New Orleans winter warmer than usual

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- A bee buzzes around a cherry tree Friday in New Orleans. This winter has been unseasonably warm and there has yet to be a freeze in the area, State Climatologist Barry Keim said. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- A bee buzzes around a cherry tree Friday in New Orleans. This winter has been unseasonably warm and there has yet to be a freeze in the area, State Climatologist Barry Keim said.

While winter-related storms in the Northeast and the Midwest have closed schools, businesses and roads and grounded flights, the weather in southeast Louisiana has been warmer than normal, officials said.

A normal average of freezing days from November through February is 11.6 days, but temperatures measured at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Kenner haven’t reached freezing so far this winter.

“Overall, it’s been a pretty warm run,” state climatologist Barry Keim said about this winter’s weather in the New Orleans area. “It sounds like we’re running ahead of normal.”

Although there haven’t been as many cold days this year as normal, at least the pattern of where the cold weather comes from has returned, Keim said. Normally, cold blasts that hit south Louisiana originate in Canada or even Siberia, he said.

However, last year, any cold weather the area received came from the Pacific Ocean traveling west to east, which was very unusual, Keim said.

The normal north-south pattern of cold winter weather returned this year yet what cold air has gotten into south Louisiana just hasn’t been that cold, he said.

“Every winter is something new,” Keim said.

Forecasts for the next three months show that there’s more of the same likely in store for south Louisiana with a greater probability of warmer and drier-than-normal weather possible, he said.

Bob Souvestre, a county agent with the LSU Agricultural Center, said the extended warmer weather this year has had some impact on area blooming plants.

“Azaleas have begun popping out and showing color,” he said.

Typically, azaleas would reach their peak blooming time in mid to late March and even into early April “and here it is early February and they’re showing some color,” Souvestre said.

Although other bed plants such as pansies and violas could start blooming early, the downside to that is if cold weather does arrive in the next couple months, they could be damaged, he said.

But in the meantime, home gardeners can enjoy a full season of blooming plants.

“We have a little bit more spring color in February,” he said.

Keim said weather in Baton Rouge has also been warmer this winter.

Temperatures have been running above average, such as on Feb. 5 when the average temperature at the Metro Airport was 62 degrees, higher than the average normal of 53.2 degrees.

Last year on Feb. 5, the average temperature was 56 degrees at the airport.

“Last year was very mild as well,” Keim said.

The number of freezes in Baton Rouge is also down from last year, Keim said.

The normal average number of days per month where the temperature dips to 32 degrees or lower in Baton Rouge is 1.6 days for November; 6.3 days for December; 8.1 days for January; and 4.2 days for February, Keim said.

However, from Nov. 1 to Feb. 5, there have been only five days of freezing temperatures in Baton Rouge with one day in November and four days in December, Keim said. There were no freezing temperatures in January or none so far in February, he said.