The fun part about weather is that no two days are ever the same—at least when covering the entire United States. There’s no storyline to manufacture. No scandal to conjure up. No special effects. The weather provides its own uniqueness every day, every week and every month. This week, the weather has separated the country into three distinct sections. Let’s take a look at how winter, spring and summer can coexist at the same time.
Far West and Pacific Northwest
On the west coast it’s still snowing, and it still feels like winter. Last week was something special with nearly 100 inches falling on parts of Washington down through the Lake Tahoe region of California. The trough that brought this big dump is still hanging around just off the coast, which is leading to continued snow for mainly Oregon, Washington and northern Idaho. While the snow accumulations will vary through the weekend, this area will stay firmly entrenched in the winter season with deep bases and fresh powder. If you’re looking for freshies, this is the place to go.
The middle of the country currently feels like spring with warm weather and big thunderstorms. Part of last week’s storm along the west coast broke away from the main west-to-east flow of weather and is now hanging out over the Midwest. This storm—called a cut-off low because it has been “cut off” from the main flow of weather—is responsible for the southerly winds pumping up lots of warm air very far to the north. The upper peninsula of Michigan has even recorded high temperatures in the 80s and there’s almost no snow on the ground even up north along the U.S./Canadian border. Spring has sprung for this area, though a few ski resorts like Lutsen in Minnesota are still going strong.
Moving east, we may as well announce that summer has arrived. Burlington in northern Vermont set a record with 80 degree temperatures on the earliest date in history. Plenty of ski resorts remain open even as temperatures force guests to break out the short sleeve shirts (better not fall). A slight cooling will commence over the weekend and a weak storm may briefly return snowflakes to the forecast early next week, but no long-lasting change back to winter seems likely over the next week to 10 days. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em… so get out and enjoy the sun and soft snow
The map shows air temperature at about 10,000 feet in elevation, which is a good way to quickly separate areas of stormy weather (cooler blue colors) from warmer and dry weather (warmer green colors). The Pacific Northwest is still in winter, the circle of cooler temperatures in the Midwest shows the cut-off low bringing spring-like conditions, and the greens along the eastern third of the country show warm, summer-like weather.
Of course the weather will continue to evolve, so just because we’re seeing three seasons right now, it’s entirely possible that winter and spring will move back in to dominate the country and push out the summer-like weather for another few weeks. Indeed, some longer-range forecasts do show this happening as we head into early April. Let’s hope that’s the case.
Meteorologist Joel Gratz is the creator of opensnow.com and is based in Boulder, Colo.