Sure, you might have to deal with a little snow this weekend in the Northeast. But the reward on the other side is near-record warmth next week.
We’re talking a chance at cracking the 70s in New England, a head start on spring in parts of the Southeast, and some locations that could have a record-warm February in Florida. It’s also really bad news for ski areas, which have by and large had a pretty rough go of things this winter, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic.
This is happening in part due to the polar vortex. Yes, that polar vortex that brought Arctic air to the eastern U.S. to start 2018.
But rather than dropping into the region again, it’s instead being bifurcated into two areas of intense chill split between western North America and Eurasia. Those areas will be much cooler than normal, but eastern North America, sitting right between all that, will be shielded by an atmospheric ridge that will allow warm air to hang around. Some of that air will reach all the way into the Arctic Ocean, which is already facing temperatures well above normal for this time of year. Sea ice will suffer and is likely headed to a near-record or record low maximum (if it’s the latter, it would be the fourth year in a row to hit that mark).
What’s bad news for sea ice and East Coast ski areas is sorta good news for the rest of us. This week’s mild spell is a warmup for what’s to come. Before we get there, we’re going to have a clear a hurdle of seasonally cold and snowy weather this weekend. But by the middle of next week, weather whiplash will be in full effect.
Temperatures could be up to 35 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for this late February. The most abnormal warmth will settle over New York and New England, opening the door to spring-like conditions. The added boost to temperatures from Ohio to Georgia could mean high temperature records fall.
The boost in temperatures could also mean that the month ends in record or near-record warmth for parts of the Southeast. A cooler than normal January contributed to delaying spring in some locations. But next week’s heat will also jumpstart the spring bloom in some locations.
“Our six-day forecast is indicating that we’ll see a dramatic flip from the late spring onset that we’ve observed in the Southeastern states to up to two weeks early in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia,” Erin Posthumus, the outreach coordinator with the National Phenology Network, told Earther.
She said that volunteers in the network—which tracks when the natural world responds to seasonal weather changes—will be looking out for buds on deciduous trees and some flowering plants. Climate change has ensured that spring now arrives earlier across the U.S.
That may be a blessing if you’re not a cold weather fan, but it also means migrating animals may arrive to find the food they normally survive on during stopovers is all gone. The early arrival of spring can also spell disaster for crops like apples or peaches if a late spring cold snap wipes out their flowers. That’s exactly what happened last year in the Southeast, which had a dismal peach crop following an extremely warm February and March cold spell.
The mild weather is a precursor of what’s to come. While we may see some cold weather again come March, the latest three-month outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicates increased odds for warm weather through May from the Southwest to the Northeast. Consider yourself warned about the potential for delightful spring weather.