It just seems like winter will never arrive across eastern North Carolina this year. Temperatures have been averaging about 5 degrees above normal since December 1 and the first day of February brought 70° or higher to much of the area. This past January was the warmest since 2006 when temperatures were about 6 degrees above normal. We have almost grown accustomed to above freezing nights and mild afternoons. Freezing temperatures are not in the cards for the next several days with highs over the weekend generally in the 50s.
The cause for the unusually warm weather is a persistent ridge of high pressure just off the Southeast coast and the lack of blocking over Greenland. There have been hints during the winter that we would eventually see a blocking ridge of high pressure settle near Greenland by the latter part of January or early February. So far that has not happened and the warmth continues. Any cold air has been quickly followed by very mild conditions. Basically, the milder periods have more than counterbalanced any cold shots that we've seen.
The big question is whether February will remind us that winter is not over. At this point there is little evidence of a major outbreak of cold air moving into the Southeast. Most of the cold air this winter has been locked up over Alaska and on the other side of the pole in Asia. Alaska will warm considerably by next week but Asia will stay chilly. I do think we'll see temperatures fairly close to average in February and that would quite a change from the last two months. I think it will turn cold enough so that some snow is still possible if a storm system can develop while the cold air lingers. Otherwise, we may have to wait until next year.
Regardless of how you slice it, this winter will seen as a mild one across our area. It would have to average about 11 degrees below normal in February to bring temperatures to near normal for the winter. There is little chance that will happen when you consider the first day of the month is 17 degrees above normal.