Despite Punxsutawney Phil failing to see his shadow on Feb. 2, indicating an early start to spring for the United States, AccuWeather meteorologists are predicting cold air and the potential for snow to linger into March in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. Elsewhere, they do not expect springlike severe weather to become widespread until April.
Cold air and snow possible for mid-Atlantic and Northeast into March; drought may develop for Great Lakes and Ohio Valley
The Northeast and mid-Atlantic will see cold air and stormy weather from late February into March, which will set the stage for a possible late-winter snowstorm.
"There could be a last surge of winter before we see the transition into spring," AccuWeather Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. "For the Northeast, there's still an opportunity for some snow, although there's a higher chance that we'll see a cold snap, rather than a big snowstorm."
A quick warmup will follow, however, allowing milder air to arrive faster than it has in the past two years for both regions.
"A lack of arctic air in the region and the sun getting higher and higher in the sky will make it feel pretty nice, I think, by mid-March in the Northeast," Pastelok said.
Through April, the weather pattern will lend itself to the occasional damp and dreary day before a turnaround in May.
"Big cities around the Great Lakes will have nice weather … in May," Pastelok said. "Expect mild temperatures, frequent sunshine, and cooler nights."
May also could yield drought conditions in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, prompting some early season heat. During the same month, the threat for severe weather will loom for the mid-Atlantic.
Severe-weather outbreaks to target Southeast, Gulf Coast, and Tennessee Valley; chance for early tropical impact low
Spring will kick off with periods of wet weather across the Southeast, increasing the risk of flooding throughout the region. Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina will be at especially high risk.
From late February through March, the threat of severe thunderstorms will ramp up in Florida. Elsewhere, however, severe weather will get a slow start, with below-normal tornado totals predicted for the month.
Come April, warmer air will help to fuel severe storms, allowing widespread outbreaks to occur. Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and Chattanooga and Nashville, Tenn., are particularly in the line of fire.
In the Gulf Coast states, the severe weather may turn into flooding events during April and May.
Those concerned about early tropical development can breathe a sigh of relief: The chance for an early impact will be low.
Severe weather to ramp up in April for Plains, Mississippi Valley, and Midwest
Stable air across the central Plains and the Mississippi Valley during March and early April will help to hold back severe weather. That will change as April progresses and storms track from the Southwest, leading to increased severe weather in the central and southern Plains, Mississippi Valley, and Midwest.
"Intense warmth ahead of these storms coming out of the West is going to promote severe weather," Pastelok said. "... The thing that worries me the most is that it could turn into heavy rain producers that could lead to flooding. And we've seen lots of flooding already over this past winter season in the Mississippi Valley."
Across the southern Plains states, flooding is not predicted to be as severe as last year, when 15 to 20 in. of rain inundated Oklahoma and Texas.
Western drought woes to continue into spring
An El-Nino weather pattern has delivered rain and mountain snow to the western United States this winter, and that trend will largely continue during spring.
Drier-than-normal conditions will affect the Northwest in March; however, the rest of the West may continue to have surges of moisture into April.
Snow is forecast to fall across the high ground of the central and southern Rockies in March. In California, abundant precipitation could lead to additional flooding problems.
"Throughout the winter, the focus for precipitation has been on both northern and central California," Pastelok said. “While this will continue to be the case into spring, one or two systems are on the radar for Southern California in March."
Rain and mountain snow have helped to ease short-term drought woes in the Golden State, but the long-term water crisis will continue.
"We've gotten the snow in the Sierra," Pastelok said. “We've gotten the rain in the short term. It will continue through the end of the wet season. ... That will help out agriculture in the short term. That will help out the drinking-water situation. However, will it relieve all the other problems that occurred over the last four-and-a-half years? Probably not. I think we need another season like this."