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dave epstein | weather

Icy conditions with sleet and freezing rain are expected for Sunday and Tuesday

Temperatures have been very cold in recent days, and those conditions will continue. But a runner in Cambridge along the Charles River was undaunted on Friday morning.
Temperatures have been very cold in recent days, and those conditions will continue. But a runner in Cambridge along the Charles River was undaunted on Friday morning.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Saturday was the sixth day in a row that Boston has not reached the freezing mark as we are in the middle of a cold stretch. It’s worth noting that much of the country is in a very wintry pattern this weekend and into early next week.

The connection between what’s going on across the rest of the lower 48 and our weather is real. The map below shows winter storm warnings, ice storm warnings and more advisories for most of the country. New England is one of the few spots without any warning or advisories, but that will change this coming week.

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Conditions in the United States.
Conditions in the United States.handout

The reason we have such dramatic weather this weekend is the jet stream. This band of wind that divides air masses is on the move, and during much of next week it will be slicing from Canada down through Texas and Oklahoma and then back up over New England. When you have such a pronounced jet stream in the middle of winter, you often have dramatic weather.

The jet stream forecast for February 17th shows a strong meridional flow.
The jet stream forecast for February 17th shows a strong meridional flow.Tropical Tidbits

Just by way of one example, portions of Oklahoma are going to see a major snowstorm and some of the coldest air on record all within the next four to five days. Back in 1899 Oklahoma City had a temperature reading of minus 17, and although I don’t think it will be quite that cold, if they get to 10 or 11 below zero that’ll be the coldest this century by a lot.

The coldest air to reach Oklahoma City was back in 1899.
The coldest air to reach Oklahoma City was back in 1899.NOAA Data

The specifics of our weather are going to change somewhat each day and in these patterns the very forecast itself can switch or flip quite a bit in just 12 hours. Sunday’s weather system no longer looks like it will bring accumulating snow. Instead, because we will be on the edge of the mild air, we’re going to see a messy mix of light snow, sleet, and freezing rain and even some rain. Sunday’s light precipitation should amount to under an inch for all of us.

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A messy mix of snow, sleet, freezing drizzle and even rain will affect the region on Sunday.
A messy mix of snow, sleet, freezing drizzle and even rain will affect the region on Sunday.COD Weather

This upcoming pattern for the next week is the type where I recommend being sure you have adequate ice melt on hand. That is because there could be several days where freezing rain or sleet is a predominant precipitation type.

After some light precipitation on Sunday there’s a slight break in the action late Sunday night and early Monday before more mixed precipitation heads for the region. To emphasize my earlier point about how fast the forecast can change, it looked like we were going to see accumulating, perhaps even significant snow on Tuesday. However, now with the milder air trying to override the cold air, this is looking more like a mixed precipitation storm. That doesn’t mean we won’t see some accumulating snow but that likely won’t be the predominant precipitation type.

Another in a series of storms, approaches for Tuesday.
Another in a series of storms, approaches for Tuesday.Tropical Tidbits

It will take another day or two before we know exactly how much freezing rain, sleet, and snow will affect southern New England on Tuesday, but this could create real travel trouble. Freezing rain is in my opinion the most dangerous type of precipitation because you lose friction. We saw a huge fatal pile-up of cars in Texas this week, the result of just small amounts of freezing rain. If you have a vaccine appointment on Tuesday be aware of possible travel issues.

There is another pause in the action Wednesday. It looks like we’ll have partly to mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 20s to low 30s. Not a lot of melting, but not an excessive cold either. In this fast-moving pattern, we won’t get much of a break as the next system heads for the area Thursday and Friday. Once again this looks to be a snow and mixed precipitation event. And we’re again going to have to deal with travel issues. The exact amounts of which type of precipitation we will get obviously can’t be determined this early.

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More messy weather is expected later Thursday and Friday.
More messy weather is expected later Thursday and Friday.COD Weather

February 2021 is now averaging colder than normal and unless we have a dramatic warmup in the final week, it looks like this will be a colder than average month, something we have not seen in February in quite some time.

I’ll leave you with some hopeful and yet predictable news. Daylight continues to increase at a rapid pace, and this is the time of year when if you listen closely the birds are beginning to sing at sunrise. While not all varieties of birds have flipped into their spring song, the sounds of spring will only continue to grow over the next couple of weeks, and while the weather may still be wintery, nature is taking an excuse from the added light and quickly moving into spring.