Perfect through weekend, then back to reality

It would be hard to beat the weather forecast for the next few days, and straight on through the weekend. High pressure dominates the eastern half of the nation. Skies will be clear, and sunshine will drive temperatures through the mid- to upper-60s by Thursday and into the low 70s (!) on Saturday.

But the official arrival of spring on Saturday won't mean this kind of weather is here to stay. Forecasters say there's a cold front due to barrel through late on Sunday. That could bring thundershowers, and it seems certain to cancel the warmth we're enjoying now, especially for the snow-weary western counties.

The forecast calls for highs only in the 50s at BWI-Marshall on Monday and Tuesday, after the cold front blows through. The overnight lows will drop to near freezing again. That's actually about normal for this time of year in Baltimore. But after this week it's going to seem like a relapse into winter.

That will be especially true out in Garrett and Allegany counties. Westerly winds behind the front will mean upslope snow showers Monday and Monday night. Like they need more flakes to add to the 250 inches or more they've seen this winter.

This backsliding comes to us courtesy of the blocking features over the North Atlantic that controlled our weather for much of the winter. That Arctic high was responsible for the twist in the northern jet stream that kept the door to the eastern states open to cold Canadian air, and turned the parade of El Nino-fueled storms off the Pacific into snow-makers.

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist in Baltimore, says that blocking high is back.

"You see, it's like Friday the 13th. You can't really kill Jason. And until further notice, you can't really kill the northern-Atlantic blocking high ... You don't have to be a meteorologist to see that bad things are coming our way. There's an initial surge of cold air over the nation's midsection, with another even-colder shot dropping out of Canada ... D'oh.

"I'm holding out hope that the switch back to cold doesn't last, but it's a little too early to say. Upper air forecast charts kinda imply the chilly weather might be back for a while."

That doesn't necessaily mean more snow. Heck, I heard my first spring peepers (photo) last night from the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, even as the last basketball-sized pile of snow melted in the back yard.

But snow - even big snow - can happen in March in Baltimore. Steve Zubrick and Jared Klein, out at the NWS forecast office in Sterling, have been looking at the stats from the memorable (if you're old enough) winter of 1957-58.

They noted that the Arctic Oscillation - the same blocking high mechanism Eric the Red is talking about - was in a similar (negative) phase back then. In February 1958, Central Maryland was clobbered with a 15-inch storm, which until this winter ranked 9th on the all-time Top 20 snowstorm list. A month later, on March 19-20, the region was buried by a wet snowfall that topped 30 inches in Mount Airy, north and west of the city. Totals dwindled to 8 inches at Friendship (now BWI-Marshall) Airport because of a mix with rain and sleet; otherwise, that snowstorm would rank among the top 20 for Baltimore, too.

That March 1958 storm crippled transportation, ripped down power and phone lines and remains one of the most disruptive storms on the record books for this area. This weekend is the 52nd anniversary of that storm.

"Nice storm, if you love heavy, wet snow!," Zubrick said. "Winter can be tough here, even in March!"

(SUN PHOTOS/Top: Virginia Williams, 2010/ Bottom: Glenn Fawcett, 2007)

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