Joe Lundberg

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Thinking Spring After Phil's Prognostication

February 4, 2013; 10:20 AM ET

Monday, 11:15 a.m.

I have to admit that I was surprised to see Phil come out and proclaim an early spring this past Saturday. Not that I have anything wrong with that, but I really didn't expect to see it. Maybe part of it has been my mindset that after the Sudden Stratospheric Warming event that occurred early last month, that once the arctic air showed up in the pattern, that it would have staying power for a good month and a half, which would get us pretty much through February, if not into March. And at that point, well, it would be pretty close to the normal start of spring.

There have been some conflicting signals with that of late. Almost all of the medium-range model guidance has been strongly leaning toward the cold clearly easing this week, with New England being the last place to let go of the arctic chill late this week and this weekend. In fact, across the Plains states, the warming is already well underway. Here's a look at the maximum temperature chart from Sunday:

Most of Nebraska and Kansas are devoid of snowcover, with that lack of snow extending into parts of southern and western South Dakota. With one weak surface low scooting across the Ohio Valley this afternoon and the next one moving from northern North Dakota this afternoon to central Michigan tomorrow evening, it's pretty clear that some of that balmy, springlike air will be pulled eastward across the Plains. Then, as still another one of these weak storms moves into the Upper Midwest Wednesday afternoon, and to the northern Great Lakes on Thursday, there should be even more warming taking place.

Holding up the warming downstream over the mid-Atlantic and New England is a strong upper-level low over Labrador. As these little storm go rolling through the flow, they will eventually have the effect of yanking the deep upper-level trough extending southward from this low out to the northeast, taking most of the arctic air with it. This is what it looks like visually. Compare the GFS ensemble forecast 500mb heights and anomalies for tomorrow evening to those of Friday evening:

In the first image, the trough is quite prominent, as is that upper-level low to the north over Labrador. And notice also the strong ridge downstream over the eastern/northeastern Atlantic, stretching toward Greenland. By Friday evening, though, that ridge is being pinched off, and the heights will have risen dramatically over the Mississippi Valley downstream into the East. Hence, the trend toward warming.

I'm not going to go into the specifics of the late-week storm at this point, preferring to save that for tomorrow's post. What I will say is that it will be the last system to hold back the warming over upstate New York and New England before they, too, can finally share in the warming.

I don't think the warming is a permanent feature, of course, but it will be longer than the spike in warmth the first half of last week. I'm quite certain it will get cold again - maybe not as cold as it has been over the past couple of weeks, especially from the Midwest to the Northeast, but certainly below normal. And I would in no way declare winter over, especially if you think snow when you hear the term winter! Remember, my initial thought from before Phil's prediction was that there was going to be a hangover effect of that stratospheric warming effect deep into February, if not into March! So, while I'm liking his forecast of an early spring, I'm not at all going to put my snow shovel away!

If anything, the pattern we're in right now is more annoying than anything else. There are no big ticket storms, just a bunch of little ones. None of them can bring more than a few inches of snow at any one shot, and most are producing a coating to an inch, maybe two. It's not enough to produce a deep enough snowcover to enjoy cross country skiing, yet it makes the roads a mess from either the snow and slippery conditions that result, or from the treatment of the roads to make them safer but much dirtier and sloppy. I'd just as soon have one big dump of snow and get it over with, rather than nickel-and-diming us to death! Most people I've talked to are in the same camp.

What it has been good for is some rest and resetting of goals, and getting things ready and organized for when the weather does turn nice. It's just about time to start some seeds inside in preparation for spring planting. And I'm already charting some of my 2013 'bucket list' items, of which there are many. One of the bigger ones is this, Total200:

I successfully completed it in 2011, but last year's heat did me in, though a friend of mine crushed it. The registration is open, and I'm armed with better nutrition and hydration tactics this year (and a better bike, too), and I'm determined to finish it this time around. Yeah, I know. I'm crazy! But I'm finding out that there are things I never thought this body could do, and I am continually seeking challenges to push those boundaries farther. Come join me in Washington, D.C., right after Independence Day if you're up for a challenge! Or are you going to listen to those naysayers who say you can't do it? I know one thing. I'm glad I didn't listen to those very same naysayers when it came to my career choice! I couldn't imagine doing anything else, be it warm or cold, rain or snow, clouds or sunshine!

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


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