There haven’t been any major snowstorms yet this winter for the Midstate. In fact, it’s been more mild and wet than cold and snowy, especially these last few weeks.
With that being said, what does spring have in store for central Pennsylvania?
The El Nino-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, in the Pacific Ocean is important when making long-range forecasts. The area is currently in the La Nina phase, which features cooler than normal sea surface temperatures. La Nina will transition to a neutral phase during the spring. This neutral phase makes it difficult to predict upcoming trends, but not impossible.
Most of the East Coast, including this area, is projected to see above normal temperatures. The three-month precipitation map shows the Midstate having an equal chance for above or below normal moisture. However, the area is close to the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes, a projected wet region.
These estimates suggest a mild and damp spring similar to the recent pattern. However, severe weather and flooding aren’t a given.
Active severe weather seasons occur when a pool of arctic air hangs around the north longer into spring. As the atmosphere tries to remain balanced, that cold, dry air interacts with the warm, moist air in the south, and the results are often explosive.
This clash can lead to frequent tornado outbreaks. This year, the arctic air has seemed to retreat early, so the season may not be as busy.
As for flooding concerns, Ben Pratt, a water resources engineer at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, says it’s been an active winter along the river.
“We had a significant ice build-up, which could be expected but doesn’t happen every year,” he said.
Pratt and river forecasters can become concerned with additional water added to the basin, like the melting snow and rain the area had last week.
“I would say that we’re not seeing anything at this point that causes major concerns along the Susquehanna,” he said.
But if the Midstate gets a huge snowstorm in March, like last season, then what? Pratt says it’s all about what happens after the storm.
“If it melts out quickly, then that causes a rise in the local streams and rivers.”
This is exactly what the area saw last weekend, and it could happen again with more rain or snow in March, especially with a damp pattern continuing.
In summary, spring likely won’t feature many severe weather outbreaks. It looks mild and a bit wet, and flooding could become a concern if it stays wet. While it should be a fairly normal spring, we are all at the mercy of Mother Nature.