, as the progressive upper level pattern continues.”

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