Spring may officially start Friday, but long-range forecasters say winter won't let go just yet, with continuing cold blasts -- and perhaps even more bouts of snow -- to persist into April.
Witness the 4 to 6 inches of snow forecast for Long Island from Friday morning into tomorrow morning. The heaviest snowfall is expected from 2 to 8 p.m., said the weather service, which has issued a winter weather advisory from 6 a.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday.
Though Friday may be the start of spring, "it won't feel like it for many people," with below normal temperatures expected for the Northeast in the coming few weeks, said Jon Gottschalck, a branch chief with the Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Indeed, that pattern of a high-pressure ridge over the West Coast and low-pressure trough over the East, allowing the jet stream to dip down for regular visits, is expected to persist, he said. The setup is part of the global circulation pattern, and "once such patterns get set up, they tend to reinforce themselves," until conditions shift elsewhere, said Rich Bann, a meteorologist at NOAA's Weather Prediction Center.
We can expect the "lagging winter" to last through mid-April at the very least, said Bob Smerbeck, senior meteorologist on the long-range team at AccuWeather. Indeed, though conditions might start moderating later in April, "we're thinking things will get better when we get into May."
The good news is that, thanks to the moderating effect of a higher sun angle, the blasts won't be "brutal cold" in the single digits, he said.
Temperatures through mid-April could average 2 to 4 degrees below normal, with "colder than average days outnumbering warmer than average by roughly 2 to 1," said Alex Sosnowski, also an AccuWeather senior meteorologist.
Rich Hoffman, News 12 Long Island meteorologist, also said he sees that cooler trend through early April.
"While we may have a couple of days on the mild side, I see the temperature trend to be overall colder than normal," with normal meaning daytime highs of 50 to 53 and overnight lows of 32 to 35.
In addition to the day-to-day drag and inconveniences, continued cold can impact other areas.
For one thing, "it doesn't look good for the start of baseball season in the Northeast," at least for those other than die-hard fans, Smerbeck said.With this year's weather conditions similar to last year's, allergy sufferers could see a season not unlike 2014's, which actually turned out to be about average, said Dr. Susan Schuval, associate professor of pediatrics at Stony Brook Children's Hospital and chair of the allergy and immunology division.
With a delayed onset due to cooler weather, the concern had been that earlier flowering trees would pollinate at the same time as later ones. It turned out that pollen arrived sequentially, she said, though there are other factors at play, such as spring's rain, wind and temperatures.
The cold blasts may not be so bad for at least one facet of lawn care, said Tamson Yeh, turf and land-management specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk County.
Erratic temperatures could be a help in re-seeding those bare patches, she said. Avoid digging and planting seeds, she said, as you'll bring weeds, such as crab grass, up to the surface. Instead, look for a string of above-freezing temperatures by day and below freezing by night. Drop seeds during the day, she said, and let the "freezing and thawing" embed the seed into the ground.
Farmers, though, are looking at a delay in starting field preparation work, thanks to the continuing cold and already colder and wetter ground, said Jeff Rottkamp, co-owner of Rottkamp's Fox Hollow Farm in Baiting Hollow. "It puts us behind the eight ball. We can't work the soil," said Rottkamp, a grower of fruits and vegetables.
Frozen 2 feet deep, maybe even 3, the ground will need a week or two of highs in the high 40s to 50s to warm up and dry out, he said.
To catch up, farmers will have to "put in longer days and try to get more done on nice days. . . . We're at the mercy of nature," he said, "and that's how it is."