One of the most publicized weather forecasts of the entire year is just days away: the prognostication heard around the world shortly after daybreak in central Pennsylvania on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day. However, AccuWeather forecasters have already been busy for weeks analyzing weather trends for the coming months and, in a bid to be ahead of Punxsutawney Phil’s renowned prognostication, are releasing a preview of the spring forecast for the United States.
Phil’s forecast has been made almost every year since 1887, although there have been 10 years where there was no record of Phil’s prognostication and a time during WWII when Phil did not make an appearance. According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil’s forecast follows an English folk song to determine if there will be an early spring or if Old Man Winter will have an extended stay.
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go, Winter, and come not again.
For folks eager to find out whether or not Phil will see his shadow, AccuWeather Lead U.S. Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok has shed some light on what he thinks will play out on Feb. 2 and beyond.
FILE – In this Feb. 2, 2020, file photo, Groundhog Club co-handler Al Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 134th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger, File)
“I think this year, he is not going to see his shadow, and that spring will be around the corner,” Pastelok said. “However, it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to see any significant winter weather coming our way, at least in the northern tier of the U.S., for the next several weeks.”
Even if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter weather are in store, there are a few regions of the contiguous United States that can expect springlike weather to arrive early. Meteorological spring across the Northern Hemisphere officially begins on March 1, 2022.
It was a stormy start to winter across the Southwest with much-needed rain and yards of mountain snow falling across the region throughout December. This pattern subsided after the start of 2022, leaving much of the Southwest, Four Corners and southern Plains mainly dry throughout the opening weeks of the new year.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok breaks down the U.S. spring forecast. (AccuWeather)
Pastelok said that this pattern is predicted to carry over into spring, allowing early warmth to build later in February and throughout March. He even added that a summer preview could be in the cards for these areas by May.
An early spring is also in the cards for Florida, parts of Georgia and the eastern Carolinas.
“Florida and the Southeast coast may be a good vacation spot early as temperatures [are expected to] climb in mid-February and remain above normal for the most part through the official start of spring,” Pastelok said.
The early-spring warmth may be welcomed by residents of the Southeast, a region that was hit by multiple waves of cold weather and wintry precipitation throughout January.
Nashville, Tennessee, measured more than 9 inches of snow during January, the city’s snowiest month since January 1985. Meanwhile, the Carolinas endured waves of accumulating snow and ice storms.
Even Texas had a taste of winter in January, although it has not been as extreme as the historic cold blasts that froze the state back in 2021. Snow, sleet and freezing rain covered the Hill Country and South Texas Plains from Jan. 20 into Jan. 21.
Other regions of the country will want to keep the winter coats and snow shovels handy with Old Man Winter expected to have an extended stay this year.
“I think it’s the northern tier of the nation where winter is going to hang on a little longer, especially across the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies and into the High Plains states,” Pastelok explained. A few spots in the northern Rockies could even endure more than just six extra weeks of winter.
The polar vortex could be under pressure during the early to the middle part of February, ushering Arctic air across the interior Northwest, northern Rockies and High Plains during the middle to the latter part of the month, according to Pastelok. Its influence can reach farther east later in February or March in the form of a storm or a brief period of cold, but forecasters say it’s still too early to say for sure.
The early-spring warmth in the south clashing with the lingering winter chill in the north could set off rounds of severe weather early and often, making for a busy severe weather season in the central U.S.
Pastelok warned that the middle of the country should “watch out” for severe thunderstorms that could fire as early as late February. “The early part of the [severe weather] season could get going very quickly.”
Farther east, the forecast is not as clear cut with a meteorological tug-of-war expected to unfold throughout the first half of spring.
Matt Lillig holds his two-year-old son Nolan as they ride a sledding device down a hillside on the Red Hawk Golf Course after a rare snowstorm hit parts of Southern California Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, in Temecula, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
For much of the Northeast and Great Lakes, Pastelok said, March and April will experience a “back-and-forth” between the seasons with cold spells followed by warmups.
March as a whole is looking to be slightly warmer than normal, helping out those who had high heating bills earlier in the winter during bitterly cold blasts of Arctic air, but this doesn’t mean that residents can pack away coats and break out shorts just yet.
Cold fronts could still periodically swing through the Great Lakes and Northeast in February, March and April, although the cold blasts may not be as intense as they were throughout January.
These cold fronts will prevent extended spells of warm weather across the region and may also be accompanied by accumulating snow, including the chance of plowable snow along the Interstate-95 corridor.
This winter has already been the snowiest in years in Washington, D.C., with more than 12 inches accumulating in the city in January alone. Last winter, 5.4 inches of snow accumulated in D.C., and just 0.6 of an inch of snow fell there the year before that. With the prospects of snow remaining elevated into the first part of spring, this could finish as one of the snowiest years in the nation’s capital in nearly a decade.
However, the snow has not been as heavy farther north with Philadelphia picking up 4.6 inches and New York City measuring 7 inches in that same timeframe. These cities could still end the year with near-average seasonal snowfall with the potential for wintry storms continuing over the Northeast as late as April, according to Pastelok.https://playlist.megaphone.fm/?p=ACC3051914128&episodes=1
An expert panel will discuss the upcoming meteorological holiday and more insights into the season ahead in an informative 30-minute broadcast that will air on the AccuWeather Network on Friday, Jan. 28, at 10 p.m. EST. The panel will include actor Stephen Tobolowsky, who famously played Ned Ryerson in the movie Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawney Phil himself.
AccuWeather will release its full U.S. spring forecast on Feb. 2 along with updates on whether Phil sees his shadow. The spring forecast will include a detailed, region-by-region breakdown of what people from coast to coast can expect throughout the entirety of the new season.
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