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SO HOW COLD HAS IT BEEN?

 

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Thanks to an unusual meteorological phenomenon—and our location—it’s been a cold, cold winter, so far.

If it seems much colder than last winter, it’s not your imagination.

Consider the following: There have been 16 days with a high temperature of 32 degrees or below since Dec. 8, and astronomical winter didn’t begin until Dec. 21.

Eleven of those days, the low temperature was in the single-digits, according to the University of Mary Washington weather station. And five were super-cold, bottoming out at zero or below. Those numbers are used by AccuWeather.com for the daily table published in The Free Lance–Star.

The winter of 2012–2013 was mild by comparison. There were seven days at freezing or below, with only two in single-digits and none zero or below.

This winter’s bouts of bitter cold came because of a shift in the jet stream—the rapidly moving high-altitude current of air generally flowing west to east—that has a major impact on the weather here, and globally.

Carl Barnes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Baltimore–Washington Forecast Office in Sterling, said, “Here on the East Coast, the jet stream has been dipping down” to the South, bringing with it arctic air that typically resides over the polar region.

That’s the source of the term—polar vortex—that has crept into the weather vernacular this season.

For the same reason, he says, it has been warmer than usual in typically frigid spots such as Fairbanks, Alaska.

Locally, a record-low temperature, 4 degrees, was set Tuesday morning at Baltimore–Washington International Airport, according to the National Weather Service. Dulles International Airport, at 1 degree, tied a previous record low for the month on March 15, 1993.

Some unofficial records may have been set here. A minus 2-degree reading was reported in Culpeper, for example.

In addition, Barnes said, on the East Coast, “we live in an interesting transition region, where there are weather extremes day to day.”

For example, it was close to 70 degrees in spots here on Sunday afternoon. By Monday afternoon, snow was falling and temperatures were in the 20s and falling.

“It’s a very adverse weather region,” he said, with quick swings during the winter months.

The winter’s two largest snowfalls came on Feb. 13, when more than 9 inches fell in the area, and on Monday, with 3 to 8 inches of snow and ice here. Several Alberta “clippers” dumped a couple of inches here in January and February. Those are quick, snow-producing storms originating in the Canadian Rockies.

Still, the area has received only a fraction of the 54.3 inches that fell during the “snowmageddon” winter of 2009–2010.

Meanwhile, Barnes says, the cold air is retreating north, with moderating temperatures though the weekend, and into next week.

On Monday, he said, “it should be up near 60, and partly sunny skies,” with seasonable high temperatures about 50 degrees after that.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431

rdennen@freelancestar.com

AREA SNOW TOTALS

Snow totals for Monday’s storm varied widely in the Fredericksburg area, according to the National Weather Service. Totals for some spots around the region include:

 

  • 8.5 inches in Warrenton
  • 6 inches  in Chancellorsville
  • 3.5 inches in Quantico
  • 4 inches in Jersey in King George County
  • 3 inches in Orange
  • 5 inches in Falmouth

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