Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sorry, Springtime Fans, Winter Redux To Overtake Eastern U.S. As Official Spring Arrives

It'll be awhile before we see this
in northern New England. Unfortunately for
spring season lovers, winter redux
is coming for the second half of March.  n
Here where I live in northern Vermont, the hints of spring we've had the past couple of days is history.

As of 1 p.m. today, it was in the mid and upper 20s, and northwest winds gusting to over 30 mph has the wind chill down to about 10 degrees.  

That's still better than the subzero cold of February and very early March, I suppose.  But it's much worse than the sunshine and 50 degree readings of Tuesday and Wednesday.

Now, there's less snow on the ground, there's bare spots here and there, and we had  really decent maple sap run for you syrup aficianodos.

Spring really did hit coast to coast this week. Wednesday, the only state in the nation experiencing cooler than normal temperatures was Texas, due to clouds and rain there. Heck, they needed the rain so that's OK.

The springlike weather is still in full force in most of the country, New England excepted.

After a hard winter, though, you have to expect a few hiccups on the road to spring. One HUGE hiccup is coming.

The current cold weather in New England will ease up Saturday and Sunday, with near normal temperatures with rain in southern New England and rain mixing with or changing to wet snow in the north.

Sugar snow, you have to expect that.

Meanwhile, out in the Plains, it's practically summer, at least temporarily. My relatives in the southeastern South Dakota city of Yankton today are basking in record high temperatures that could flirt with 80 degrees.  Record highs in the 70s are going to be widespread today in the Dakotas, Iowa, and Nebraska.

The only problem with that is it's also very dry and windy in those parts. The prairie grasses and shrubs and dry and brown from the winter, so there's an extremely high risk of fires today. 

The very dry, warm conditions in the upper Plains are expected to last into Monday, so the risk of fires will be high. After temperatures "cooling" to levels that are still 20 degrees above normal tomorow and Saturday, more record highs are likely Sunday.

But even there, the forces of Canadian weather are gathering, and it's going to turn cold again in the upper Plains and Midwest later next week.

The overall weather pattern is in the process of shifting from the pretty springlike weather of this week right back to that extreme and brutal configuration we saw from late January through early March.

That means it's going to turn wicked cold, especially in the Northeast, so don't get your spring groove on just yet.

The first blast comes in Tuesday and lasts a couple days. New England temperatures will be about normal for January (Highs in the 20s north, 30s south, lows 5 to 15)

The temperature might ease up a little after that, but it looks like repeated shots of Arctic air will come down into the Midwest and Northeast hrough at least the end of March.

Between the blasts, there might be some thawing as it will be late March, after all. But other days will feel just like midwinter. Sorry.

On the bright side, at least it won't be nearly as cold as February was. It's almost impossible to have subzero temperatures in late March, except in places like Minnesota, the upper Pennisula of Michigan, New York's Adirondacks and in much of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Those places might briefly go below zero during the upcoming cold waves. Oh well.

The upcoming pattern is also potentially snowy and stormy in the Northeast as well. It's hard to pick out this far in advance how any storms will play out and how big they will get, but it seems damn certain New England isn't done with the snow yet.

This makes me worried about spring flooding, with Maine under a particular threat.

So far, the deep snows in eastern New England have been melting gradually. There's still a lot of it, and still a definite flood threat later this spring, but at least some of the snow is now gone after yesterday's 60 degree weather, so the amount of potential water for a flood has gone down somewhat.

Not so in the eastern half of Maine. There was some thawing there, but a lot of snow remains on the ground there.

The snow is still 40 inches deep in parts of Maine, and in much of the state, the amount of water locked up in the snow is the equivalent of six to nine inches of rain. 

The upcoming cold will delay the slow melt we expect this time of year, and will add snow to what's already on the ground.

If April turns warm and wet, Maine could be in for catastrophic flooding.

In western New England, in places like Vermont, the snow cover and water equivalent is more or less normal for this time of year. Some snow melted, but there's still quite a bit in the mid and high elevations. River ice is thick in Vermont, so ice jam flooding could be a real problem in April.

Plus, if a lot of snow falls during the upcoming two-week (at least!) cold wave, and then it turns hot and wet in April, we here in Vermont could face some unwanted flooding.

First, though, we'll have to endure the winter redux to close out March.

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