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February 2015 North American cold wave

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February 2015 North American cold wave
February 2015 average temperature departures in the United States.gif
Average temperature departure for the United States in February 2015, showcasing the well-below average temperatures in the eastern half of the country
FormedEarly February 2015
DissipatedMid-March 2015
DamageUnknown
Areas affectedCanada
East Coast of the United States

Part of the 2014–15 North American winter

The February 2015 North American cold wave was an extreme weather event that affected most of Canada and the eastern half of the United States. Following an earlier cold wave in the winter, the period of below-average temperatures contributed to an already unusually cold winter for the Eastern U.S. Several places broke their records for their coldest February on record, while some areas came very close. The cause of the cold wave was due to the polar vortex advancing southwards into the eastern parts of the U.S, and even making it as far south as the Southeast, where snow is rare. By the beginning of March, although the pattern did continue for the first week, it abated and retreated near the official end of the winter.

In addition to the extremely cold weather, multiple winter storms affected nearly the entire United States, especially in the snow-weary Northeast, which had already seen nearly 3 feet (0.91 m) of snow in the latter part of January; this was added to by roughly 3–4 feet (0.91–1.22 m) more snow, leading to Boston having its highest seasonal snowfall on record.

Origins[edit | edit source]

Like most normal cold waves, the cold wave was caused by the southwards movement of the polar vortex into the United States due to changes in the jet stream in early February 2015. However, unlike most which last for a few days, this one remained for much of the entire month. This was partly due to the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, which persisted over parts of Alaska for much of the month, essentially keeping the jet stream pattern "locked" for several weeks. This allowed for bitterly cold air masses to migrate southwards into the eastern part of the country, leading to well-below average temperatures.[1]

Record temperatures[edit | edit source]

The average temperature in Boston for January was 2.9 °F (1.6 °C) below the 1981–2010 normal, and the average temperature in February was 19.0 °F (−7.2 °C), which was 12.7 °F (7.1 °C) below the 1981–2010 normal, making it the second-coldest month of any month all-time, behind February 1934. March was 5.2 °F (2.9 °C) below average. By the end of a period spanning from the beginning of February to the end of December, Worcester, Massachusetts saw a record 101.4 inches (258 cm) of snowfall, breaking the 86.7 inches (220 cm) record set in 2004–05, which was 54.3 inches (138 cm) over the average. Hartford and Providence saw similar below-average temperatures for the two months, with Hartford's February finish of 16.1 °F (−8.8 °C) besting February 1934 to become the coldest month of any month all-time in record keeping.[2][3]

The average temperature in Bangor, Maine for February was 6.2 °F (−14.3 °C), about 15 °F (8.3 °C) below normal, breaking the old record of 8.4 °F (−13.1 °C) set in January 1994. Portland, Maine also saw a record coldest average monthly temperature of 13.8 °F (−10.1 °C) in February. On February 24, the temperature at Dulles International Airport in Virginia fell to dipped down to −4 °F (−20 °C), breaking the previous record of 14 °F (−10 °C) set in 1967.[4]

Rutland, Vermont, saw a record averaged cold for February of 5.2 °F (−14.9 °C), breaking its previous record of 7.4 °F (−13.7 °C) set in 1934. Montpelier, Vermont realized its coldest February with an average temperature of 5.1 °F (−14.9 °C), 3.0 °F (1.7 °C) below the 1979 record of 8.1 °F (−13.3 °C).[5]

The average February temperature in Syracuse, New York, was 16.7 °F (9.3 °C) degrees below normal at 9.1 °F (−12.7 °C), breaking by 3 degrees the record set in February 1934.[6]

The average temperature in Buffalo, New York set a record in February for its all-time coldest month with an average temperature of 10.9 °F (−11.7 °C). breaking the prior record set in 1934 of 11.6 °F (−11.3 °C). Before that, the previous coldest February was in 1875 with an average temperature of 13.4 °F (−10.3 °C). It was also the second time in history that the entire month of February was below freezing.[7] Other cities that broke cold weather records for February were Cleveland, Ohio at 14.3 °F (−9.8 °C), while Chicago, Illinois tied its February 1875 record at 14.6 °F (−9.7 °C).[8] Rochester, New York also set a record for coldest month overall.[9]

Ohio experienced the coldest winter since 1977–78 with an average temperature of 5.7 °F (3.2 °C) below normal.[10]

Toronto, Ontario recorded its coldest month on record in February with −12.6 °C (9.3 °F) at Pearson Airport, tying with February 1875 (recorded in downtown) and beating the previous record of −12.4 °C (9.7 °F) set in January 1994.[11]

In Quebec, Montreal experienced its coldest February on record with an extended cold spell and an average temperature of −15 °C (5 °F).[12]

Related weather[edit | edit source]

Most of the northern half of the United States and even parts of Canada saw several winter storms impact them; each of them had somewhat unique traits. At the start of the month, a major snowstorm was moving across the country, having previously brought blizzard conditions to the Midwest, especially in Chicago, Illinois, where more than a foot of snow was recorded. This storm continued to dump large amounts of snow as it progressed into the Northeast and New England, before finally exiting offshore.[13]

Less than a week later, another winter storm struck New England, with up to nearly 2 feet (24 in) of snow recorded in Boston, Massachusetts over a period of two days.[14] This was the beginning of a three-week streak of winter storms that would progress into the Northeast (with the expectation of one system which went further south).

Around the middle of the month, near Valentine's Day, a powerful blizzard struck the Northeast again, bringing strong winds and more heavy snowfall. Afterwards, as the storm exited, it ushered in the coldest air to impact the Northeast in decades, with temperatures dipping as far as 30–40 °F (−1–4 °C) below average. Several places broke record lows for February, and temperatures even dipped below 0 °F (−18 °C) in a good part of the Northeast.[15][16]

Several more winter storms followed afterwards, but one of the more notable ones was the one that occurred from February 25–26. This particular storm took an unusual track into the Southeastern United States as the jet stream along with the polar vortex pushed even further southward, resulting in heavy snowfall in states that rarely see it at all, this included Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Up to 18 inches (46 cm) fell in the hardest hit areas, which was in North Carolina and Virginia.[17]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Heim. "Synoptic Discussion - February 2015 - State of the Climate - National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)". noaa.gov. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  2. Epstein, David. "Meteorological Winter, More Snow In The Forecast-Twice". boston.com. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  3. "April Warmth Beckons". CBS Boston. CBS Local Media. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  4. Lawrence, John. "Extreme Weather Watch: February 2015 Sets Records for Snow and Cold". sandiegofreepress.org. SanDiegoFreePress.org. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  5. Associated Press. "Cities in Vermont, Maine set records for coldest February". pressherald.com. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  6. Nett, Dennis. "Frigid February 2015: CNY says goodbye and good riddance to one for the record books". syracuse.com. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  7. Belcher, Mark. "Records smashed as February 2015 comes to an end". wivb.com. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  8. Pydynowski,, Kristina. "February 2015 Enters Many Record Books Across the US". Accuweather.com. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  9. Orr, Steve (February 26, 2015). "Rochester's coldest month. Ever". Democrat & Chronicle. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
  10. Johnson, Mark. "Winter 2015 lived up to our cold & snowy forecast". newsnet5.com. The E.W. Scripps Co. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  11. "It's official: February was Toronto's coldest month ever". March 1, 2015. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  12. "Montreal records coldest February in history". March 1, 2015. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  13. http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/winter_storm_summaries/event_reviews/2015/Southwest_Northeast_WinterStorm_Jan2015.pdf
  14. "Marcus Sets All-Time Snow Records: How Much Snow Has Fallen?". weather.com. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  15. http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/winter_storm_summaries/event_reviews/2015/Northeast_US_WinterStorm_2_Feb2015.pdf
  16. "Winter Storm Neptune: Blowing Snow, Brutal Wind Chills in Wake of New England Blizzard". weather.com. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  17. "Winter Storm Remus: One of Heaviest Snowstorms on Record in Parts of Mississippi and Alabama". weather.com. Retrieved March 18, 2017.


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