When we last got together, I offered up a challenge to see how the Climate Prediction Center would fare with their predictions for February. They had already blown their prediction of normal when the area received anywhere from 7 to 14 inches of snow on the first day of the month, thereby leaving precipitation and temperature levels to the test.
According to the National Weather Service Forecast Office in North Webster, Indiana, “February began with a powerful winter storm that dropped record snowfall across the region. This set the stage for a very cold and snowy month with several records being broken for both snow and cold. As a matter of fact, the second half of February was the coldest on record. Fittingly, the month ended as it started with snow during the final hours.”
As previously stated, a record snowfall of nine inches occurred on the first day of the month, breaking the old record for this date by more than four inches and in one fell swoop, trashing the prediction of the CPC for normal precipitation levels for the month. This was also the second highest single day snowfall for any day in February and tied as the 7th highest single day snowfall for any month at the KFWA observation station at Fort Wayne. Measurable snow continued to fall at Fort Wayne through the fourth.
Seasonable temperatures and generally dry conditions then followed until the 12th, when the proverbial wheels fell off the little red wagon. This was when the first wave of brutally cold, Arctic air arrived and parked itself over our heads for the rest of the month. Every day during a period from February 12 to 28 had an average daily temperature below normal. All but just two days in this stretch had an average temperature of at least ten degrees below normal, and nine days saw the average temperature 20 degrees or more below normal, demarcating a stretch of the month that was, by far, the coldest ever recorded. The average temperature from February 12 to 28 was just 11.3 degrees, easily scrapping the old record of 14.5 degrees set in 1978. Once again, the daily vernacular of our area included that old friend of ours…the Polar Vortex.
Needless to say, the CPC prediction of normal temperatures for the month was, once again, how do I say this…off. How far off? As much as it may pain you to do so, think back to the winter soirée from last year. Get the image of last year’s February in your mind, and read on.
The average temperature for the entire month of February 2015 was 15.7 degrees, which was 12.6 degrees below normal. This ranked as the third coldest February on record. The coldest was 1978 with an average temperature of 11.8 degrees. In comparison, the average temperature in February 2014 was 17.6 degrees, which was ranked as the 6th coldest February. The warmest temperature this month was 45 degrees on the eighth, and the coldest temperature was six below zero on the 23rd and 24th. The 45 degree high was the tenth coldest high temperature for a February while the six below was tied as the 26th coldest temperature ever recorded in February.
Yes, you read that right. If you thought that last year couldn’t get any colder…this past month proved that it could. This year was colder than the last…the temperatures indeed are going down. Records over a century old fell like matchsticks, many of which date back to the nineteenth century, and as far back as 1885.
Precipitation for the month was 1.54 inches, which was half an inch below normal. This ranked as the 49th driest February. Despite having below normal precipitation, the very cold air allowed nearly all of the precipitation to fall as snow with a high ratio of snow to liquid. The numbers bear that out as total snowfall for the month was 19.0 inches, which was 11.3 inches above normal. This ranked as the second snowiest February, just 0.2 inches short of the record set just last year with 19.2 inches.
The CPC is calling for normal precipitation for March, but gives is a 40 percent or greater chance of below normal precipitation. The mean average temperature for our area in March is 38.4 degrees. Last year, we were 8.1 degrees below normal. The normal number of low temperatures below zero for our area is…zero. That normal might not even survive this writing.
I remember those famous five words frequently uttered by our former Vice President, “The Earth has a fever.” Methinks the diagnosis might need more than just a revision.
Timothy Kays can be reached at