If winter ended today, I would say that this was an awesome winter! Many of you have gotten the snow that you wanted, and January ended up being very cold for many across the United States. Now, let me be clear that winter is far from over, and as I have stated on the Facebook page many times, February is going to be active. We are going to be dealing with a bit of a different pattern than what we had in January, but I do expect another month of brutally cold temperatures. Many areas across the United States could end up getting a lot of wintry weather this month with some regions getting multiple storms in the upcoming weeks.
Last month, temperatures ended up being well-below normal for much of the eastern U.S., while the western U.S. stayed mild and dry. The Deep South was also finally able to get that big winter storm that I had been predicting for the end of January. All in all, the winter has been good for all of you lovers of cold, and many of you got to see snow for the first time in several years. At this point, most of you want to know if this cold is going to continue and whether or not you’re going to get more snow. Many of you are, and the one’s who do could get a lot of it.
For a good portion of last month, there was a lot of troughing in the eastern half of the United States, while there was strong ridging out West. I explained earlier in January why we weren’t going to need the NAO index to be strongly negative to get a lot of cold air in the eastern U.S. That’s why many were forecasting in early January that the cold would be over after that first outbreak, but I ended up being one of the crazy ones that went against the crowd. We’re about to have a bit of a change in the pattern for February, but that doesn’t mean we’re about to move into a warmer pattern. In January, the PNA index was mostly positive, and with that, you usually get ridging out West and troughing and stormiest out East. Of course, there are other factors that play into that, but that’s typically what you get during the winter months with a positive PNA. In February, it’s looking like the PNA will be negative, at least for the first half of the month. Since that is going to occur, that could really start to break down some of that ridging out west and allow for an increase in stormiest particularly in the Pacific Northwest.
Now, many of you saw my rant about how these “weather” pages were sharing one forecast model run from the European model and calling for 5 feet of snow. That was not me saying that I didn’t think that certain areas will get a lot of snow, but it is frustrating when people cause hype without truly being able to interpret the forecast models. Like I’ve said many times, forecast models should be used as a tool and not as a forecast. I do think that the forecast models are on to something with showing an increase in storminess from the Southern Plains to the Ohio River Valley on up to the Northeast. The pattern is going to favor this, and the cold air is going to be in place.
Now, one thing that I am keeping a close watch on is the possibility of a ridge building in from the west into the Southeastern United States. For those of you that know a little bit about meteorology, the SE ridge is something that sometimes will build into the Southeast during the winter months and cause well above average temperatures for that region, but it all depends on the strength of the ridge. Earlier model guidance had this ridge being quite strong, but I never really bought into that. Later model guidance is a lot weaker with this ridge, and actually if it stays very weak, it could help give some areas increased chances of getting wintry weather later in the month. Because I don’t think this ridge will be particularly strong and because there will be plenty of cold air coming south from the Arctic, some areas could actually benefit from this. This is something that I am going to have to watch very closely.
Again, areas from the Plains to parts of the Tennessee River Valley/Ohio River Valley to the Northeast could be impacted by multiple storms this month. The track of these systems will determine who gets the heavy wintry precipitation or just rain, but there is going to be a lot to watch! Many of you know that I am a believer in cycles and trends and often use these trends to make my long-range forecasts. Things could get very interesting later in the month, and depending on the pattern at that particular time, someone could get a big winter storm. Pinpointing the location will be difficult at this time, but the possibility is definitely there.
Anyways, that’s all I have for you tonight. Please give Firsthand Weather a like on Facebook if you haven’t already. I’m always putting new updates on there on a daily basis!!
Matthew Holliday is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, where he completed a B.S. in Meteorology and a B.S. in Geographic Information Science. He is currently pursing his master's degree in meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University. Matthew founded Firsthand Weather in 2010 as a senior in high school and maintained the site through his undergraduate career. Research that was conducted by Matthew while at OU involved determining the synoptic environment in which various types of wave clouds (including vertically propagating waves and trapped waves) develop in Boulder, Colorado and Norman, OK. Matthew also did research on spatial changes in tornado activity across the United States . The goal of this study was to determine if spatial changes in tornado activity had occurred and if those changes could be linked to changes in average surface dew point temperature. Matthew has completed coursework in dynamics, thermodynamics, cloud physics, calculus and differential equations, statistics, remote sensing, GIS, synoptic meteorology, and mesoscale meteorology. His goal is to provide his audience with a deeper understanding of what drives our weather and climate, while making it easy and enjoyable to learn.