Archive: March, 2010
It wasn't historically cold last month -- about three degrees below normal. In fact, for the meteorological winter, the period from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28, the overall Philadelphia temperature was quite close to normal.
Aside from the unbelievable snows, what distinguished February was a near historic absence of warmth. The highest temperature of the month, 46, and that was the lowest February maximum in Philadelphia since 1978.
Last month marked only the seventh time in the period of temperature records, which date to 1872, that the temperature failed to reach 50 at least once. The others were 2003; the aforementioned 1978; 1969; 1934; 1905, and 1901.
The bulk of the record February snow has gently soaked into the soil, worked its way into streams or returned as vapor to the atmosphere.
After close to 4 feet of snow fell in less than a week in the region, the fears of flooding were understandable. So far, however, the floods have been limited to nuisance-level.
The bare ground around here is "soupy," noted Ray Kruzdlo, the hydrologist at the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly. South Jersey, he said, "looks like a swamp. There's water everywhere."
In March, the sun's wattage turns the daytime blacktop into a hot plate. If snow makes it through the atmosphere, usually it quickly melts and commutes to the next phase of the water cycle.
While the snow usually doesn't stick around very long, it has been known to survive landings and accumulate robustly in March and April.
The average snowfall for the two months is around 3.5 inches in Philadelphia, but back in 1915, close to 28 inches fell after March 1, including a mega-storm of 19.4 inches on April 4-5, worthy of the winter of 2009-10.
As has often been the case this winter, a storm looks to jog a tad more toward the northwest than previously forecast.
The upshot is that up to 2 inches of wet snow is possible across the region from a storm approaching Cape Hatteras. Here is the lastest National Weather Service forecast map.
A mix of snow and rain should get under way this evening and then perhaps change to snow later tonight. But hold the salt.
In Philadelphia, February established snow standards unprecedented in the period of record, dating to the winter of 1884-85, and which might not be equaled in the lifetimes of your great-, great-, great-granchildren.
As we've reported, the official Philadelphia International Airport/National Park, N.J., total of 55.1 was greater than the entire-seasonal totals in all but three winters. It out-snowed the previous snowiest month, January 1996, by 21.3 inches.
The two mega-storms -- 28.5 inches on Feb. 5-6, and 15.8 on Feb. 9-10 -- represented more snow than had fallen in all but six previous winters. The 5.6 inches of Feb. 25-26 might have constituted an actual storm in other winters.
With the sun baking away the snowpack, and February now meteorological history, it would be only natural for one's thoughts to lightly turn toward sticking a meat thermometer into winter.
A storm that once appeared to have some potential evidently is going to have a minor impact on the region tomorrow night and Wednesday. A warmer storm may follow later in the weekend, and no new major snow threats are out there.
But it appears as though more-wintry temperatures will follow next week, and Philadelphia certainly has had significant snows from March 8 on. About a foot fell in the March 13, 1993, blizzard -- the last true blizzard in Philadelphia -- and during the equinox storm of March 19-21, 1958.