Why Is It So Warm? (February 2018)
In Maine, at the Farmers’ Almanac headquarters, temps are expected to top out into the 60s. At our Managing Editor’s office in New Jersey, it will be in the low 70s. And Boston experienced record warm temperatures. No, we’re not talking about June — it’s the middle of February! Why has the weather been so weirdly warm lately? What’s going on?
Remember “The Cold”?
Who can forget? Just last month the central and eastern United States were in the midst of an extremely frigid air mass, with record cold temperatures felt all the way down to the Gulf coastal states, and even snow falling in parts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. And now, these same places are experiencing weather more reminiscent of May and June.
But before you think the weather patterns are completely out of whack, be advised that what we’re seeing is actually quite normal. It is very difficult to sustain a spell of very cold or very mild weather over an entire winter season. What would be unusual would be a case where we wouldn’t see at least one drastic swing of the weather pendulum during the course of the winter.
So What’s Going On? Why A Big Warm Up?
You can thank the jet stream — a “river of air” in the high levels of the atmosphere that moves weather systems around the Northern Hemisphere. The jet stream dictates temperature and other weather patterns based on their strength, location and orientation.
During last month’s spell of frigidity, a large and extensive ridge of high pressure on the West Coast pushed the jet stream far to the north, causing air to come down from northern Canada, across the Great Lakes and east.
Eventually, that zone of high pressure broke down, and with it, the pipeline to the frigid Canadian air. Now, instead of a constant and seemingly endless flow of cold air, the Eastern U.S. is only getting occasional periodic shots of cold lasting only a day or two.
One such shot arrived last weekend just as a storm was working its way up the Atlantic Seaboard. The result? A quickie snowstorm for the Northeast (which, by the way, we at the Farmers’ Almanac had predicted in our long-range outlook for the Presidents’ Day weekend).
Now, a new ridge of high pressure has developed, this time over the East Coast, which has allowed unseasonably mild air to flow freely north from the Deep South, helping to push record warmth into places that felt more like Siberia just a month ago. We’d say this is definitely “the Wild” we predicted in our Winter Weather outlook.
What About March?
Most forecasters say they would not be surprised if the weather patterns “flipped” again, with the East turning colder, while the West warms up.
Some who are “Febru-weary” might be looking forward to the arrival of March–the month marking the arrival of both meteorological and astronomical spring. But beware! March has a reputation for being the most fickle of all the months when it comes to weather. Take a look at what we’re predicting in our long-range winter weather outlook.
What are the temperatures where you live?