Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Winter is Over, Yet Winter Continues

On March 1st we left the three-month meteorological winter behind us and stepped into spring. Unfortunately for some of those who are chomping at the bit for spring weather, winter is holding on for a bit longer.

This was was a winter where El Niño was figured to douse California with plenty of drought-reducing rain, where the Pacific northwest to the central U.S. were expected to be normal to dry and warm, and Texas and the Gulf coast states were expected to be cool and wet. However, this wasn't your typical El Niño and the winter season had many surprises.

First, it was warmer than normal across just about the entire country. The exception was in the southwestern third of the country, where temperatures were near to cooler than normal. The Northern Plains were as much as 8°F to 10°F above normal which is fairly typical occurrence with a strong El Niño. Cooler than normal weather expected from Texas to the Southeast U.S. with a strong El Niño didn't happen this time around. It was also very warm in the Northeast, especially from northern New York through Vermont into Maine. Albany, NY notched their warmest and least snowiest winter on record. Albany's winter temperature was 7.8°F above normal, and snowfall for the three months was just 10.7 inches, with most of that occurring in December. Average for the three-month winter period in Albany is 43.7 inches.

Overall, contrary to the "typical" strong El Niño pattern, most of the country was wetter than normal during the winter. The Pacific Northwest received from 150 to more than 200 percent of normal precipitation, as did part of the Central Plains and western Great Lakes. The Northern Plains, especially North Dakota were drier than normal. The area from southern California into central Texas received generally from less than 50 percent to 75 percent of normal precipitation. This was one area that was expected to have a greater probability for a wet winter this year. Most of the eastern third of the country received normal to above normal precipitation, with southern Florida taking the prize for the wettest area in the East and Southeast.

As might be expected with the extent of the warm weather, snowfall was hard to come by in many areas. The winners with snow were the central and southern Rockies, The Sierra Nevada, and the Central Plains. The footprint of several storms that crossed into the mid-Atlantic states, including the Blizzard of 2016, is clear on the map. Also clear is the lack of snow from the Midwest and Great Lakes eastward through New York and most of New England.

It appears there are some changes coming which will make those who are ready for spring a little happier. We'll first have to deal with a weather system that will bring snow to parts of the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic Thursday.

Forecast map for Thursday, March 3, 2015.

 Another clipper system will bring snow to the upper Midwest this weekend. Once that system is out in the Atlantic, high pressure will set up along the eastern seaboard and begin pumping warm, springlike air into much of the eastern two-thirds of the country.

Forecast surface map for Sunday, March 6, 2015 at 6:00 a.m. CST.

Maximum temperature forecast for Sunday, March 6, 2015
That air will eventually be accompanied by moisture and rain for the central U.S. next week.  Meanwhile, a series of storms are expected to move off of the Pacific into California this weekend, bringing some much needed rain to California.

Precipitation forecast for the period from 6:00 p.m. Saturday, March 5 through 6:00 p.m. Monday, March 7, 2015

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