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Weather Blog: January snow in the CSRA

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Weather Blog: January Snow
Weather Blog: January Snow(WRDW)
Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 10:40 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 8, 2021 at 11:14 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - It was a very wet and chilly day with overcast skies and temperatures only reaching the mid 40s here in Augusta. There’s nothing worse than a cold rain but some locations were able to see a few snowflakes. Folks in parts of Aiken and Edgefield Counties even saw a light accumulation of snow on the grassy surfaces!

When the snow began to fall temperatures were in the upper 30s at ground level, but not to high above the ground temperatures were below freezing. One tool that helps us evaluate conditions in the atmosphere is called Correlation Coefficient. It is the same radar tool that we use to track debris in times of severe weather like a tornado warning. What makes it special is it’s ability to determine what is ice, snow, a mix, or not meteorological at all.

In the image below you can see a band of orange and yellow colors, very close to the radar in Columbia, indicating areas of mixed precipitation. Remember with radar as the beam travels further from the radar sight it’s also moving higher in the atmosphere. In this case the mixing layer ranged from roughly 500ft above ground level to about 1,500 ft. Once the temperatures falls below 32° and the mix turns to snow the radar sends a red signal back indicating only one type of precipitation. If this was the summer, temperatures at that level would be well above 32° and we’d still see the red signal. While now we would be talking about rain the beam is still sending back a signal indicating only one type of precipitation.

Correlation coefficient showing a mix of precipitation in yellow and snow in shades of red.
Correlation coefficient showing a mix of precipitation in yellow and snow in shades of red.(WRDW)

On our standard radar, areas of potential snow that reach the ground have a higher return rate and can trick the radar in thinking that there’s an area of heavy rain. In actuality there is a mix of snow, rain, and even ice, this effect is called bright banding and was seen this afternoon. Having access to correlation coefficient allowed us to confirm that there was snow or a mix of precipitation falling and not just rain.

Bright banding over portions of the region.
Bright banding over portions of the region.(WRDW)

Here are some of the images and videos that we received earlier this evening of the snowy conditions! If you have photos or videos you’d like to submit you can click here.

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