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Earth Sense: Cold fronts will begin to change our weather
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With so many changes going on in our natural environment, you may be wondering what to expect in the months ahead. An earthquake in Guatemala 10 days ago killed 48, and another severe one happened in Myanmar last Sunday.

Those countries are located at intersections of the Earth’s building blocks, though, making earthquakes likely.

Georgia isn’t, and the probability of one occurring here is low.

Changes in climate are more noticeable. Global warming doesn’t mean we’re in for warmer winters throughout.

The U.S. South has always been known for its bouncy weather, and that trend is likely to continue or increase. The current trend will most likely produce more of the cold-warm-cold cycles.

We’re going to see strong cold fronts moving in from the northwest, starting right about this week. It’s a characteristic of these systems that they first produce mild conditions with some cloudiness, because they push warm air from the south ahead. Once you see cirrus clouds appearing in great numbers — those feather-like shapes in the sky — you’ll know that there’s a cold front coming.

It’ll still take a few weeks for the Southern states to cool to their low point, so the earliest set of cold fronts is going to produce just rain. It can be strong, but there’s little worry about tornadoes because twisters require the huge energy input that spring-time storms deliver.

However, large sections of Raleigh, N.C., were destroyed by tornadoes Nov. 28, 1988, demonstrating that severe weather is possible during any season.

If we do get severe weather, though, it’s likely to come in the form of an ice storm. Those tend to visit North Georgia from the time of the winter solstice (Dec. 21) to early spring. Some may remember the Christmas storm of 1983, which dropped the mercury into the single digits in our area.

But the same forces that can make arctic freezes bounce into Georgia can produce balmy conditions in midwinter when the wave swings the other way. Our weather isn’t going to get better or worse, it’s just prone to become more changeable toward the extremes.

The best preparation is to upgrade home insulation and keep the car in top condition. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning heater, a good supply of firewood will help during the power outages that come with snow and ice in our area.


Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.

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