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Don’t Believe the Groundhog – It’s Still Too Early To Predict When Spring Will Come

By Fiona Hernandez

Don't put your hats and gloves away just yet!

Despite predictions by Punxsutawney Phil of an early spring, one professor in UAlbany’s Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences department says atmospheric patterns remain too variable to predict the end of winter.

“It is difficult to suggest how this year will evolve,” said Professor Paul Roundy, referring to

this year’s frost-free date, which weather watchers use to define the start of spring. “However, there is a huge year to year variability that causes some years to have frost in mid-May, while other years our last frost is as early as early April.”

Although Professor Roundy could not yet predict the start of warmer weather, he did say there are a few things in place in the atmosphere that indicate how winter might end.

The massive expanse of swirling cold air that parks over the North Pole each winter – called the Polar Vortex – is “quite strong right now,” according to Roundy.

When the Arctic begins to tilt back toward the sun for spring, there could be a substantial deflection of cold air.

“With all of this cold air pent up there, it is possible that our winter ends with a surge of cold

before we really start moving into spring,” he said.

Furthermore, Professor Roundy said that El Niño also has an effect on weather

prediction. He says that this could mean that we will have some “cold and more mild, but sometimes rainy periods.”

“The El Niño signal is not presently very strong, though,” Roundy explained. “So the above

outcome is not a sure thing – just a risk to watch for.”

It looks like winter fashion is going to be in season a little bit longer.


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