(WGHP) – Punxsatawney Phil may have said six more weeks of winter but Mother Nature is showing signs that say otherwise.
Some would consider the weather we’ve seen this week as “false spring” or the “spring of deception” since it’s February and afternoon temperatures have been close to the 70s.
After a warm January and several 60-degree days to kick off February, trees and plants are beginning to show signs of spring.
How does this spring compare to normal?
Spring is up to three weeks earlier than average in parts of the Southeast.
Charlotte, North Carolina, and Norfolk, Virginia, are approximately 11 days ahead of schedule. A few counties in the Piedmont Triad have also started showing signs of an early spring.
Leaf development in Montgomery county appears to be nearly 10 days ahead of schedule. The same can be said for the eastern half of Chatham county and the southern portions of Randolph, Davidson and Rowan counties.
While the Southeast is experiencing their first leaf earlier than normal, much of southern California and Arizona are days to over a week behind. The coastal Northwest is also days to weeks ahead of schedule with Seattle, Washington around a week ahead of schedule.
Not only are leaves beginning to return in portions of the Southeast, but the first blooms of the season have also arrived along the Gulf Coast and in Florida. Spring bloom is about two days early in Miami, Florida and nine days early in New Orleans, Louisiana.
How often do we see a spring this early or late?
Parts of the Southeast are seeing the earliest spring on record or a spring that only occurs once every 40 years. Parts of Arizona are seeing a spring that occurs this late once every 40 years!
Why are we seeing the first leaf out or first bloom so early in some areas?
The Piedmont Triad observed the warmest January since 2006 and overall the first month of 2023 was relatively mild.
Our afternoon temperatures in January were approximately 5 degrees above the January average and morning low temperatures were nearly six degrees warmer than the monthly average.
While we’ve certainly had cold days here and there this winter, they’ve been few and far between. Since January 1, we’ve had roughly ten 60+ degree days observed at PTI airport.
Not only have we been trending warmer this winter, but we also haven’t seen a measurable snowfall since winter 2021-2022.
While we’ve technically seen our first snowflakes of the season, resulting in a trace of snow recorded at the airport, we haven’t been able to see the cold air and moisture line up to bring any significant winter weather.
One of the reasons we’ve trended warmer this winter has to do with the jet stream, strong upper level winds that help determine where cold and warm air will be located. We’ve been in a consistent pattern where the jet stream has dipped on the west coast and a ridge has formed over the east coast.
When a dip in the jet stream occurs, it favors stormy weather and colder weather, which has been observed in the western U.S. A ridge favors warmer weather and in the east and in the Carolina, that’s the main type of weather we’ve seen.