February Forecast and a Polar Vortex

Quick forecasts for February holidays!

February 1, 2021
February Weather Snow

What’s in store for February weather? See quick forecasts for February’s holidays—and get an update on the polar vortex that is bringing some icy blasts from the Arctic and snowfall across many regions!

This February, winter will finally make an appearance in many areas, thanks to a prolonged Polar Vortex which sends icy blasts from the Arctic southward. Time to layer up and break out the shovels!

What Is a Polar Vortex?

A polar vortex is a large pocket of very cold air, typically the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere, which sits aloft over the polar region during the winter season. Although the term has been in the news for only the past few years, it is not a recently discovered phenomenon—it has been discussed in the meteorological world for decades.

While folks in northern Canada are used to the extreme cold, once in a while, the polar vortex is displaced all the way southward into the United States, where it brings very cold temperatures and can provide the cold air needed for a major snowstorm.

A large, powerful high-pressure system originating in the Eastern or Western Pacific and stretching to the North Pole is required to displace the pocket of cold air. When this happens, the polar vortex is pushed farther south, occasionally reaching southern Canada and the northern Plains, Midwest, and northeastern portions of the United States.

The vortex is capable of delivering subzero Fahrenheit temperatures to the United States and Canada for several days at a time.

The February Polar Vortex

As January neared its end, the polar vortex pushed southward, bringing the coldest weather of the season into the eastern United States and Canada. But because the polar vortex weakened as it moved southward, the cold air was not as extreme as it has been most other times it pushed southward.

Still, the air it brought was cold enough for snow, and with that source of cold air established, the situation was ripe for a Nor’easter. All that was needed was the energy to create the storm, and a storm that brought as much as ten inches of rain and ten feet of snow to parts of California provided the energy needed, as it moved eastward.

The storm moved into the Midwest in the last days of January, bringing ten to twelve inches of snow to Chicago—their biggest snowstorm in more than five years. As it moved eastward, it drew warmer air from the Atlantic Ocean into its eastern portion, which caused snow to rapidly turn to rain in places like Atlantic City, New Jersey. To the west, Philadelphia will receive 8-12” of snow by the time the storm ends Monday (February 1) night, with much heavier accumulations across northeastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey, where some locations could see as much as two to three feet.

New York City will receive more than a foot of the white stuff, with 14 to 18 inches in the city and its northern and western suburbs, and snow falling at a rate of two to perhaps four inches per hour at the peak of the storm. On eastern Long Island, sleet and rain will keep accumulations lower, but at least six inches will fall before that happens.

Across interior New England—Hartford, Connecticut, to Worcester, Massachusetts, to Manchester, New Hampshire, to western Maine—cities will receive 12-18”, with lesser amounts to the north and west—6 to 12 inches in Albany, New York, and only about 2 inches (5 cm) in Montreal.

In eastern New England, rain will eventually mix in, but before that happens, Boston and Providence will receive 6 to 12 inches.

February Holiday Forecasts

For fun, we thought we’d also highlight the weather forecasts for the upcoming holidays! Keep in mind: These predictions were made many months ago. As you get nearer to the holidays, check your 5-day forecast here!

Groundhog Forecast

As I write the February weather forecasts, the big question for this month is whether your local groundhog will see its shadow on February 2. 

Well … it will in areas within a few hundred miles of the Atlantic Ocean and in Texas, the Pacific Northwest, and the Canadian Prairies, where sunshine will prevail. Elsewhere, though, clouds will be the rule, and the mysterious marmot will find itself shadowless, which legend holds will mean an early end to winter. See more about Groundhog Day.

Superbowl Forecast

On February 7, Superbowl LV will be held in Tampa. Mainly clear skies, light winds, and mild to warm temperatures will bring ideal weather for the big game.

Valentine’s Day Forecast

The Sun will shine on lovers in the western states on Valentine’s Day, February 14, while rainy periods will dominate elsewhere, suggesting that the day may best be celebrated indoors in front of a warm, romantic fire.

Presidents’ Day Forecast

Presidents’ Day in the U.S., February 15, will feature sunshine across the western half of the United States and in the Deep South and Southeast and snow in the Heartland, with rainy periods elsewhere.
Overall, February will be exceptionally mild in most of the eastern two-thirds of the United States and somewhat colder than normal in the West. 

Most of Canada will also have above-normal temperatures, on average, during the month, although British Columbia and northern Canada will average a bit colder than normal.

Headed Towards March

As for the rest of winter, we expect that March will bring more seasonable temperatures—within a few degrees of normal in most places, on average—while precipitation will generally be close to normal.

See the Almanac’s 60-day forecasts for your region!

About This Blog

Mike Steinberg is Senior Vice President for Special Initiatives at AccuWeather Inc in State College, Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the National Weather Association and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.

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