Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bizarre February Heat And Weather Whiplash Continue To Puzzle The Nation

Temperature departures from normal in the
Lower 48 from Feb 1 through 20. Click
on the map to make it bigger and easier to see
Some places in the middle of the nation are
running 10 degrees aboven normal. 
Out where a lot of my relatives live in the southeastern South Dakota city of Yankton, there's a winter storm watch from Thursday evening through much of Friday for an expected six to 12 inches of snow.

That's not at all unusual for that part of the country in late February. Winter storms are what you'd expect in the central and northern Plains this time of year.  

What is unusual is the extreme February heat that preceded the expected storm. It was 75 degrees in Yankton Tuesday, and in the 60s to near 70 for several days before that.

That's got to be some sort of February heat record for Yankton, and the fact that a snowstorm is on the way is going to feel absolutely shocking.

Yankton is just one example of how the weather seems so off the rails this month across the United States.

Among other extremes, incredible warmth has bathed almost all of the United States this month. In an excellent summary of the excessive national warmth, Meteorologist Eric Fisher at WBZ in Boston gives us some statistics. 

Among them:

--- Chicago will get above 60 degrees today, the sixth consecutive day that's happened. It's the first time the Windy City has had such a long streak of spring weather in February. It could get as high as 75 degrees today in Chicago, which would be a February record.

--- In the past 144 years, it's only gotten into the 60s six times in Minneapolis during February.  Two of those times were this week. There's a chance it could get to 60 again today in Minneapolis before that big snowstorm blows into the Twin Cities by Friday. The snowstorm might be the city's largest in six years.

--- Atlanta, Georgia, the temperature has reached 70 degrees eighteen times so far in 2017, which is, of course, a record.  Forecasts calls for 70 degree weather in Atlanta today through Friday, and possibly during the middle of next week.

--- The hottest February for the Lower 48 states was in February, 1954 with an average temperature of 41.4 degrees. So far, this February is lagging just behind that, but Fisher notes that the large areas of the nation that are expected to have near record heat this week could push this year over the 1954 mark.

It isn't just the heat affecting the United States. You know all about those constant California floods. Large swaths of the Golden State are on track to have their wettest winter on record, just months after the state was in the depth of a crippling drought.

Another decent slug of rain is expected in California early next week.

This has been a big winter and a big February for severe weather, too.

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has logged 174 preliminary reports of tornadoes so far this year, well above the pace of recent years.

On Friday, lots of severe thunderstorms, and possibly a few tornadoes, are forecast to develop in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and southern Michigan. That's incredibly far north for severe storms to develop in February.

This region of the country normally waits until April or later to see their first severe storm outbreak of the year, so this is incredibly unusual.

There's even a chance of a few severe thunderstorms in the Northeast Saturday.

Northern New England had big snows earlier this month, and it's going to be interesting to watch how quickly that disappears. Bangor, Maine had 31 inches of snow on the ground on February 17 and it was down to 18 inches four days later. With a continued big thaw in Maine, that remaining snow will skeddaddle fast.

I'm not sure if this winter has set us on a trend for the entire year, but boy, it's hard to keep up with all the weather news lately.

But I'm up to the challenge.

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