Remember the prediction from Punxsutawney Phil this year on Groundhog Day calling for an early Spring? Phil didn’t see his shadow on February 2, 2020, which according the longstanding tradition means an early Spring for the US. Phil not seeing his shadow is quite rare as seen from the graphic below. This has ONLY happened 20 times out of the 134 year history of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions dating back to 1887.
So is Phil going to be right with warm Spring-like weather right around the corner? That’s not what the climate scientists at NOAA are saying. The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) just released their monthly outlook for March 2020 and they are calling for a higher probability that temperatures will be colder than normal (blue shades). For all you snow lovers, you’re probably thinking that means more snow right?!?! Well… not so fast, because the long range pattern also favors drier than normal conditions clipping Arkansas (brown shades), especially in the 6-10 day outlook.
So why has there been such a lack of snow this season? We’ve had plenty of weather systems moving through our forecast area this winter, BUT the really cold air just hasn’t made it far enough south to bring us a widespread heavy snow. This is partly due to all the arctic air remaining bottled up over the North Pole in the Arctic Circle. Remember that weather term called the “Polar Vortex?” Below you can see an animation of the airflow at 10 millibars in the stratosphere… this is one of the many teleconnections known as the Arctic Oscillation (AO).
This entire year so far the Arctic Oscillation has been in a positive phase, meaning the airflow like seen above has been rather symmetric keeping all the intense cold near the Arctic Circle. Time will tell if this breaks down and becomes sharply negative, but predictions through March still show this remaining in a positive phase.
So to sum all this up, predictions for the rest of Winter appear to be colder and drier than normal, BUT not intensely colder. Plus, I wouldn’t expect any major arctic air intrusions to give us a good chance for a big heavy snow event. I guess we’ll see what the weather decides to do over the next few weeks. Personally, I’m ready for Spring and hope it comes soon.