The region is about to get a respite from its Alaskan interlude, and a flood watch is up for Thursday with a potential for heavy rains, but meteorologists are suggesting that the next few weeks could be rough on heating bills and highway budgets.
“The pattern has changed again to favor colder and stormier conditions across much of the eastern half of the U.S.,” Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at the Weather Co. (the Weather Channel’s parent), said in releasing its updated winter outlook Tuesday.
That idea has some support from the government’s Climate Prediction Center and Paul Pastelok, the long-range forecaster at AccuWeather Inc.
With a high of just 19 and a low of 10 on Monday, Philadelphia’s average temperature for the day (14.5) was a tick colder than Anchorage’s (15).
It’s unclear whether that extreme would be matched, but the outlooks are seeing a predominant chill at least through Groundhog Day, and perhaps into March.
Speaking of Groundhog Day, yet another snow threat is on the horizon for early next week as computer models are seeing a potential coastal storm.
But believe no snow maps before their time. This could be another case of a virtual wolf howling in the wilderness.
Recall that Philadelphia’s weekend rainstorm was preceded by a week-plus drumbeat of potential frozen pestilence. Discussion of the threat actually started on Jan. 10 on the phillywx.com chat board.
Meteorologists are feeling more confident about the overall pattern, though.
In its two-week outlook updated late Tuesday, the climate center sees a strong likelihood of below-normal temperatures in almost the entire Midwest and East.
It referenced a “strong agreement among both the dynamical and statistical guidance of a very cold pattern taking shape over the central and eastern United States as the polar vortex shifts southward.”
Pastelok said Tuesday that the intensity of the cold next week would be contingent on the development of a strong coastal storm. If it were to become intense enough and generate sufficiently potent north winds, it could yank significant polar air southward as it pulls away.
He said the pattern favors “waves of cold” at least through the first half of February, with periodic milder breaks.
In addition to cold, the pattern also argues for storminess, says Crawford. Temperatures along about a 4,000-mile stretch of the equatorial Pacific are above normal, a symptom of an El Niño.
Officially, the government has yet to declare that an El Niño is underway, but the atmosphere is behaving as if it is, Crawford said. That typically means an active storm track across the southern U.S.