After a welcome taste of spring last weekend, a renewed onslaught of frigid air in the coming days will serve as a harsh reminder of a cold reality: Winter isn't finished.
And although only minor snowfalls are looming, this month already ranks among the top four snowiest Februaries on record at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, with nearly 30 inches so far.
Blustery, cold conditions will intensify this week through next weekend, according to forecaster Tom Wasula at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.
"Once again the polar jet stream will plunge southward, tapping bitter cold air directly from the Arctic Ocean," stated Chris Dolce at Weather.com, the online service of The Weather Channel.
At AccuWeather.com, senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski observed that "last week's thaw was a mere tease with the polar vortex set to make an encore performance."
The polar vortex refers to a mass of very cold air that usually hangs out above the Arctic Circle, according to AccuWeather, but has made frequent inroads into the Northeast and Midwest this winter.
Daytime thawing of the deep snowpack, still averaging close to 2 feet, has spawned treacherous, icy side streets and walkways, resulting in numerous falls and rapid depletion of many local communities' salt and sand reserves.
Public works departments and snow-removal contractors have worked overtime to keep up with the ice and an epidemic of potholes.
The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., predicts no relief from the harsh wintry temperatures and winds in the Northeast until March 10, at the earliest.
High temperatures in the Berkshires will struggle to reach the low 20s on Tuesday and Wednesday despite the strengthening late-February sun and 11 hours of daylight. By late week, highs in the teens and overnight lows around zero are expected.
The normal low and high for the final days of February ranges from 36 to 18 in Berkshire County.
Light snow showers are possible each day this week, the government forecasters said.
Dangerous wind chills should intensify the impact of the frigid air mass, especially from Wednesday into the weekend.
Snowfall for this month, as measured at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, totaled 29.6 inches as of Monday afternoon, far above the February average of 18 inches, and the fourth highest since 1938.
For the current winter, 57.2 inches have piled up since the first measurable snow on Nov. 12. That's on par with the long-term season-to-date average. For the November to May period, the normal total for Pittsfield is 78 inches.
Snowfall scoreboard ...
The top five February totals:
1962: 36.2 inches
2010: 32.4 inches
1950: 31.9 inches
2014: 29.6 inches (through Feb. 24)
2007: 27.5 inches
Sources: National Weather Service; AccuWeather.com; Eagle archives. Records at Pittsfield Municipal Airport date back to 1938.