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Forecasters warm to the task of predicting a mild February

If there was ever a year to have an extra day in February, this looks like the one.

Punxsutawney Phil and Dunkirk Dave remain slumbering for two more weeks, but human forecasters are busy punching up data and seem to be in agreement that February 2016 may start to feel just a little spring-like at times.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Forecast System is showing February temperatures running about 8 degrees above average across the Great Lakes.

AccuWeather projects Buffalo’s thermometer will rise into the 40s on half of the days all month.

That means February will feel entirely unlike last year’s version of the month in the Buffalo Niagara region.

“No Polar Vortex,” quipped Bill Hibbert, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

You remember last February: It was the coldest month in Buffalo. Ever.

• The entire month never made it above freezing. Not for a minute.

• There were 10 days of subzero readings.

• The average temperature was just 10.9 degrees: more than 15 degrees below average.

• With 46.2 inches of snow, it was also the third-snowiest February recorded in Buffalo.

• There were at least 20 inches of snow on the ground for the last 24 days of the month.

There’s no threat for a repeat of any of that. But don’t expect the weather to be all that exciting either.

“It’s a bunch of mediocrity,” Hibbert said.

As the calendar flips from January to February, there will be some snow at times, but no real extreme cold or extreme storms, Hibbert said.

“We’re going back into a pattern where we’ll see more of those clipper systems,” he said. “They’ll be sort of an ambush attack of snowstorms – some lake-effect – but nothing too big.”

Hibbert said the way the pattern sets up won’t lend itself to passing weather systems pulling the chilly polar air down behind it, as happened the past two winters.

That means even if lakes Erie and Ontario stay mostly ice-free, they have cooled down enough that there won’t be a big difference between the air and water temperatures to crank up the lake-effect snow machine.

“There’s a magic number, and we’re not quite getting to that point,” Hibbert said.

The National Weather Service doesn’t forecast exact temperatures out past a full week, but according to AccuWeather’s February projections, January will end with highs in the lower 40s, which carry over into the first few days of February.

Highs remain mostly in the upper 30s through the first week before dipping for a couple of days and then running back at 40 degrees or above from Feb. 13 to 19.

So, Dunkirk Dave may or may not see his shadow Feb. 2, but don’t worry too much.

Above-average temperatures are also forecast in the Climate Prediction Center’s three-month outlook.

If the outlooks hold true, you might barely lift a snow shovel much more this year.

And, even mittens could be optional.