Wintry forecast marks arrival of spring in the Berkshires


Spring may be here officially, but for weather-weary Berkshirites, it surely has not sprung.

Following a fog-shrouded wintry mix of freezing rain and sleet that coated roadways and walkways early on Thursday, the vernal equinox marked the formal start of spring at 12:57 p.m.

But predictions of unseasonable cold and two more outbreaks of snow or sleet have caused some folks to talk about an "Arctic Spring."

The grim outlook from the National Weather Service offers no comfort, with 10 days to two weeks of wintry weather expected to maintain a tight grip on the region.

Arctic air will continue to spill our way with any consistent warmup unlikely until well into April, according to the government forecasters' three-month national outlook issued on Thursday.

During a media teleconference from the Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., weather experts acknowledged that the arrival of normal spring warmth will be delayed by the abnormally cold winter in the Northeast and Midwest, with a record-breaking 92 percent of the Great Lakes still ice-covered, said Mike Halpert of the CPC.

He also cited the potential for minor flooding in western New England and eastern New York if heavy rains accompany a significant thaw next month.

But through June, "there's no tilt in the odds toward above, near or below average temperatures," he added, meaning equal chances of any outcome in the Northeast. The same applies to the outlook for precipitation.

"A general pattern of cool conditions will continue well into April," said Jon Gottschalck, acting chief of the Climate Prediction Center. "Winter weather has set the stage for the spring climate outlook, with abnormally deep frozen soil and below normal temperatures."

For the Berkshires, "there's still a chance of another snowstorm or two," noted Steve DiRienzo, the warning coordinator meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., in a phone interview. "No super warmups are in sight and real winter will tend to hang on."

However, he said, "eventually the sun will work its magic as it gets higher in the sky after another three weeks of generally cold weather. Spring is coming, but it's taking its sweet time."

Following a "spring tease" of two brighter, sunnier days, a tricky forecast is shaping up for Friday night into Saturday, with a rapidly-moving "Alberta Clipper" system expected to bring rain, sleet or snow -- or a combination. After a brutally cold Monday under a dome of Arctic air, a more significant storm could hit the region Tuesday night into Wednesday, but details remain up in the air.

According to records at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, the first two-thirds of March have been off the charts -- average temperatures were nearly 8 degrees below normal with 17 out of 20 days colder than average. Snowfall for the season from November through the last day of winter totaled 59.2 inches, compared to a season-to-date average of 68 inches.

For the last week of March, the average high at the airport is in the mid-40s, with overnight lows in the mid-20s.

To contact Clarence Fanto:

or (413) 637-2551.

On Twitter: @BE_cfanto

Winter snow totals ...

Here are the monthly snowfall totals for the 2013-14 season:

March: 1.0 inches

February: 30.7 inches (fourth-highest since 1938)

January: 10.6 inches

December: 16.6 inches

November: 0.4 inches

Season total to date: 59.2 inches

Season normal to date: 68.3 inches

Source: National Weather Service, records at Pittsfield Municipal Airport

Cold and colder ...

Here are the monthly temperature averages for the 2013-14 season:

March (to date): 7.8 degrees below normal

February: 4.4 degrees below normal

January: 1.7 degrees below normal

December: 0.3 degrees above normal

Source: National Weather Service data, Pittsfield Municipal Airport


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