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Is winter over or does March have a cold surprise in store?

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Posted at 7:16 PM, Feb 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-20 19:16:39-05

We've all been spoiled. January saw temperatures remain well above average and February is following the same warmer-than-normal patterns. If you're like me, this weather makes me yearn for spring, for hiking, biking and digging in the dirt to start growing my championship tomatoes.

But history suggests we better keep our winter coats handy. Although rare, warm January/February combos have happened before: 2018, 2005 and 1984 are a couple of examples.

Unfortunately, the weather in March during those years was not so warm and pleasant. March temperatures were the same for all of them: colder than normal! Plus, this year, we are currently watching a Sudden Stratospheric Warming Event occurring right now.

This event is characterized by a rapid temperature rise about 20 miles above the Earth's surface in the stratosphere. Temperatures there have jumped 50 degrees in just the last several days! The stratosphere is above the layer where all our weather happens (the troposphere). But warmer temperatures that high up do tend to impact the polar vortex, throwing chunks of cold, arctic air farther south into the United States at the surface. There is usually a delay of a couple of weeks after the stratospheric warming event starts before we see the cold air impacts. That's early March.

In other words, my forecast for March calls for several bouts of arctic cold and, likely, some snow. My tomato plants will have to wait...and so will yours.

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