Share this article

print logo

'Fore' the record, this February has been unusually warm

Light sweaters already are replacing winter parkas.

Crocuses are peeking out of the ground already.

And ski poles are even being swapped for golf clubs in some spots.

Late April’s weather is apparently spending winter break in the Buffalo Niagara region this week. High temperatures are forecast in the 50s and 60s through Friday.

Although Tuesday’s 59-degree high temperature wasn’t a record-breaker for temperature, it was in another way for Chris Miller of Town of Tonawanda. Miller and his brother Tim, clad in sweatshirts and baseball caps, hit the golf course for the first time in the 2017 season early Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t think you’ll ever beat it,” Miller said on besting the earliest date he’s ever teed-off in Buffalo by more than a month.

The brothers were among 50 or so golfers to hit the links at the Buffalo Tournament Club golf course on Genesee Street in Lancaster.

The club’s general manager Tim Davis said it’s the first time the 12-year-old public golf course opened in February. Even with the water hazards covered by ice, Davis said given this week’s forecast, he couldn’t resist.

“We started watching it last week, and we saw 40s and 50s all week,” Davis said.

Those numbers have gone up since. Tuesday’s temperature was expected to flirt with 60 degrees. Same on Wednesday and Thursday.

“It’s going to be warm,” said Jim Mitchell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

On Friday, a 111-year-old record high temperature could be in jeopardy. Forecasts call for a high in the upper 60s as warm air is pulled into the region ahead of an approaching storm system that will bring rain and cooler temperatures behind it.

“We’ll get a strong southerly flow,” Mitchell said. “We’ll be getting warm air all the way from the Gulf.”

Excerpted from the National Weather Service forecaster's discussion.

If conditions set up just right, and clouds dissipate, there’s a chance of seeing 70 degrees, Mitchell said.

The record for the day came during Theodore Roosevelt's administration. It was 67 degrees in Buffalo on Feb. 24, 1906.

It has hit 70 degrees only twice in February in Buffalo's recorded weather history: on Feb. 26, 2000 (71 degrees), and Feb. 21, 1997 (70 degrees).

In an average year, the daytime high is in the mid-30s, with overnights near 20 degrees.

“We’re open through Friday,” Davis said. “We’ll be closed then, and it could be until April.”

He added: “Anytime we can get golf in, we’ll open back up.”

Terry Hills Golf Course in Batavia also opened up Tuesday, according to reports.

Those courses have a special advantage many others don’t, according to Davis. Because they’re built on sandier soil, the moisture is able to drain off and away from the course more quickly. That there’s been below-average precipitation this month, and lack of a snow pack, has helped.

February 2017 – at an average temperature of 30.4 degrees – has been nearly five degrees above-average so far heading into Tuesday.

There have already been four days in the 50s and four more in the 40s.

Ice usually reaches its peak on Lake Erie this week in February. (Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory)

The warm weather expected over the Great Lakes will likely also melt any remaining ice on Lake Erie.

This is the week of the year when, on average, the ice cover is the highest, at about 70 percent, according to data from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Less than 1 percent of Lake Erie was covered by ice Monday, data showed.

Heading into Tuesday, February 2017 was ranked as 13th warmest in the city’s history since World War II. It will easily climb into the Top 10 over the next day or two, and could sit in second place by Sunday, if forecasts hold.

That would put this month just fractions of a degree behind 1998 for all-time February warmth, just two years removed from the coldest month ever recorded in the city’s history. February 2015’s 10.9 degree average temperature included no readings above freezing for the entire month.

It is that kind of year-to-year variability – and extreme weather – that can have area apple and cherry growers on edge this time of year.

“I haven’t heard of any reports of fruit buds swelling up,” said Craig Kahlke, who works in fruit quality management for Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Ontario Fruit Project. “It’s way too early.”

But that doesn’t take away the anxiety, especially after 2012, according to Kahlke. That year, a streak of days in the 70s and even 80s led to Buffalo’s warmest March on record.

Trees opened up more than three weeks early. Then a period of cold weather, including a hard frost at the end of April, ruined half of the crop.

“Growers are paying attention,” Kahlke said. “We’re always very cautious when this happens.”

He added: “Right now, we’re fine but it’s just too early to tell. We have too many weeks of ‘winter’ left.”

There are no comments - be the first to comment