National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
An Unseasonably Warm January for Western Carolinas 
and Extreme Northeast Georgia

Greg Schoor
NOAA/National Weather Service 
Greer, SC


January 2006 was the second warmest January at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) and the warmest in 32 years, since record keeping began in October 1962. The average temperature for January 2006 was 48.5 F, which was 7.5 F above the normal average. The warmest January was 51.4 F, set in 1974.

Asheville and Charlotte, North Carolina also experienced a warmer than normal January. The average temperature at the Asheville Regional Airport for January 2006 was 43.2 F which was 4.2 F above normal. A record high temperature of 68 F on January 9. January 2006 was also the warmest January in 32 years.

The average temperature at Charlotte Douglas International was 47.0 F. Even though, this was only the 15th warmest January for Charlotte since records began in 1878, it was 6 F above normal.

The unseasonably warm January comes after a cooler than average December 2005 for these three sites. Greenville-Spartanburg was only a half degree below normal during December while Charlotte and Asheville were 2.9 F and 2.5 F below normal, respectively.

Figure 1 shows the departure from normal of average temperatures across the contiguous United States for January 2006. Most of the country experienced above normal temperatures for the month of January. The eastern two-thirds of the United States was generally 5 to 15 F above normal and a large portion of the north central United States was 15 to 25 F for January. The County Warning Area of the Greenville-Spartanburg National Weather Service Office was almost entirely in the 5 to 10 F above normal range.

The mid-level (500 millibar) height pattern, shown in Fig. 2, was one of the main reasons for the abnormally warm January. The region of warmest departure from normal temperatures corresponded to the mean mid-level atmospheric pattern, mainly between the mid-level ridge over the western United States and the mid-level trough over the eastern United States. The region between a mid-level trough and mid-level ridge usually indicates an area of surface high pressure, in this case, centered northwest of the Great Lakes region. The surface high pressure coincided with the warmer than normal temperatures. The effect of the high pressure was much weaker in the western Carolinas and extreme northeast Georgia. As a result, the departures from normal were not as significant as in the north central Plains states.

The mean temperature outlook from March through May of 2006, shown in Fig. 3, do not suggest significant warming or cooling for the western Carolinas and extreme northeast Georgia. There are equal chances for average temperatures that are above, below or near normal. Greater probabilities for warmer than normal temperatures exist further to the west, mainly in the southwestern United States.


				Departure from normal

Figure 1: Departure from Normal Temperature (F), January 1-31, 2006.  The County Warning Area for the Greenville-Spartanburg office is encompassed by the thin white line. Graphic from NOAA/National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (CPC).

500 millibar chart

Figure 2: 500 Millibar Heights and Anomalies (in meters) for January 2006. The thin white lines represent the monthly averaged height contours. Graphic from NOAA/National Weather Service National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Reanalysis.

CPC temperature forecast

Figure 3: Seasonal temperature outlook for the months of March, April and May 2006. The graphic represents a forecast of the probability (percentage) of an anomaly of the mean temperature falling into one of three categories: above normal, near normal, or below normal.  Graphic from NOAA/National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (CPC)