The second half of the winter may wield a double-edged sword in Chicago and around the Great Lakes in general.
The weather Thursday was just a reminder.
Winter has a lot of ground to make up over the Chicagoland area with only about 7 inches of snow for the season so far. However, some catching-up will occur through March.
While the season as a whole may already be beyond the point of no return from original below-normal temperature and above-normal snowfall forecasts, signs continue to point toward more typical conditions for the balance of the winter.
According to the Long Range Weather Team at AccuWeather.com, led by Expert Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok, seasonal snowfall in Chicago may still finish close to normal.
"We expect to receive between 30 and 35 inches for the season in the Chicago area," Pastelok said.
Normal snowfall for the period spanning October through April is just under 40 inches.
In the temperature department, it may have been just too warm during the first part of the winter to sway the long seasonal average.
"January will likely end up being 2 to 4 degrees above normal despite significantly lower temperatures forecast during the last 20 days of the month," Pastelok said.
"The first 10 days averaged 9 degrees above normal, and that may be too much to finish the month near normal let alone below normal for temperatures," he said.
The AccuWeather.com Long Range Team foresees more in-and-out cold over the northern United States during the second half of January.
However, there have been some interesting developments over the past week. Instead of phenomenal warmth being flung well north over the U.S. Great Plains and the Canada Prairies during much of December and early January, the core of the cold air has now been hanging nearby along much of the Canada/U.S. border.
That cold is likely to stay put, but can also be pulled into the U.S. more often, since it is so close by to begin with.
"There is the potential for stronger cold waves and storms during February as we are seeing signs of the jet stream pattern becoming more amplified during that time," Pastelok added.
Pastelok and crew expect significantly more snow to fall during February and March, compared to November into January. And the snowfall season may hang on during April.
The long-range crew are closely monitoring many indicators including the El Nino Southern Oscillation, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation, Greenland Block, jet stream, Arctic Oscillation and stratosphere temperatures.
Pastelok said that because of the excessive warmth during December and the first part of January, the winter season will probably finish up from 3 to 5 degrees above average, which was well above earlier predictions by AccuWeather.com, the National Weather Service and others.
The warm weather to date has resulted in very little ice on the Great Lakes.
This will come into play as moderate cold waves pass over the open waters.
Usually, lake-effect snow winds down during the second half of the winter. (Lake effect can still occur on lakes that are frozen over, due to friction differences between the smooth ice and the rough landscape. However, the lake effect is greatly reduced.)
According to Pastelok, "It may not get cold enough long enough to freeze most of the lakes over, but it may be cold enough on occasion to unleash substantial lake-effect snow right into March."
So, you see, the second half of the winter may wield a double-edged sword not only around Chicago from the standpoint of more readily available cold air and storms, but also in areas susceptible to lake-effect snow such as Marquette, Mich., South Bend, Ind., Cleveland, Ohio, and Buffalo and Syracuse, N.Y.
Don't put away the snow shovels or return the new snow thrower! The winter weather around the area now may be just the tip of the sword. The next storm could be lurking on the not-too-distant horizon for Monday night/Tuesday of next week.
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