The weather in the U.S. has been downright biblical so far this spring, with weather forecasters practically having to borrow pages out of the Book of Revelations.
First, there’s the cold. The first two weeks of April have been the coldest on record for the Upper Midwest, and even some areas to the south, such as Little Rock, Arkansas, have seen temperatures during this period that are far below average. Such extreme cold is noteworthy given trends in the opposite direction related to global warming.
The cold set the stage for a blizzard that slammed the Upper Midwest over the weekend. This storm was so severe that it set all-time records, not just milestones for the heaviest spring snowstorm.
A staggering 24.2 inches of snow fell in Green Bay, Wisconsin, making it the heaviest April snowstorm on record, and the 2nd-heaviest snowstorm on record at any time of year. Similarly, Wausau, Wisconsin, picked up 20.7 inches of snow, setting an April snowstorm record and making it the 2nd-heaviest snowstorm of all-time at that location.
The snowfall jackpot was Amherst, Wisconsin, where 33 inches fell, according to the National Weather Service.
Minneapolis, which is no stranger to snow and cold weather, picked up 14.9 inches of snow, making it their heaviest April snowstorm on record. Thundersnow was reported in and around the Twin Cities as the storm intensified, leading to snowfall rates of 2 inches per hour at times.
Another, weaker, snowstorm is slated to move across the Midwest during the next 2 days, bringing several inches of snow to parts of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The thick spring snowpack is raising fears of flooding if temperatures suddenly warm up and heavy rain were to fall in the coming weeks.
Then there are the fires. In association with strong storm systems, massive walls of wind-driven flames have swept across the Plains, particularly in Oklahoma, where at least 300,000 acres went up in flames during the past week. Another “Extremely Critical” fire weather day looms in the Southwest on Tuesday, including parts of Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, with temperatures soaring into the 90s, winds gusting above 40 miles per hour, and relative humidity plunging to an arid 2 to 5 percent.
Average temperature during the first half of April (top) and departures from average (bottom) during the same period.
Image: NOAA CPC.
The National Weather Service forecast office in Amarillo Texas warned Tuesday morning that “A regional outbreak of dangerous wind-driven wildfires is possible.”
Third, there’s the severe weather and flooding. The same storm system that brought blizzard conditions to the Upper Midwest spawned at least a dozen tornadoes across the Southeast on Sunday and Monday, including an EF-2 tornado that struck Greensboro, North Carolina on Sunday night.
At one point on Monday, a nasty squall line stretched from Florida to the Mid-Atlantic, and rainfall was so intense in New York City that water came pouring into the aging subway system. Air travel was disrupted along the busy East Coast on Monday, particularly at the three major New York City area airports. In Boston, a heavy rain and cold onshore wind challenged runners of the Boston Marathon.
And let’s not forget the extreme weather whiplash that aggravated millions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic over the weekend, when temperatures in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit suddenly plunged to the 30s and 40s within a matter of several hours between Saturday and Sunday, thanks to a “backdoor” cold front that moved from the northeast to the southwest.
Such fronts are most common in the spring, when the temperature difference between the ocean and the land is at its peak.
There are some signs of a warmup ahead late in the month and into May, though computer models have shown such glimmers of hope before, only to yank it away at the last minute, in favor of a colder, snowier solution.