First Alert Weather Blog: Will March Be as Warm as February?

NBC10 First Alert Weather chief meteorologist Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz lets us know what to expect for the month of March in his latest weather blog.

After a “cooldown” Monday (still WAAAAY above normal), Philadelphia temperatures are running 6.5 degrees above normal for February. With another unseasonably warm week ahead, it looks like we'll end the month as either the warmest or 2nd warmest February on record (going back to 1884).

Here is the “meteorological winter season” stats (as of the 20th):
December 2016     1.3 degrees above normal
January 2017          5.5 degrees above normal
February 2017        6.5 degrees above normal (may end up around +9)

That would make it one of the warmest winters on record.

You would think that record warmth along the U.S. East Coast would be a fairly localized thing-it can’t be unseasonably warm all over, can it? Historically, that has been the case. Warm in the East, Cold in the West, and near normal in the middle of the country-that would be a typical winter pattern.

But take a look at U.S. temperatures so far this February (compared to normal):

That is virtually the ENTIRE continental U.S. above normal. And we’re closer to normal than practically any other area! All-time February records are about to be set across numerous states.

How about January 2017? It doesn’t look a whole lot different:

Getty Images

Look at how warm Southern Canada was compared to normal. That means that even when air was coming from Canada into the U.S. it wasn’t as cold as in “normal” years.

Considering that February will be our 22nd month of above normal temperatures in the past 23, we should probably expect another mild month-or two-or three ahead. Allentown has had 23 straight months of above normal temperatures! When we say “normal”, we’re talking about the traditional last 30 year period, 1981-2010. Remember, those decades were the warmest already! If we used the period 1971-2000, for example, there would be even more yellow and reddish colors on the above maps.

We’re breaking records that, in many cases, weren’t set that long ago. This is because the clear warming trend since the 1970s has continued. If anything, it’s been accelerating. Here are some temperature records set in just this decade in Philadelphia:
            *2nd warmest year on record (2016)
            *Warmest December on record (2015-by far!)
            *Warmest November on record (2015)
            *Warmest year on record (2012)
            *Warmest spring on record (2012)
            *Warmest July (2011)
            *Warmest summer (2010)
            *Warmest June (2010)
            *Most 90 degree days (2010)


As we’ve seen, odds favor a warmer than normal month. But how warm? Are there any signs of a significant pattern change? Not really. Here are the maps of temperatures around 5000 feet compared to normal from the main U.S. model (GFS) for March 1 and March 8. That level in the atmosphere gives us a general idea of the basic low-level temperatures:

You see plenty of cold air in Canada and the western half of the U.S (blue and purple). But it doesn’t seem to move our way. We may see a bit of that colder pattern by the middle of the month, but here is a climate model’s overall prediction for March 2017:

And it’s not as if the U.S. is alone in having unseasonable warmth. Take a looks at Europe this week! That’s a lot of red (WAAAY above normal)!


Yes, we’ve had some cold months and even cold winters in the past decade. We’ve also had our snowiest and second snowiest winters. But the real cold we’ve seen in the past seems to be a thing of the past-so far. For example, the last time we got below zero in Philadelphia was so long ago it happened before even I started working here: 1994!

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