Winter is already halfway over, but I wouldn't say it's been a very "typical" winter so far.
Helena Regional Airport dropped to -14° on December 30th.
And, Helena's record high temperature of 63° back on January 25th stands as the warmest temperature ever recorded in the month of January. Before that, the last time we saw 60s in January was back in 2002.
This atypical pattern leaves one wondering what lies ahead in the month of February.
Stepping outside today may give you the impression that things are back to normal -- considering temperatures started the day below zero in many areas.
But, this chilly air may not actually hang around for long.
One reliable long-range computer forecast model gives quite the optimistic outlook when it comes to temperatures.
Here's the Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) model's temperature output for the next 16 days:
Now, normally I would say looking at a model that goes out 16 days is pointless. But, this is a special kind of model. It's an ensemble.
Ensemble forecasting is a prediction method used to attempt to generate a representative sample of the possible future states of the weather. The GEFS attempts to quantify the amount of uncertainty in a forecast by generating an ensemble of multiple forecasts, each minutely different, or perturbed, from the original observations.
This tends to produce more reliable, more accurate predictions beyond a typical seven day forecast.
If we take this particular temperature forecast at face value, Helena will see warmer than average temperatures for the first half of February.
Obviously, this model isn't perfect. Variables change and the atmosphere evolves, which may render this forecast unreliable in a matter of days.
For now, those hoping to endure frigid temperatures in February may find themselves enjoying more spring-like conditions instead.
We'll continue to monitor the overall pattern and post updates to the blog in the coming days.
-Meteorologist Mike Rawlins