Saturday, March 14, 2015

Spring Followed By Winter . . . This Time?

Well, I'm sure you've all heard the long-range forecasts for the second half of March. The mild weather that the American Northeast has been enjoying is going to recede, beginning right after St. Patrick's Day, and temperatures are going to be colder than normal. Much colder than normal, possibly - perhaps as much as twenty degrees Fahrenheit below normal. The average normal temperature for late March is about 52 degrees Fahrenheit. What's twenty less than that? You got it. And the chance of colder-than-normal temperatures for the two weeks following March 17 is about 80 percent. Precipitation? The chance of below-normal precipitation for that same period is about 40 percent, which isn't much of a chance at all. Translation: We in the Northeast could get a spring snowstorm. 
I wrote a blog entry approximately this time last year about how a major spring snowstorm in late March 2014 was possible and even likely, though the storm that materialized, while fierce, missed the greater New York area by about 130 miles and grazed Cape May, New Jersey, doing a number on the Canadian Maritimes. It appears that our luck may not hold out this time. Some computer models from various weather services show a storm that would hit the greater New York area this sometime near - or on - next weekend. But, as meteorologist Joe Cioffi of WPIX-TV in New York says, the probability of a spring snowfall would at this point be rather low, and there has to be enough cold air and enough energy to make this snowfall, were it to materialize, a significant one. In other words, we should be aware that it could happen, but we shouldn't worry about it right now.
"Everything would have to be absolutely perfect for anything of consequence to occur," Cioffi wrote on his Web site. "It could snow all day long here [in the New York area] but if the temperatures are marginal and the snow is not heavy then it would be no big deal at all."
I have been poring over all the computer models and the seven-day forecasts recently, and as I write this, high temperatures for my area for next Saturday (March 21) and Sunday (March 22) are expected to be in the mid-to-upper 40s. Such a temperature peak in mid-to-late March is colder than normal, but it's not the extreme below-normal highs I alluded to earlier - it's closer to ten degrees below normal for northern New Jersey in mid-to-late March than to twenty - and a mid-40s high is not the sort of temperature that allows for snow. Of course, the seven-day forecast is subject to change, especially with regard to next weekend. Meanwhile, the computer models from the The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) are presently suggesting the possibility up to six inches of snow for March 21 in my area.  How can this be?  First, it's excepted to be below freezing overnight on Friday going into Saturday and in the 30s well into Saturday morning before getting above 40 later that day.  The snow is expected to fall overnight.  Secondly - and this is key - any and all predictions for mid-40s temperature highs next weekend, while they have remained in place for the past few days, may be premature.  After all, there's still a week to go.  And tellingly, the mercury will barely touch 40 on Wednesday, and afternoon highs may not get above that going into the remainder of the week.  Those predictions for mid-40s highs by next weekend may not just be premature, they may be dead wrong.
So cross your fingers. Because even if there's no snowstorm to usher in spring next weekend, there could be one or more snowstorms in the ten days or so following that (the EMCWF also suggests snowfall for March 24), meaning that March won't go out like a lamb and we'll be shoveling snow on - I've used this zinger before, but its apropos - Al Gore's birthday on March 31.
There are no details for the time following that, but some weather wags have suggested that the cold weather, with threats for snow, could last until sometime in April.
Specifically, April 30.
Ugh. Hurry, spring.

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