Happy New Year! We saw quite the warm spell to close out 2021 in NW Arkansas and the River Valley, but will that continue now that we’ve changed the calendar to 2022? Let’s find out!

Temperature Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) outlook for January expects the above-average warmth to be concentrated across New Mexico/western Texas and southern Florida. The Central Gulf Coast region (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama) and the southeastern U.S. (Georgia & South Carolina) are also favored to see above-average temperatures overall this month, but probabilities are lower.

If you are a cold-weather lover, you’ll need to head north this month! The Northern Plains (eastern Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota) have the highest chance of seeing below normal temperatures this month. The overall pattern also favors colder weather for the Pacific Northwest, Northern Rockies, and Upper Mississippi River Valley regions of the Lower 48.

Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley are in the “neutral zone” for this forecast. This means the overall expected weather pattern for January 2022 does not favor above-average temperatures or below-average temperatures. Another way of thinking about this is there is an equal chance for either scenario to play out this month.

Precipitation Outlook

The precipitation outlook for January 2022 has two potential regions for above-average precipitation and below-average precipitation.

On the above-average precipitation side, eastern Montana, northern Idaho, and northwestern Wyoming have the greatest chance to see above-average precipitation. Surrounding areas of the northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest are also favored for above-average precipitation this month, although the probabilities are less. The overall pattern also favors above-average precipitation across a large area of the Lower 48 stretching from the central Great Lakes to Tennessee.

January’s overall expected weather pattern favors drier than normal conditions across the southern U.S. from California to Florida. The greatest chance of below-average precipitation this month is along the southern U.S. border, most of Texas, western Oklahoma, southern Louisiana, and southern Florida.

Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley are in a pretty interesting spot with this forecast. Our entire region is squeezed right in between either scenario, literally. The overall pattern slightly favors a drier than normal January for central Oklahoma with central Arkansas being slightly favored for above-average precipitation. This puts our area in the neutral zone for precipitation with the pattern favoring neither scenario.

January 2022 Preview

Northwest Arkansas

The first month of the year is a transition month for Northwest Arkansas in the temperature department. Now that the Winter Solstice is behind us, we are heading towards Spring and we start to see a net increase in our temperatures again. January will begin with our average daily high temperature being 47°F, which is our lowest average high of the year. 47°F will remain our average daily high until mid-January before we start seeing an increase again. By the end of the month, our average daily high will increase to 49°F.

Our average daily temperature at the beginning and end of the month is 26°F. However, it drops down to 25°F for most of the month (January 3-28) before returning to 26°F for the end of January.

Good news if you are longing for the days with more daylight! We begin seeing a net gain of daylight again this month. Between January 1 and January 31, Northwest Arkansas will gain a total of 39 minutes of sunlight. Most of this will be in the evening with the sun setting 30 minutes later at the end of the month.

In the precipitation department, January is a fairly dry month on average with only 2.75″ for an average monthly total. Our average snowfall total for January is 1.5″.

River Valley

Similar to Northwest Arkansas, January is a transition month for the River Valley. Our average daily high will start to increase again between the beginning and end of the month. In January, our average daily high will increase from 51°F on January 1 to 53°F on January 31. Fort Smith’s lowest average daily high is actually 49°F, which occurs in December. However, we still see a net decrease in average daily high temperature in the month. The River Valley’s average daily low temperatures in January will begin and end at 30°F, but we do drop to 29°F from January 9 – 21.

Our sunrises will get earlier and sunsets occur later as well in January, but the change is not as much as Northwest Arkansas. The River Valley will gain less daylight (38 minutes) than Northwest Arkansas (39 minutes) this month by 1 minute. Our sunsets will occur only 29 minutes later at the end of January while Northwest Arkansas’s will be 30 minutes later. This is due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis.

In terms of precipitation, the River Valley typically receives more throughout the month than Northwest Arkansas by 0.16″. On average, Fort Smith will receive 1.4″ of snow throughout January.

1981-2010 Climate Normals vs. 1991-2020 Climate Normals

Earlier last year, the National Weather Service updated the statistics used to calculate climate normals for a location. Generally, this happens on years that end with a 1 (example: 2001, 2011, 2021, etc).

Why every 10 years? Updating the numbers every year could lead to skewed data, especially if the site is only a few years old. By doing updates every 10 years, it ensures the value is more representative of the site’s actual climate instead of being potentially altered drastically by a single historical event.

So what’s changed with the most recent update for January? Let’s find out!

Northwest Arkansas

The new climate normals being used for January 2022 incorporate data from 1991-2020. The values used for January 2021 contain data from 1981-2010. You can see the comparisons above with 1981-2010 numbers on the left and 1991-2020 values on the right.

The average daily high temperatures at Drake Field in January have increased slightly in the recent update. Our average daily high on January 1st increased to 47°F with the latest update from 46°F. The average high on January 31 also increased by a degree, going from 48°F to 49°F. Overall, the net change in the average daily high temperature for January remains the same (+2°).

Our nighttime temperatures have gotten slightly warmer according to the 1991-2020 climate record update. January’s new average low temperature at the beginning and end of the month is 26°F. However, the average daily low does drop to 25°F in the middle of January and increases towards the end of the month. The net change for average daily low temperatures remains at 0°F for the month.

The average amount of rainfall Drake Field receives in January has decreased by 0.09″, going from 2.84″ to 2.75″ with the new update. In terms of snowfall, our monthly average for Drake Field has decreased from 2.3″ (1981-2010) to 1.5″ (1991-2020).

River Valley

Fort Smith, Arkansas also experienced some changes with the latest climate normal update.

The average daily high temperatures at Fort Smith Regional Airport in January have increased by a few degrees. Our average daily high on January 1st increased to 51°F with the latest update from 49°F. The average daily high at the end of the month went up by a degree with the recent update (53°F from 52°F). Overall, the net change in the average daily high temperature for January decreased with the most recent changes. We now see a net change in the average daily high temperature of +2°(1991-2020) instead of +3°F (1981-2010).

Our low temperatures slightly changed with the 1991-2020 climate record update. January’s new average low temperature at the beginning and end of the month is 30°F. In the past, January’s average daily low was 29°F at the beginning of the month. However, the average daily low does drop to 29°F in the middle of January and increases towards the end of the month. Since we start the month and end it with an average daily low of 30°F, the net change for the average daily low in January changes to 0°F with the new update.

The average amount of rainfall Fort Smith Regional Airport receives in January has increased by 0.10″, going from 2.81″ to 2.91″. In terms of snowfall, our monthly average in Fort Smith has decreased by an inch, dropping from 2.4″ (1981-2010) to 1.4″ (1991-2020).

Stay tuned for more updates!

Keep in mind, this is an overall look at the pattern for January 2022. The daily/weekly variations in the forecast may not follow the outlooks exactly. Be sure to stay up to date with your Weather Authority team on all the forecast details on-air, online, and on social media!