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ASK THE EXPERTS

Numbers are in — winter was cold, wet

POSTED: March 10, 2010 4:00 a.m.

It’s not your imagination. This winter was colder and wetter than usual, and your power bill is probably proof of it.

  

Blame El Niño, said David Stooksbury, the state’s climatologist.

  

This winter, which for climatological purposes runs Dec. 1- Feb.  28, saw temperatures in the North Georgia area that were nearly 7 degrees colder than last year and rainfall that was nearly 2.5 inches more than last year.

  

As a result of the cold, wet weather, heating demand in the area was up 22 percent over last year and up 17 percent above average, according to the state’s automated environmental monitoring network.

  

“This winter was typical of an El Niño one for Georgia, but on hyperdrive,” Stooksbury said.

  

This winter will be remembered for its long stretches of days of below-normal temperatures.

  

But Stooksbury said the cold temperatures themselves weren’t unusual. It was the lack of warm periods between the cold snaps.

  

The average daily temperature — a combination of the high and the low temperature — for the area this winter was 41.13 degrees, nearly seven degrees cooler than last year.

  

There were 496 hours where the temperature was below freezing, 116 more than last year.

  

After several years of drought, rain — and some snow — fell consistently this winter. The area recorded 19.21 inches of rain, nearly 13 inches more than in 2006, the beginning of the drought and nearly 4 inches more than average.

  

“The winter as a whole was very wet across the state, especially in December,” Stooksbury said, adding that South Georgia saw the heaviest rainfall.

  

On Monday, temperatures in the area rose to 70 degrees.

  

But does that mean spring is officially here?

  

Stooksbury’s data suggests probably not. In 2008, the last frost occurred on March 5.

  

But normally, winter’s last frost happens in late March or early April.

  

In 1997, the last frost was April 14.

  

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center says the Southeast will have a cooler-than-normal spring with average precipitation.

 

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