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Sunny and warm in February? Reminds me of "thaws" past.

It's the week of weather we've been waiting for - so what are we supposed to do now? No more whining I guess. The warm and sunny Thursday was fantastic, and today will be even better. Time that we quit the singing the "cold winter" blues! As I walked outside this morning to temperatures already near 60, the "instant warmth" after a stretch of cold weather reminded me of home.

Growing up in the snowy tundra of Upstate New York, every now and then we would get what we could call a "thaw" during the long and dark winter months. The temperature would spike up to a pleasant 50 or 60 degrees on a day like today, sending people into a frenzy. (After going through stretches of sub-freezing temperatures for weeks, you'd be amazed how good 50 feels!) This would be the brief chance during a long winter to get some stubborn ice off of the driveway, or maybe finally get down some christmas lights that had been covered in snow up to this point. Of course, without fail the warm weather would always leave just as quickly as it came.

You see, the only way to get that kind of warmth that far north at this time of year is to have a powerful storm system. Strong storms bring sweeping southern breezes out in front of the system, with a nasty arctic chill coming in behind. After all, it's large differences in temperature that create the battleground between warm and cold air where storms form. Each "thaw", a powerful cold front would roll into town, and the mercury would drop like a rock. Often times, the front would come through during the day - which would produce some wacky temperature readings.

Take a day like December 7th, 1998 for example. This was the topsy-turvy temperature pattern in Syracuse, NY:

  • 12AM - 68°
  • 7AM - 69° *Record high
  • 8AM - 51°
  • 12PM - 48°
  • 5PM - 43°
  • 11PM - 34°

So you wake up, walk out to leave for school, loving the record-breaking temperature near 70 degrees. Then, by the time the bell rings for your first class, the temperature has dropped nearly 20 degrees. The high the next day was 37°. That's a cold front! I remember this day specifically and wondering at the time just how a swing in temperatures like that could work. After all, its the sun that heats the Earth. Shouldn't the warmest temperatures always happen in the afternoon?

Now I know better. In fact in the cold winter months it's very often the wind - not the sun - that warms you up. Today's no different. Our sun angle and day length has hardly changed since Wednesday when our high was 59°. Now, on another sunny day we'll be nearly 20° better than that - all thanks to the southerly wind.

So enjoy this little "thaw" we've got going on right now. And be thankful that for us, our warm weather will be lasting a little longer than for the folks up north. Mabye that's the reason why so many of "us" move down here?

Enjoy that warm weather!

- TB


By: Tim Buckley


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