While teaching yesterday I was talking about the cold air that seems to be perpetually entering the region. The type of air mass we have over us is called continental polar or continental arctic, depending on just how cold it is. These air masses originate in Canada and have been responsible for the continued cold this winter.
While it might seem like the pattern began in December, I can actually trace the start of this back to last August. During the summer, when cold and dry air comes into the country from Canada, we tend to appreciate it. In August 2013, several days stayed in the 70s, with a couple of days those first two weeks, remaining in the upper 60s and lower 70s. Several nights fell into the 40s and there were even some upper 30s across parts of northern New Hampshire. Back then, after a very hot and humid July, most of us were quite excited about the prospect of such comfortable air in the middle of the summer.
As fall began, cold air continued to build across central Canada, snow followed and the stage was set for a lot of arctic air to be created a 1000 plus miles away. Then, other factors such as the cold phase of the Pacific Ocean, a non-existent El Nino, strong ridging (dry pattern) off the west coast and a negative Arctic Oscillation acted together to bring continued rounds of arctic cold along with snow to much of the country, mostly east of the Rockies, this winter. Additionally, although the polar vortex has been spinning around the top and bottom (and bottom) of the planet for millennium, this was the year the media decided to incorporate the term into an already hyper-overblown analysis of every storm and cold snap that hits the country, somehow making the cold even worse.
As we close out February, the pattern remains chilly and although we are not seeing any significant storms right now, I don’t think we will be so lucky next week. As usual, I'll be discussing more of this on Twitter @growingwisdom
The cold is likely to continue through the first 2 to 3 weeks of March. This doesn't mean we won’t hit 40F or 50F during this time, it does mean we will continue to see cold blasts of air making their way into the region through the next 21 days. What will happen is each successive cold outbreak won’t be quite as cold as the previous one as the sun continues to get stronger and stronger. We still haven’t gone below our early January lows in Boston and after this week, I don’t believe we will be this cold again until next winter. Again, I'm not suggesting temperatures won’t be below average because they will be, but if the low temperature this week is 12F in Boston, it won’t be 12F again next December or January.
You will likely see some snow on several of the upcoming days, but little accumulation. Tomorrow a few snow showers could dust the ground with a few more on Thursday and again Saturday. None of these systems looks to be significant. Highs won’t reach freezing the rest of the week and interior locations will fall into the single numbers several of the next 5 mornings.
The cold will continue to have added economic impacts. Added heating costs beyond what we normally expect are going to continue, planting is going to be delayed this year and construction projects will also be set back up to several weeks, depending on the amount of snow and cold we have in the next 4 weeks.
Later Sunday through Tuesday the two jet streams which bring cold and moisture to the region will likely interact to form several waves of precipitation. It’s too early to give you more details. However, there is a lot of agreement our weather will turn stormy in this time frame. This could mean snow, rain or a mixture, but amounts will be more significant.
Although I don’t know specifics yet, I would recommend staying away from travel plans Monday and Tuesday if possible. It could turn out to be nothing of course, but if you can avoid it, do so. The odds favor something big enough to disrupt travel, so why chance it if you don’t have to?
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