Archive: February, 2012
It appears that the all-time standard for the December through February temperature is out of reach in Philadelphia.
But looking at the forecast and what has happened so far, this winter has an excellent chance of finishing in the top 3.
The National Weather Service extended forecast goes out to Feb. 27, and if it works out, the monthly average would be close to 41.
While the computer models continue their great debates, it is looking more likely that a winter storm will affect the region Saturday night into Sunday.
Atmospheric physics aside, we point to a couple of cultural clues. For one thing, the National Weather Service now includes a 40 percent chance of rain and snow in the wording for its Saturday night-Sunday forecasts.
For another, the American Weather Forums chat board is in "storm mode," meaning that the moderators are on the prow for "personal attacks" or "IMO" forecasts.
Not only has the winter of 2011-12 been short on drama and snowfall, it has been almost shockingly bereft of decent storm rumors.
That's one reason you're seeing so much attention directed toward this weekend's virtual threat.
The general theme: A winter storm could affect the region sometime during the Presidents Day weekend, perhaps as early as Saturday night, but the deal isn't even remotely done.
The respected European forecast model continues to show the potential for a strong storm to form in the Southeast during the hoilday weekend, and that could threaten Philadelphia.
That's still several days away, and arguing against it eloquently is the feeble character of the winter of 2011-12.
That said, it is getting buzz in the chat board discussions, and it is on the radar of some of the region's meteorologists.
Once again, the weekend snow fell at a glacial pace, and the official Philadelphia total for the 33-hour "storm" was just 0.9 inches.
By our perverse math, that comes to under .03 inches an hour. Granted, based on the official observations, it was snowing only 21 of those hours; that would bump the rate to a hefty .04 inches per hour.
Since the snow coincided with the 29th anniversary of the Feb. 11-12, 1983 blizzard -- and that was a real, live blizzard -- we mention that during that storm snow was falling at the rate of an inch every 20 minutes at times.
It was on this date five years ago that one of the most-incredible winter storms in the period of observation attacked the region with a siege of sleet.
Just under 3 inches of sleet -- and that's an unbelievable amount of accumulated ice -- fell on the 13th, with an additional 1.4 inches of white stuff of some stripe on the 14th.
Meteorologically, it may have been the heftiest accumulation of sleet on record. Sleet suggests an atmosphere in transition and that a warm layer in the atmosphere is entering or leaving.
The computer models have been consistent on two points: It's going to get colder this weekend, and precipitation is coming.
On Thursday, they appeared to be leaning toward the 1-3 or 2-4 category for snow.
But as the National Weather Service discussion notes this morning, they keep pushing back the arrival of the cold air.
It wasn't much, but the 0.3 inches of snow tha fell officially on Philadelphia (actually, National Park, N.J.) tied for the second biggest snowfall of the season.
It matched the total for the Halloween weekend storm, but lagged the Jan. 21 clambake by 2 inches.
It brought the seasonal total to 3.1 inches, and moved the winter of 2011-12 to No. 122 on the 125-year snow-total list, nudging aside the winter of 2001-02.