Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Confirmation: Yep, East Coast Very Cold, West Very Warm In February

Giant icicles on snowbound Boston buildings
last week after one of the coldest Februaries
on record.  
If you took all the temperature readings across the United States this past February and put them all in a blender, you'd find the average temperature in the nation for the month was right around normal.

Of course we all know that's not true.

In its latest report this week, NOAA's National Climate Data Center State of the Climate review shows that the Northeast had very close to a record cold February, where a good chunk of the West Coast was at record warmth levels.

Let's just say the nation's weather really, REALLY went to extremes during February. Each state in New England, plus New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, had their second coldest February on record.

New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine also had the coldest average daily high temperature of any February on record.

Meanwhile, California, Washington, Utah and Arizona had their hottest Februaries on record.

The continental United States only comprises roughly two percent of the world's surface, so the nation's extremes in February don't say much about how the world's temperature compared to normal during February.

Global temperatures were certainly warmer than the long term average, but we won't know by how much until detailed analysis comes out later this month.
Giant ice blocsk washed ashore on Cape Cod,
Massachusetts after one of the coldest Februaries
on record. Photo via Twitter, @Dapixara.  

March seems to be picking up where February left off in the United States. The month started with record cold across much of the eastern third of the country and some record warmth in the West.

This week, things have gotten mild almost everywhere, with near normal temperatures in New England, and warmer than normal conditions across the rest of the nation. More record highs will probably fall in the next couple of days in the western two thirds of the United States.

Then, starting next week, it's back to the old tricks. From about March 20 until at least the end of the month, it looks like much, much, MUCH below normal temperatures are due for the eastern half of the United States and much warmer than normal out west.

The focus of this pattern is the understandable and widespread frustration with the never ending winter in the Northeastern United States.

But the place to really worry about in this persistent eastern cold/western warmth arrangement is California.
Bizarrely, there was no snow on February 19 at the
8,000-foot elevation in California's Yosemite
National Park. Photo by Elizabeth Christie.  

The state has managed to get some rain this winter, but not nearly as much as usual under a persistent ridge of high pressure. Worse, the warmth has meant that whenever storms did arrive, they tended to drop rain, not snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

That's really bad, because California depends on water from melting snow in the Sierra in the spring and summer to satisfy its water needs.  The snow supplies about a third of California's water needs, says National Geographic.

The snowpack is near record low levels because of the winter warmth. Early March snowpack was just 19 percent of normal, and a tiny 5 percent of normal at one site east of Sacramento, National Geographic said. 

California's wet season usually sputters to a close in April, so the region is running out of time to accumulate more rain and snow.  Not much rain or snow is in the forecast for the next few weeks in California.

It's looking extremely ominous out there.

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