El Nino weather means plants rising early

A warmer and dryer than usual January is predicted, but cold and snow are always possible.

Wet and mild is how the first month of meteorological winter, which began on Dec. 1, went. In fact, as of Dec. 28, with three days to go in the month, it was about average in terms of rain and almost three degrees above the average normal temperature.

“As of Dec. 28, we have had 4.89 inches of precipitation at Astoria, which is 0.97 inches below average,” said David Bishop, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland. “And in terms of temperature, we has our warmest days on December 15 and 20, when it got to 57 degrees. The coldest day was December 7, with a low of 25.”

Bishop said that the month was 2.7 degrees above the average.

Looking ahead to the New Year, Bishop sees more of the same.

“We are still in an El Nino, so that means we are likely to be warmer and dryer than average,” he said. “But there is still always a chance of a dip into cold temperatures and even some snow as precipitation.”

However, as the calendar slips from 2018 to to 2019, Bishop sees some good times ahead.

“There is a ridge of high pressure building off the coast and as it moved in over New Year’s, we should see warmer and brighter days for a number of days.”

As to the length of days, those have begun the slow turn around and the sun is up a bit longer, even if it is barely perceptible.

At the winter solstice on Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, sunrise was at 7:55 a.m. in Astoria with sunset coming at 4:55 p.m. A month later, on Jan. 21, the sunrise will be 7:5 a.m. with sunset at 5:01 p.m. Still dark in the morning, but the afternoons will be longer.

Warmer weather means that plants are feeling a bit of “spring” in their step.

According to Chip Bubl, Oregon State University extension service agent, all this warm weather has plants coming out of dormancy earlier than usual.

“Daffodils are already sprouting,” he said. “They could be blooming in a few weeks along with the usual early winter flowers such as crocus’.”

Bubl says that early blooms and blossoms are nice, they come with a weather risk, especially for ornamental flowering trees and fruit trees.

“If we have a mild winter and then after the trees bloom we get a prolonged freeze, the damage can be worse than if we had a freeze before the flowering,” he said. “We had a winter I remember where it was in the 50’s and 60’s in late January and then plunged to about five degrees in the first week if February.” “It was disastrous for the trees that year.”

As to any early blooming daffodils, Bubl says not to worry about any unexpected weather fluctuations.

“They are made of steel,” he said. “They will survive just fine.”

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