Forget the groundhog: Temperature swings may indicate early spring

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — March roared in like a lion with some stormy weather and mild temperatures on Wednesday, but more winter-like conditions are expected to return later this week.

February ended up being the 20th snowiest on record for Providence. The winter weather that included an official blizzard on Feb. 9 was short-lived, however. Record warmth settled into New England after Valentine’s Day and it’s been a roller coaster ride since.

Temperatures soared into the 70s last week, which is very unusual for February. A quick blast of cold air advancing into the region over the weekend helped spawn nasty thunderstorms, one producing a tornado in western Massachusetts that caused significant damage to the small town of Conway.

So why have we seen so many ups and downs this winter? Simply put, it looks like the groundhog was wrong and spring will be arriving early this year – very early.

In late January and early February, the jet stream was positioned to give us cold and snowy weather. It shifted mid-month and warm air surged across most of the country.

A map from the National Phenology Network, which tracks plant leaf progress, indicates that plants are leafing almost three weeks earlier than normal in the South and mid-Atlantic.National Phenology Network leaf progress map

The early onset of spring clashing with what’s left of winter is causing these wild fluctuations here in Southern New England.

March 1 marks the beginning of meteorological spring. Meteorological winter, which runs from December through February, was the eighth warmest on record and, at the same time, the 20th snowiest on record.