The groundhog lied. Or else his handlers did. Forecast models for the last week have consistently pointed at a cold pattern evolving over pretty much everywhere except the west coast. That includes us, though I'll emphasize that we're not talking about anything like record cold, merely well below normal temperatures this week including some of our coldest days of the winter. And we might even see a few flakes of snow.
A cold front will come barging through here Monday on gusty west-northwest winds; temperatures won't be too bad during the day but will take a nosedive Monday night. Fortunately, the air mass behind the front won't be as cold as it could be this time of year (or if this had happened in January), but it will still be a stark reminder that it's still winter even by woodchuck standards. The front will be basically dry with little moisture to work with, but it will have just enough to likely lay down a thin cover of snow in the higher elevations of north Georgia; a Winter Weather Advisory has already been issued for Dawson and Gilmer counties northward, mainly above 1800 feet elevation. The rush of cold air could bring snow showers or flurries even into metro Atlanta and possibly into a few local areas mainly north of Columbus Tuesday morning, while temperatures are close to the freezing mark. Don't expect any real snow within 125 miles of here.
After Tuesday, it just stays cold, with nights plunging even lower due to clearing skies (Tuesday looks pretty cloudy due to lingering post-frontal moisture at low levels). Morning lows will be well down into the 20s with a chill factor you may not be able to ignore, and highs are likely to stay in the 40s through Friday. Again, just a glance at the pattern aloft would imply even colder air than what's being forecast, but the lack of strong surface high pressure up in Canada precludes a massive dump of dense, cold arctic air very far south. We can probably thank El Nino for that.
We can also be thankful there will be little or no rain over the next week as the current PNA pattern, besides keeping it cold, will also keep major storms away. And if you really can't wait for spring, be assured it will arrive soon enough. There have been some signals the pattern could be turning around for the second half of February, though it may be another week before we know much more on that.
For now, if you have a fireplace this will be one final chance to fire it up in what hasn't been a severe winter by any measure. We missed our one chance at an El Nino-induced snowfall (January 22) and our lowest temperature so far was 23º (a week ago). The record-smashing warm, wet December was followed by a cold January (1.7º below the 30-year average) and now the shivers of early February, conforming pretty well to a typical El Nino winter in the Southeast.
As always, go here for the latest forecast, and tune in to WRBL after the Super Bowl and again Monday morning for an update!
Kurt Schmitz, Senior Meteorologist