Before groundhog weighs in, mild weather signals winter's end
Posted January 31, 2012
Updated February 1, 2012
The first month of 2012 was the tenth warmest January on record. The first day of February won't reach the record high of 79, but it will hit the 70-degree mark, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said Tuesday.
Tuesday's high hit 68 degrees and Wednesday is expected to reach into the low 70s. Cloud cover will move in Wednesday afternoon and evening, bringing a chance of rain Thursday.
Temperatures will dip more than 10 degrees this weekend, with a high of 56 Saturday and 49 Sunday.
The warm weather this winter has brought low heating bills and little need to stock up on bulky sweaters or pricey parkas, but will a mild January mean more weeds and insects once spring has sprung?
Experts say it isn't likely.
January's blue skies, sunshine and temperatures often creeping into the high 60s and low 70s was thanks to a weather pattern called La Nina, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.
"It's the opposite of El Nino. El Nino is wet and cool. La Nina, typically for us, is warm and dry," she said.
“LaNina last winter was stronger than the one this winter, and yet last winter, at least December and January, were cold and occasionally snowy," WRAL chief meteorologist Greg Fishel said. "Large scale weather patterns are like a football game, i.e. there are many players. La Nina may be the quarterback, but if players on the other team really step up, they can negate the quarterback. That's what happened last winter. And the honest truth is, no one knows why.”
Conventional wisdom says cold weather helps kill off insects and weeds to control their populations. But that isn't entirely true, said weed expert Joe Neal, a professor of horticultural science at North Carolina State University.
"The weed seeds that germinate in the spring time, they're going to respond to the soil temperature, not the air temperature," Neal said.
Winter weeds, which have already sprouted, have been helped by the warm weather, Neal said, but spring and summer weeds shouldn't be affected.
A mild winter won't mean more insects either, said N.C. State entomologist Charles Apperson, but it will mean they show up earlier.
"These insects have evolved in this kind of climate," Apperson said. "It (would) take some really dramatic changes to have an impact on their abundance."
But mosquitoes are due to have a big summer – not because of temperature, but because of rain. The larvae are spending winter in water, getting ready to hatch in May, Apperson said.
He suggested getting rid of standing water to keep backyards mosquito-free.
"If everybody does it on a neighborhood-wide basis," he said. "We can control mosquitoes."