The Set-Up For Winter’s Return-February


We are in the midst of our winter glee! The Eagles have made it to the Super Bowl. It’s January and, even though we had a cold start, the next few days are going to seem almost tropical compared to what we’ve been through. And our days of shoveling the white stuff hasn’t been all too brutal. Has winter gone into hibernation? YES. However, will it return? OH YES IT WILL!!

By the numbers we are 1.5 degrees below temperature for the month of January. Yet, our snowfall has been about average for most of the state. Overall, for the winter, we are 3-4 inches ABOVE normal for this time last winter. So, we can afford a couple of weeks without any snow before we go into debt. Now, February comes along. And it’s setting up, at least for the first half of the month to be mighty interesting. Below are the reasons why I think we are set up for a wild ride for February:

1. Return of the Cold Weather/Pattern: It’s inevitable. We are in a flipped pattern than where we were for the first half of winter. We had a trough in the East and a ridge in the West. We had two coastal storms. One in December which put down on the norm 3-5 inches in most places, and then the one in early January which put down 6-12 inches throughout the state mostly downstate which saw some nice snows. And it was bitterly, arctic cold. Not that we are set to go into that pattern again, all signs are pointing of a slow break of the PV(Polar Vortex) and a bleeding of the cold air from the Mid-West starting near the end of January. The cold is due to return the first ten days of February. Perhaps, not as brutal. However, it will be darn cold.

2. Atmospheric Indicators: There are things that indicate what the atmosphere is doing as storms, and jet streams move across the globe. There are essential indicators and not so important indexes. The most important for our discussion are the NAO(North Atlantic Oscillation), the PNA (Pacific North America Pattern), and the AO (Arctic Oscillation). In these connections they are merely indicators of what is going on in the upper stretches of the atmosphere It doesn’t predict a snowstorm.  It really doesn’t predict anytihng.

What it does it gives clues as to what type of jet stream patterns we might be getting into that allows storms to foster, develop, and cause something big to happen. Ideally, we want a NEGATIVE NAO, a POSITIVE PNA, and a NEGATIVE AO. Each of these three indicators are predicted to go into those positions at the start of February through the first ten days or so. Thus, confidence is growing that February at least for the start is going to be very interesting in the East as a trough sets up again.

3. Storm Tracks (Jet Streams): Mostly this winter we have been set up in a fast, progressive pattern with the northern stream dominant in most of the storms we saw early. We got lucky a little bit. If it wasn’t so darn cold, a lot of those storms could have been wet, cold rain.  Instead we got at least on average 3-5 inches from those early storms. Nice, but they could have been a lot more. Especially the January storm.  If the indexes prove to be right that I spoke about above, then it looks like we will have more of a downstream ridge in the north allowing for the northern jet to dig and allow the moist, warm , rich Gulf of Mexico moisture to get juicy and carry up to the northern stream some moisture.  Perhaps, we could be in for another coastal storm but more than likely we will see some stormy, running, or overrunning event which could lay down 5-10 inches with the correct set-up.  We shall see!

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