Joe Lundberg

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The February Thaw?

February 18, 2014; 11:16 AM ET

Tuesday, 11:55 a.m.

I'm going to put it out there right up front today that I'm in a melancholy mood. It's borderline depressed, and the on-line channel I'm listening to of Christmas music (yes, I'll admit, I'm listening to Christmas music in February! Hey, it's snowing - AGAIN!) has so far played mostly melancholy type music, which isn't helping!

So, to that end, I'm going to try an put an odd twist on today's post, hence the title, 'The February Thaw' with the decided question mark. That is, of course, supposed to be the January Thaw, but it has been so cold all month long that the weather for the rest of the week will be a bona fide thaw, and once welcomed by most. Most, I say, with the exception of the winter weather diehards and the pure snow geese that never seem to get enough. Oh, and those geese will be fed again.

Why the question mark? Ahh, good question. well, not only is it odd to talk about a thaw in February, but it just isn't going to last very long, either! Today through Saturday, then over. Done. Finit. Kaput. Histoire! In fact, for all practical purposes, we're going right back to where we started from. Look at the 8-10 500mb means of heights and anomalies for the European and GFS models for the heart of next week:

You see that thing over Hudson Bay? Yep, you guessed it! It's the return of the dreaded 'Polar Vortex,' coming soon to a place near you around the Great Lakes and Northeast. Note also the strength of the upper-level ridge over the Northwest coast and up into Alaska, which means the interior of Alaska as well as the Yukon Territory will be anomalously warm next week going into the beginning of March. And as a side note, that is not good news for things like the Iditarod that is supposed to be survival race on snow and in cold weather. Right now, there's not much snow, and there isn't much cold at all if this pattern evolves as expected for them.

That's what's coming next week, and I believe it will come in two distinct blasts. The first early in the week will be cold, but if a storm comes together as expected in the Tuesday-Wednesday time frame, it should be followed by an even stronger arctic outbreak for the end of the week, and into the beginning of March.

Ohhh, that client trip to Pensacola cannot come soon enough! But I digress!

That's next week. This week, we are saying good bye to the arctic air. It's giving up the proverbial ghost along the coast rather easily today. Martha's Vineyard dropped to 2 degrees this morning, but they're now in the mid-30s. And in the mid-Atlantic region, where temperatures started out in the 20s before daybreak with some snow and even freezing rain, temperatures are now jumping into the 40s with sunshine and a quickening southwest breeze.

The storm responsible for the latest round of wintry weather is now east of Georgian Bay and will race eastward across New England this afternoon, pulling the milder air in underneath it. Right on the heels of that system is still another upper-level trough coming swiftly across the northern Rockies, then the northern Plains this afternoon, and into the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley tonight. Here's the 12z Feb. 18 GFS 500mb forecast for tomorrow morning:

Cold air aloft is utterly lacking with this feature, but that doesn't mean what precipitation it produces will simply be rain. With clearing and the deep snowpack in place, temperatures will easily drop below freezing tonight from parts of Ohio into Pennsylvania and New York state. When precipitation streaks in from the west and southwest ahead of this trough late tonight and tomorrow morning ahead of this feature, there could easily be some freezing rain and a little sleet. You will eventually get snow, too, but you might have to be in extreme northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York to central and northern New England.

Once that feature departs, there will be some clearing, but even that won't last long, as the next upstream feature, seen in the image above will move across the Rockies tomorrow night and carve out low pressure in the central and northern Plains by Thursday morning. The main low center will head for Lake Michigan by Thursday evening, pulling a lot of warm and increasingly moist air northward from the southern Plains and the Gulf of Mexico northward. The strong cold front attached to this storm is likely to ignite strong to severe thunderstorms late Thursday and Thursday night from southeastern Texas and Louisiana northeastward to the Ohio Valley. As the storm moves into southwestern Quebec Friday, it will drag the warm air right up the Eastern Seaboard into New England.

Meanwhile, behind the storm, snow will pile up in the Midwest on the northwest flank of the storm, with some places in the 6- to 12-inch range when all is said and done sometime Thursday night.

After that, it's a step-down process to next week's cold. East of the Appalachians, the first step will be a gentle one Friday, with temperatures still likely to be above normal by a comfortable margin on Saturday. West of the mountains, it will be no better than normal, and the farther west you go, the colder it will be. The next step the following day behind an upper-level trough will bring the normal chilly into the East, with the below-average cold moving deeper into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys.

Well, I don't know if you feel any better, but I guess I do now. I can see what lies ahead, and it will make me better appreciate the mildness of the next few days before the rug is pulled out from under me once again.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


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About This Blog

Joe Lundberg
Joe Lundberg, a veteran forecaster and meteorologist, covers both short and long-term U.S. weather on this blog.