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February closes on a cold note, March starts quiet then turns snowy

Posted by David Epstein  February 28, 2014 08:38 AM

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I used to relish winter when I was in school. What kid doesn't want to turn on the radio or TV to their school cancelled for the day? Even throughout my 4 years at Colby, I loved a good snowstorm. I’m not as much a fan of winter weather anymore because I have to operate my car in it, but still enjoy reading historical accounts of weather, especially big storms. One of my favorite books growing up was The Country Journal: New England Weather Book by David Ludlum.

The book has some great historical accounts as well as many weather records for all of New England. Published in 1976, quite a number of the snow records are outdated as are many others, but it's still a great reference point for what weather events stood out 40 years ago and which ones still are memorable today.

The book is divided on such a way you can read about how each month unfolds here in New England. For March, David wrote this “March is frequently a wintry month in New England. Not until the close of the month do the chances of a twelve inch snowstorm or a morning of zero cold diminish to minimal percentage possibility.” He goes on to talk about March 1956 which still stands as one of the snowiest Marches on record. That year Boston saw over 31.2 inches of snow, much of it falling from back to back snowstorms on Saint Patrick’s Day and again on the first day of spring. The record stood for many decades until my first March in Boston, back in 1993, when 38.9 inches of snow fell. I clearly remember having to dig out my car which was parked on the streets of Brookline that year.

Today we find another cold day as we close out the month of February and get ready to begin the 3rd month. The high in Boston will likely be around 22°F or 23°F making it one of the coldest February 28th’s on record. The coldest high temperature for the day is 18°F set in 1875, one of the older records on the books.

Ask me a question about weather or gardening on Twitter @growingwisdom.


The arctic air will retreat over the weekend making way for a new round of storminess on Monday. The entire forecast hinges on the exact track of the storm (it always does) and its strength. Take a look at the two maps below.
sunday snow.jpg

The first map shows how the surface map will likely look Sunday afternoon. The green is snow or rain and the blue is heavier precipitation. Notice how elongated the precipitation field is? This is the result of the warm air to the south overrunning the cold air to the north. When this type of storm occurs it often brings the heaviest amount of precipitation during the first half of the storm and it can arrive very quickly.

Now look at the next map. This map shows snow totals for the storm across the east. I purposely took off the amounts because it’s just a forecast and what’s interesting is the pattern. The pink represents the heaviest snow, blue is less and gray is a dusting. See how narrow the swath of significant snow is?
swath of snow.jpg

Notice there is little snow in Maine and virtually nothing south of Washington, DC. If the cold air to the north pushes a bit further south, the entire area of snow will move in that direction. If the warm air moves further north over the cold air, the heavier snow will fall over our area or even southern New Hampshire.

The storm which will cause this weather Monday is still over the Pacific Ocean. Later today and overnight tonight the computer models will get a better picture of the strength and configuration of this weather system. That information will then be fed into the computers used to model the weather and a clearer picture of Monday’s storm will evolve.

We aren't able to “sample” very much information from Pacific storms so their predictability is quite poor until they are over land. At that point, meteorological weather balloons can float inside the storm and obtain information about wind, moisture and temperature. The lack of good data over the Pacific is one reason storms are often not forecast very well in California.
pacific.jpg

Throughout the weekend I’ll update the forecast here and of course on Twitter @growingwisdom. Please follow me there.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

David Epstein has been a professional meteorologist and horticulturalist for three decades. David spent 16 years at WCVB in Boston and currently freelances for WGME in Portland, ME. In 2006, More »
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