Spring has sprung, and forecasts eye warmer than usual weather in Berkshires

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You might not have noticed, but at 5:58 p.m. Wednesday, spring officially began with the arrival of the vernal equinox, when days and nights are nearly equal — 12 hours each — all over the world, from the equator to the North and South poles.

The direct rays of the sun are over the equator, heading north, and that means warmer weather, fairly soon. Hints of springtime are especially welcome in the Berkshires after roller-coaster winter weather marked by several off-the-charts cold and warm spells, only light to moderate snowfalls, an unusual number of fierce windstorms and an especially sloppy mud season.

With a coastal storm expected to drop a possible inch or two of snow from Thursday night to Saturday countywide, spring warmth can't be rushed. But patience will be well-rewarded in about 10 days, according to long-term weather outlooks from the National Weather Service, AccuWeather.com and the Weather Channel.

Putting aside the folklore of Farmers' Almanacs, the weather scientists are agreed that the way things look now, April, May and June will be unusually warm in the Northeast, and on the dry side. The warmup is expected to be especially dramatic in April and May, while June shapes up as slightly warmer than average.

Heading toward April, "there is good agreement among the climate models and our various statistical models" for above-average temperatures in the Northeast during the spring season, said Todd Crawford of IBM's Weather Co., which operates the Weather Channel.

Despite the arrival of astronomical spring, memories of an often wild and unpredictable winter will be slow to fade.

The erratic, seesaw winter weather season got off to an early, cold and snowy start in November, with 9.2 inches of snow reported at Pittsfield Municipal Airport and a four-day cold snap around Thanksgiving, during which low-temperature records were set for Nov. 22 (4 degrees) and Nov. 23 (zero).

But December was mild and nearly snow-free, with only 2.5 inches and a high-temperature record of 59 on Dec. 21, followed by a warm spell Dec. 28 and Dec. 29, with highs of 53 and 51.

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January was more typical for midwinter, with 14 inches of snow (still, 4 inches below average), temperatures slightly above average and no cold or warm records.

But there were two cold snaps with lows well below zero on four nights late in the month.

February was another milder-than-normal month, with 11 inches of snow — that's 6 below average — and a 60-degree record high set for Feb. 4. So far in March, often a snowy month in the region, we've seen slightly less than 6 inches of snow, half of the average amount, and a cold spell early in the month with five nights of single-digit lows.

Overall, so far, a total of nearly 43 inches of snow compares with the average of 72 inches, based on Pittsfield airport records dating to 1938. In contrast, there were a formidable 107 inches during the 2017-18 winter weather season.

Most of the season's snowfalls were less than 4 inches, with the heaviest, Jan. 29-30, a rather unimpressive 6 inches. As usual, though, mountainous towns, especially in North Berkshire, deployed plows for a few foot-high snowfalls.

Temperatures overall have averaged about 4 percent above normal since the heating season began.

Still, the thaws, followed by freeze-ups, caused frequent ice hazards on roads and walkways, formidable pothole outbreaks in some areas, frost heaves on hilly paved roads, thick ice on waterways, though not much longer, and a full-fledged mud season still ahead after the recent sneak preview that turned dirt roads into bogs in Richmond and in several hilltowns such as Savoy and Peru.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto.


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