• California temperatures will go higher, threatening snowpack
  • Few winners during weekend weather that will freeze and bake

Temperatures are dropping across the eastern half of the U.S., and they will take some records with them.

A blast of cold air will sweep across the Great Lakes into the Ohio Valley, and by Saturday it will be making things miserable for people outdoors in the mid-Atlantic states and Northeast, said Frank Pereira, a meteorologist at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Source: National Weather Service
Source: National Weather Service

While frostbite-inducing cold doesn’t have much to recommend it, there is some good news.

“It’s a brief cold snap,” Pereira said. “It’s going to be cold and records will fall, but it’s not going to be a long-duration event.”

It will be a weekend to remind everyone living east of the Mississippi River that it is, in fact, February.

The plunge will be pretty stark in places. The high temperature in Chicago on Friday will be 23 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 5 Celsius), and that will feel warm when the low reaches 4 after sunset.

NYC Outlook

The low in New York’s Central Park may be 1 on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. If it hits zero, it will be the first time since 1994. Elsewhere in the East, readings will be just as rough: Philadelphia will drop to 1, Washington, 10 and Boston, well, it will be minus 3.

The one consolation for Bostonians is that Toronto will still be colder, with minus 9, and Montreal, minus 11, on Saturday night, according to Environment Canada.

Source: National Weather Service
Source: National Weather Service

As is often the case, when temperatures drop on one end of the continent, they rise on the other.

San Francisco is heading into the 70s this weekend. Los Angeles will flirt with 90, but probably will peak at 87. While this may seem like lovely weather, it really isn’t, because that warmth is spreading into the snow-capped mountains.

California Snowpack

California needs a deep snowpack to ensure adequate water supplies later in the year. Most of the state is abnormally dry or in the midst of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The area south of Lake Tahoe will reach into the 60s through next week, said Mike Anderson, California’s state climatologist, even though it’s pretty high up in the mountains, at about 6,200 feet (1,890 meters). There should be cloud cover and low winter-sun angles to keep some of the snow on the ground and temperatures will stay close to freezing at night.

“It’s awfully warm for February, but the days are still short,” said Jeff Dozier, a professor of snow hydrology at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Currently, the snow pack in the mountains is about average. This is after years of being lackluster, contributing to California’s years-long drought.

The drought has left reservoirs low, so there is room to store some of the runoff that will come from melting snow, Dozier said.

Proving once again there’s a silver lining in almost any dark cloud.

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