Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hang On - The Icy Grip of Winter Is Not Ready to Let Go

For those winter-weary folks who are ready for spring, it looks like you will have to hang in there a little longer.

This has been an unusual winter so far in most parts of the country. It got off to an unseasonably early, cold, and snowy start in November. By mid December it was clear that winter was pretty much a no-show for much of the country. December temperatures were above normal across the country, and snowfall was below normal in many locations, especially the Northeast.

 The first three weeks of January were colder than normal across the eastern U.S., but snow was surprisingly lacking. The locations with higher than normal snowfall were Arizona and New Mexico, the northern Plains and Rockies, and the snow belt areas around the Great Lakes.

So for the most part, real winter weather has only been with us for about four weeks. The four weeks of unrelenting cold, snow, and ice in the Northeast and the cold, snow, and ice in the southern Midwest and Southeast seems like it been around a lot longer. 

Snow cover across the U.S. was at a season-high 53.4 percent this morning. The continuous flow of Arctic air into the central and eastern U.S. has hastened the ice formation on the Great Lakes. It stands at 85.9 percent as of Monday, compared to 38.6 percent at the end of January, and 61.9 percent at this time last year. Last year ice cover on the Great Lakes peaked at 92.5 percent on March 6, the second greatest amount since the maximum of 94.7 percent in 1979.

Minimum temperature records were shattered across the eastern Midwest and Northeast yesterday morning and this morning, too numerous to list. Subzero temperatures occurred as far south as the Ohio River and east to Maine. Some of the coldest air was in east-central and central Illinois, and in northern New York through New England. It dropped to -20°F in Neoga in the south-central part of Illinois. Montpelier, VT set a new record low of -23°F. The lowest temperature in the lower 48 this morning was -34°F at Mount Washington, NH.

Minimum temperatures for the 12-hour period ending at 6:00 a.m. CST February 24.

The latest storm system that began over the weekend in the Southwest and affected the Rockies and all the way through the Deep South with snow and ice is moving out to sea off the Carolinas. It left two to three feet of snow in the Arizona and Colorado mountains and snow from Texas to North Carolina. Freezing rain glazed parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Mississippi. Sleet affected locations as far south as Louisiana and Mississippi.

72-hour snowfall ending the morning of February 24.

The 6-10 day and 8-14 day outlooks issued by the Climate Prediction Center today don't have a lot of good news for the winter-weary. Temperatures are likely to be below normal over much of the country through the first 10 days of March.

6-10 day (left) and 8-14 day (right) temperature outlooks issued February 24 by the Climate Prediction Center.

In addition, over the weekend one weather system could bring snow to much of the Midwest, and on Tuesday and Wednesday the Midwest, Ohio Valley, and Tennessee Valley may see rain or a wintry mix of precipitation. Both systems bear watching, so stay in touch with the forecast from your local National Weather Service office.

 (Left) Quantitative precipitation forecast for the period from 6:00 p.m. CST Friday, February 27 to 6:00 p.m. Sunday, March 1.  (Right) Quantitative precipitation forecast for the period from 6:00 p.m. CST Sunday, March 1 to 6:00 p.m. CST Tuesday, March 3.

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