May I see an imaginary show of hands, please? How many of you, having enjoyed a noticeably milder January, have ever gotten that nagging premonition that we will have to "pay the piper" with a bitter cold, snow-filled February?
Maybe, more than anything, that's just a little guilt for sneaking through a tolerable early winter.
Filtering out important factors like El Nino vs La Nina, none of our five coldest Januaries on record were followed by a record cold February. So following a month that will end up around 6 degrees above average, will February change all that? Well, a little, but not as starkly as I originally thought.
So, where on earth did the Polar Vortex go? Will it be the culprit in a cold, snowy February? At least not for the first half of the month.
The Vortex, a ribbon of strong winds aloft that circles the North Pole’s pool of cold low pressure, looks to go a little “rogue” in February. When the PV circles the Arctic relatively smoothly, the Arctic jet generally locks the coldest air well north, and our winter weather will be relatively average. We call this a “positive arctic oscillation.”
But when warmer high pressure exists over the Pole, the Vortex weakens and gets wavy and erratic, leading to more extreme weather around the Northern Hemisphere, and more coastal snow bombs. This is a “negative arctic oscillation.”
Recent computer guidance suggests that, indeed, the Vortex will go more negative into mid-February, with more kinks, contortions and discontinuities. This would spell occasional bouts of cold, and a better chance at a larger snow event.
The little bit of snow we’ll see tomorrow, though, is just a quick, weak system riding the southern rim of the colder air. The Polar Vortex? For now, it’ll play a hide-and-seek.
The forecast for the week ahead:
- Today: Partly cloudy, windy and chilly; high 37.
- Tomorrow: Cloudy, light snow likely; minor accumulations; high 38.
- Wednesday: Mostly cloudy, chance of late flurries; high 38.
- Thursday: Partly sunny, chilly; high 36.
- Friday: Mostly sunny, cold; high 34.
- Saturday: Mostly sunny, cold; high 33.
- Sunday: Chance of snow or a wintry mix; high 36.
Michael Friedmann, a New York-area meteorologist, can currently be seen on metropolitan area cable news on weekends. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WeatherTalk.