Forecasting February

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A warm January will turn to a colder February with a chance for at least one bigger snowstorm.

SOUTH JERSEY, N.J. - Whether or not you’re a fan of winter weather, I think we can all agree that snow is pretty, right? Early January brought our first significant snow of the season to everyone. From Camden to Cape May, a general four to eight inches of snow fell. Temperatures rapidly warmed and it all melted away. So, is that all she wrote? Absolutely not! There’s plenty more where that came from and as a snow lover, I’m very excited.

Let’s recap my winter forecast and see how we are doing so far. I forecasted slightly below average temperatures for December. We did it. We were one degree below average as a whole and significantly colder than last year. We saw a couple very minor snow events where a dusting to an inch was picked up, but December is rarely a good month for snow in our backyards.

I forecasted a slightly below average January. So far, 18 days into the month, we are slightly above thanks to several days in the 60s. That will change. We should turn drastically colder as we go into the last week or so of the month. That will skew temperatures to the colder side. I thought February would be cold and snowy and that forecast doesn’t look to need any revision.

By next week, I expect a big pattern flip due to something called “Sudden Stratospheric Warming.” I won’t bore you with the details but basically it is a “shock” to the system. A warming event slows down or even reverses the winds circulating around something called the “Polar Vortex.” When this happens, cold is displaced and filters down from the poles and spreads through the globe. I expect this to be the case as we go into February. There will be a day or two every now and then when we warm up significantly, but there are no winters where that doesn’t happen. It’s completely normal.

One other variable we need to look at is where we stand in terms of teleconnections. These are basically upper air oscillation patterns. We need everything to set up just right for cold air to be delivered to the east coast. One of those oscillations is called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). We need it to go into the negative phase to hold in a cold and stormy pattern. We’ve seen it go negative, but we haven’t seen it hold. That likely changes going forward.

On the extended outlook, February will probably turn out to be two degrees below average with the opportunity for at least one bigger snowstorm. February is typically a good month for winter weather in our backyards because the ocean temperatures are at their coldest and we have less of an oceanic influence. The water 100 miles out to sea is still very warm and that could actually help amplify storms and make them stronger. We saw the result of that with the storm back on January 7.

Just because it may be warm out there today, that doesn’t mean it will be warm for the rest of the season. Old Man Winter will be coming back from vacation soon... are you prepared? 

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