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Long time going; A cold snap to be remembered.

Byline: Bill Fortier

If the forecasts are right, today could be the first day since Jan. 18 -- the day the Patriots beat the Colts 45-7 to win the AFC Championship -- that the temperature reaches 40 degrees.

"If we get some sunshine this afternoon we could get to 40 degrees,'' said William A. Simpson, a meteorologist in the Taunton office of the National Weather Service.

The high temperature on Jan. 18 was 47 degrees. Since then there has been historic cold and snow. So much so that February was the coldest and snowiest month since records started being kept in Worcester more than 120 years ago.

The cold of February 1934 has long been considered by weather historians to be one of the toughest records to beat. What makes February 2015 even more noteworthy and historic is that it was also the snowiest month on record.

"It's true, you usually get one or the other,'' Channel 5 Chief Meteorologist Harvey Leonard said of snow and cold. "To get both in the same month is really extraordinary.''

Michael A. Rawlins, assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at UMass Amherst, said the Northeast, from New York state to Maine, has experienced a period of weather since Jan. 24 notable for its severity.

For example, Worcester Regional Airport has measured more than 90 inches of snow since that day, while more than 100 inches of snow has fallen in the past six weeks in Eastport, Me. where the snow depth exceeds 5 feet, according to reports.

Mr. Rawlins said February 1934 and last month were two extremely rare months in the records.

"It is very unlikely we will see another February like this, given that the climate is warming,'' he said.

"This is certainly going to be a winter that people will be talking about many years from now, "Mr. Leonard said, adding he expects when people talk about this winter in the future they will say it snowed from November until April.

In fact, while January temperatures were below normal up to Jan. 24, there was virtually no snow after a pre-Thanksgiving storm dumped several inches on Worcester County.

That all changed on Jan. 24.

Mr. Leonard said cold high pressure to the region's northeast, combined with a storm track that was just close enough to bring many feet of snow to Central and Eastern Massachusetts, has prevailed since then.

Mr. Leonard also said a trough of low pressure has been in the Northeast since mid-January while the Pacific Northwest has been in an area of high pressure which explains why Alaska has been mild and almost snowless this winter.

"When Alaska is warm, we're usually cold,'' he said.

The general rule in meteorology is that one inch of rain equals 10 inches of snow. However, because the air was so cold recently, one inch of melted precipitation could bring 15 or 20 inches of snow. For example, 53.4 inches of snow was measured at Worcester Regional Airport in February on just 3.28 inches of melted precipitation.

"That's a 16-to-1 ratio, said Mr. Rawlins.

"It's the fluff factor you hear us talking about,'' Mr. Leonard said.

"This February will long be remembered,'' said climatologist Joseph. S. Aleo. "Absolutely, people will be talking about this winter 50 years from now.''

As the snow piled up since Jan. 24, there has been considerable talk in weather circles about the winter of 1717, when snow fell to a depth where houses were buried. One account said 3 to 5 feet of snow fell between Feb. 27 and March 10.

This year, Worcester Regional Airport measured 58.7 inches of snow in the 10 days following Jan. 24.

Carl M. Erickson, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.com, said central Pennsylvania, while very cold, has only about a foot of snow on the ground.

"The hope for Central Massachusetts is that there will be a gradual melt of the snow,'' he said.

Mr. Simpson said a slow melt would be much better for the area than a warm rainstorm with temperatures in the 50s.

He said the rivers are frozen and there is about 6 inches of water in the snowpack.

"If it melts too fast, there could be flooding and ice jams on the rivers,'' he said.

"It's like we're in northeast Canada this winter,'' Mr. Rawlins said.

The forecast for the next few days calls for perhaps 2 to 4 inches of snow tonight and early tomorrow morning although recent computer runs show tonight's possible storm moving too far south to bring much snow to Central Massachusetts.

For those who are observant, the power of the sun and the arrival of spring cannot be denied. Birds can be heard singing in the morning even though there is more than 2 feet of snow on the ground, for example.

"You can't deny the power of the sun or the advance of the season,'' Mr. Leonard said.

Still, it appears the move to spring will be slow. Forecasters say it looks like March temperatures will be below average.

"You might be getting to average'' Mr. Erickson said. "It certainly isn't going to be butterflies and flowers, but compared to where you've been it will feel nice.''

Mr. D'Aleo said it appears that the weather pattern that has been persistent for about two months will start to change by the middle of April.

Mr. Erickson agreed.

"Our long range forecasters are calling for a warm, dry second half of the spring,'' he said.
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Fortier, Bill
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 4, 2015
Words:916
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