With open golf courses in New York State, cancelled sled dog races in Minnesota and reports of snowdrop flowers blooming in Virginia, portions of the central and eastern U.S. are seeing an unusually mild stretch of weather, which is being referred to as a “fake” or “false” spring.
The epicenter of the recent warmth has been the Upper Midwest, where long-standing temperature records have been broken recently. This included a balmy 57-degree reading in Minneapolis Tuesday, the National Weather Service said, beating the previous record of 51 degrees. The average high there in early February is a frigid 25 degrees.
AccuWeather meteorologist Alyssa Glenny said, “the calendar says February, but it will feel more like April in parts of the central and eastern parts of the country this week.”
While much of the U.S. will enjoy above-average temperatures in the coming days, it’s not expected to last, as cold and snow could return next week. The nice stretch of weather is also a reminder that springs keep happening earlier as the climate warms.
What’s the forecast for the next few days?
According to the weather service, high temperatures will remain mild across central and eastern portions of the country, “with much-above-average conditions centered on the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, where forecast highs in the 40s, 50s, and even some low 60s are upwards of 25-35 degrees above average.”
Some additional record-tying or breaking high temperatures are possible in the upcoming couple of days.
This is not reflective of typical February temperatures at all, Weather.com reported, adding that the warming trend is predicted to continue right into the weekend in some areas. Atlanta could also soar into the 60s by Friday and Saturday.
What’s causing the unusual warmth?
The weird warmth is due to the position of the jet stream, which is helping to funnel mild air north into the central and eventually eastern U.S., AccuWeather senior meteorologist Bob Larson told USA TODAY. He said the jet stream is also quite strong and is acting to keep the colder air bottled up in Canada and prevent it from moving into the U.S.
When will it get colder?
Larson said temperatures next week will drop to levels more typical of February as the jet stream will change its position, allowing colder air to infiltrate in from Canada across much of the central and eastern U.S. Snow could accompany the cold in portions of the Northeast.
Then, by the end of next week, he said some more extreme cold looks likely, along with some additional storminess.
AccuWeather Meteorologist Dean DeVore said, “A ‘word to the wise,’ enjoy the next 10 days or so, because some winter cold and winter-type weather will likely come back into play for the eastern US prior to and even beyond Valentine’s Day for the second half of February.”
Spring is arriving earlier
While this “fake” spring may not be the actual beginning of real spring, it is true that the warming climate is causing spring to arrive earlier across much of the U.S., several scientific studies have reported. One study, from the U.S. Geological Survey, said “the onset of spring plant growth has shifted earlier in the year over the past several decades due to rising global temperatures.”
Why does this matter? “Earlier spring onset may cause phenological mismatches between the availability of plant resources and dependent animals, and potentially lead to more false springs, when subsequent freezing temperatures damage new plant growth,” the U.S. Geological Survey warned.
A separate analysis from Climate Central found that that spring “leaf out” is happening earlier in 76% (181) of the 239 cities the group analyzed, compared to 1981.