The Next Season revealed in our 2017 Spring Forecast, here
Monday, March 20, 2017, 11:28 - With winter officially coming to an end, and many parts of the country already seeing spring-like temperatures, we’re taking a close look at the patterns that will drive your weather over the next three months and beyond (see 'Summer Sneak Peek' below). Where will there be some late season parting shots from winter? And who can expect summer to arrive early? We have all the details below in The Weather Network’s 2017 Spring Forecast.
Winter comes to an end
The remarkable winter of 2016-2017 will be remembered as a season of sharp temperature contrasts and abundant precipitation, which brought substantial drought relief to parts of the country where it was needed the most. After a widespread outbreak of frigid arctic air in December, the core of the coldest temperatures settled into the Pacific Northwest in January and February. This late winter pattern allowed much of the country – particularly the East and South – to see persistent periods of early Spring-like weather, occasionally punctuated by brief cold snaps.
The map below shows how temperatures compared to normal for December, January and February. The various shades of blue and green represent colder than normal temperatures while the various shades of orange and red represent above normal temperatures for the winter.
A relentless stream of Pacific moisture brought torrential rains and epic mountain snowfall to the Pacific coast, leading to damaging floods but also bringing an end to an extended period of exceptional drought in California. Abundant Gulf moisture and an active storm track also brought significant drought relief to the Deep South, which had seen very dry conditions persist through the Summer and Fall.
Spring temperature pattern
Looking ahead to March, April, and May, here is the temperature pattern we expect across the country. It’s important to keep in mind that we are entering a transitional season, and in the spring (unlike the summer and winter) it is much more difficult to lock in to a particular weather pattern for a long time. This results in the wild temperature swings that we often see in the spring – meaning that we can expect periods of unseasonal cold even in an overall above normal region, and vice versa.
Widespread normal to above normal temperatures will dominate much of the country this spring, with the exception of the Pacific Northwest, where we will continue to see cooler than normal temperatures linger well past the start of Spring.
Many across throughout southern and eastern states have already seen several extended periods of spring-like warmth during the latter half of winter, and that trend is expected to continue during the spring thanks to a stronger than normal ridge of high pressure across the Southeast and much warmer than normal ocean water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Eastern Seaboard. However, occasional shots of late winter weather are still expected during March and at times the freezing temperatures will reach deep into the South where the growing season has already started.
Farther north across the Midwest and Great Lakes, persistent warm conditions will struggle to take hold, particularly early in the season. This region has the potential for a couple of rounds of impactful winter weather during March. However, near to above normal temperatures will become more consistent during April and especially May with a quicker than “normal” transition from spring to early summer-like temperatures.
For Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, the cold conditions that dominated the last few months will linger well into the spring season. Though warmer weather will arrive eventually, we expect winter to put up quite a fight before letting go of the Pacific Northwest.
Spring precipitation pattern
Springtime has a reputation for wild extremes of precipitation, bringing everything from torrential downpours and severe storms to late-season snowfall. Spring is also a time at which dry periods can be particularly impactful, given the start of the growing season. Here’s a look at how the precipitation pattern is expected to look this spring.
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Much of the northern interior of the country, including the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and Great Lakes region can expect to see near to above normal precipitation this spring. This will be thanks to an active storm track, and abundant Gulf Moisture surging north into the region. Early in the spring, some of this precipitation will take the form of snow, bringing a few opportunities for impactful wintry weather to the region.
We expect drier than normal conditions to return to the Southeast during the latter part of the spring, as a warm, dry, summerlike pattern develops early this year. Though abundant rain through the winter will help slow the onset of significant drought, persistent dry conditions heading into summer would lead to concerns for the peak of the growing season. In addition, these warm and dry conditions will increase the wildfire risk across the region, particularly across Florida which saw well below normal rainfall through the winter.
Much of the rest of the country will see spring precipitation overall near normal, although the pattern does favor an early and considerably more active severe weather season this year, perhaps the worst since 2011. This would bring localized downpours from thunderstorms to the Mid-South and Great Plains, in addition to the typical thunderstorm risks including strong winds, hail, and tornadoes.
Looking even further ahead, here’s how we expect the pattern to develop as we move later into the spring and then into summer.
Overall, we expect widespread warmer than normal conditions to spread across most of the country this summer. This summer’s pattern will be influenced at least somewhat by a developing El Nino pattern in the equatorial Pacific, though it remains to be seen exactly what type of El Nino event this will be, and how strong it will ultimately become.
In comparison to last season, the Northeast will see less extreme heat than last year (though still warmer than normal) and more plentiful rainfall. The Interior and the West are likely to be warmer than normal as well, with a wetter than normal monsoon season for the desert Southwest.
We also expect a less active hurricane season in terms of the total number of storms due in part to the increased wind shear associated with the developing El Nino. However warm water near the coast does raise the threat of an impactful landfall or two from any storm that does approach the US.
We’ll continue to fine tune our summer forecast during the next few months. Please check back at the end of May for more details with the release of our final forecast for Summer 2017.