Mid-April in Mid-March?

2012-03-14 23:49:42.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

A shift in scenery on shift change.

Today’s talking point on the summit was the snow, or lack thereof I should say. When we came up on February 29th, it still looked like winter in the White Mountains. Snow, ice, and rime coated everything and while it may not have been as impressive as it was back in March of 2011, we at least looked and felt like winter here in the White Mountains, the Mount Washington Valley, and the Great North Woods; something I can’t say for other parts of New England and the rest of the country this winter. And as I drove home to Berlin, NH on the 7th, it continued to look like winter, even with the “cinnamon” coated snow. But while it looked like winter, it definitely wasn’t feeling like winter as I stepped out of my car at home – it was…warm.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I took full advantage of the warmth this past off week. And while I LOVE winter, there is nothing like being able to go outside in a short sleeve shirt again and actually enjoying it for the first time each year. While nice, it also felt wrong at the same time; like I was cheating on winter. This wasn’t normal for mid-March. Mid-April? Yes. Mid-March? Not so much. And this seemed to ring true with many people I talked to on my off week. But, I didn’t get that “gee-whiz” feeling until we came back up today and saw the changes on the summits.

While we were hitting 50s and 60s in the valleys on several days this off week, the summit was seeing 30s when we should be averaging closer to the mid-teens for this time of year. Mix this warmth with the fog, and you could call it “David Copperfield” by the way it makes the snowpack just disappear. While there is still plenty of large snow fields and snow in the Great Gulf and the eastern Ravines, other areas were clearly lacking by considerable amounts, again, making it look and feel like mid-April and not March. The thumbnail to this comment shows the amount of change on Mt Adams from out last upcoming shift change to this one. Quite noticeable, won’t you say?

Looking ahead, I bare mixed news depending on your views of winter. If you love spring, I have some great news, the warmth isn’t going anywhere. In fact, if things hold and the forecast holds true, by the 18th, our average temperature over a 24 hours span could be warmer than the record high for the entire day. In fact, several daily records are in danger of falling in the coming days. But, if you love winter, or spring skiing, now the bad news. With this warmth comes the warm fog, rain, and melting from endless melting 24 hours a day. This will destroy remaining snow packs. And while this is bad for winter enthusiasts, the worst news could come later in the year. With the warmth melting snow quickly at the surface but the ground still frozen beneath it, the gradual snow melt and seeping that normally occurs will not be occurring. This is bad for water tables and spring flow in surrounding streams and rivers. This could lead to potential drought conditions and will affect summer river flows. While rain storms could help, coming from California where drought was a constant, it has me a bit on edge as I’ve seen this all play out before. But, since it is a bit early for summer forecasts, I haven’t seen what others are saying about the outlook quite yet. So, we’ll see. So, I guess the bottom line is, enjoy the warmth and the activities that it brings but hope that it doesn’t lead to trouble down the road.


Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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