Above normal temperatures, dry conditions roll on into February

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO (KTVI)- When most St. Louisans think of February, they shudder. It is typically a cold, dreary month that shows up just about the time we are itching for spring. But that hasn’t been the case this year.

After a warm January, above-normal temperatures have remained across the Midwest for the first week of February. According to the Midwest  Regional Climate Center, average temperatures were 4-8°F above normal across Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and most of Indiana.

Why have we been so warm? The answer is the jet stream, the band of strong winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere. The Jet Stream shifts to the north and south, following the boundaries between hot and cold air. In recent weeks, the Jet Stream has been well to our north, keeping the deep cold air trapped.

Another growing concern? We have been very dry. Little to no rain or snow has fallen across Missouri and southern Illinois in recent weeks.  Dry grass fed several brush fires in Missouri and Illinois over the weekend, fanned by gusty winds.  We aren’t seeing drought conditions yet, but most of Missouri is considered abnormally dry by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

So what does all this mean for St. Louis weather? Well, potentially a more active Spring according to Meteorologist Jim Sieveking with the National Weather Service in St. Louis. The lack of deep cold air pushing south this winter means the Gulf of Mexico remains warm.  And drier than normal conditions across the Plains, means the dryline, a boundary that separates a moist air mass from a dry air mass, will be farther east.  Pair that with an active southern storm track, and we might see an increase in thunderstorm activity this Spring.

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