Punxsutawney Phil has betrayed us.
The prognosticating groundhog didn't see his shadow this year. We were supposed to have an early spring, but look at the smirk on that rodent's face...he's winking! Phil lied!
Indeed, despite the vernal equinox ushering in the start of spring on March 20, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center has forecast at least two more weeks of colder-than-normal temperatures for most of the nation east of the Rocky Mountains.
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A hardcore high-pressure system is loitering in the Arctic and allowing chilly northern air to lash the southern latitudes. Much of the eastern United States has a high probability of cold weather until April and perhaps even longer.
These high-pressure hijinks are the opposite of what happened last year. Our balmy winter and spring last year were caused by a high pressure system that settled in around lower latitudes, according to the Washington Post's weather blog. This year's cold is being caused by a similar system that set up shop 2,000 miles north of where it was last year.
Sometime in April, the climate could have an intense mood swing.
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Warmer temperatures may come with a vengeance. Following this chilly period, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) latest outlook forecasts a warmer-than-average spring for almost the entire lower 48 states.
The southwest could be especially toasty. NOAA also forecasts that a warm spring will lead into an hot summer. The June through August outlook suggests most of the United States is in for another sweltering summer.
A warm spring and hot summer may be accompanied by continued drought. Most of the United States is forecast to have "equal chances" of above or below average precipitation, with below average precipitation in some of the drought-dessicated Great Plains and Southwest regions.
Farmers and riverboat captains need above average rainfall to recover from last year's mega-drought. Below average rainfall could lead to another year of failed harvest and higher food prices. What's more, if the Mississippi River continues to drop for a second year, shipping of the grain that is produced could be blocked and become more expensive.
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IMAGE: Famed weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has only one eye open as he prepares to make his annual prediction on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on the 127th Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2013. An early spring was predicted as Phil did not see his shadow. (Jason Cohn, Corbis)