If you have lived in New England for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about the January Thaw. Although these warm spells happen by chance and aren’t a predictable part of the yearly weather patterns, the January Thaw is a part of New England weather lore. We have one underway right now.
On Tuesday, temperatures are going to be in the 40s, and if sunshine stays out long enough, it’s not out of the question that some backyard thermometers will near the 50-degree mark. This is going to melt some of the snowpack and there will likely be a lot of splashing, so be sure to have your windshield reservoir full.
I still need to keep an eye on a coastal storm Friday, but for now, it looks like mostly a miss for the area. Folks on Cape Cod have the best chance of maybe getting some accumulation.
Not too cold this month
It’s the final week of January, and we continue to have a relatively mild winter. Although the air has been cold, the cold here in New England has been less intense than you’d expect. The map below shows how much above or below average temperatures have been this month. It’s noteworthy that the Northeast corner of the United States remains the largest area not experiencing a cold January. Remember January is our coldest month of the year, so even seeing readings “warmer” than average means it feel cold much of the time.
I still don’t see any deep or prolonged cold through February. The fact I am not predicting a very cold February doesn’t mean there won’t be a week of below-average temperatures next month, but most indications are for the cold to be more fleeting, a stark contrast to February 2015.
Pacific jet stream
The reason there hasn’t been a lot of cold air this month is the flow of air hasn’t come directly from the arctic long enough to keep us in a deep freeze. Additionally, while the air in the arctic is bitter cold, even there the air hasn’t been as cold as it is typical is for January. When air comes south from these regions, it modifies.
Later this week, a cool-down will occur, but already there are signs of another warm-up after that. Check out the map below of the jet stream for February 3. I highlighted the flow of air on this map. What’s significant is the fact the air is projected to come from the Pacific Ocean, and this isn’t cold. This means several more days of above-average temperatures.
Not a repeat
Looking further ahead into February, there are strong signs of a week of cold air early in the second week of February. The cold air is forecast to last several days, but is followed by more average or above-average readings.
Milder-than-average air doesn’t mean any snow, but even here, the outlook in the coming three to four weeks isn’t as stormy as what was setting up last year. If (and it’s a big if) New England continues in this same pattern another six weeks, we’ll all be saying “that was easy” about this winter.