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The safe bet: an early spring for Buffalo Niagara, Great Lakes and the Northeast U.S.

Maybe Punxsutawney Phil was crunching the climate models too before emerging from his stump this morning.

He's right. Spring is coming.

And chances are it'll run warmer than usual for much of the northern tier of the continental United States, including the Great Lakes and Northeast, according to the federal Climate Prediction Center.

Forecast models were bullish on a much warmer February than normal just a couple weeks ago, but now suggest it will still run above-average, but just by a degree or two -- pushing the warmest weather off until March.

SVWMMarch16

Temperatures could run well above-average in March from Montana to Maine, according to the Climate Forecast System model. (StormVistaWxModels.com)

And, federal climate forecasters also show in their 3½-month outlook that temperatures will continue in an above-normal average pattern.

Outlooks show the Buffalo Niagara region in above-normal territory in three-month outlooks through at least July. (NOAA CPC)

Outlooks show the Buffalo Niagara region in above-normal territory in three-month outlooks through at least July. (NOAA CPC)

The prognostications would continue what's largely been an El Niño-fueled streak of months-long above-average temperatures in the Buffalo Niagara region dating back to last year.

Since August, every month has run warmer than normal with the biggest deviation coming in December 2015, which obliterated the record as the warmest December in Buffalo's history.

The streak also includes September 2015, which was the fifth warmest September recorded in Buffalo and November 2015, which went down as the city's seventh-warmest November.

Here's a look at the current streak:

tempsWarmer

February is less than two days old, and its first record for warmth fell early Monday.

The thermometer hit 58 degrees shortly after midnight, breaking the former daily record for the first day of February: 56 degrees set in 1989.

Another record is likely to fall on Wednesday.

The record high for Feb. 3 is 50 degrees was set in 1952, but forecasters think it will be "relatively easy to beat" with temperatures getting into the mid 50s, before another passing storm system brings a round a rain showers.

Cold air will rush in behind it, setting the stage for possible lake-effect snows later in the week.

Models suggest, however, it won't persist.

So, all of today's pomp and circumstance aside, Phil's clearly not a gambling hog.

The good money's clearly on an early spring.

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