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      Early Spring: February 26, 2000

      Today, the "Polar Vortex" is on the playing field with the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere aimed right at Upper Michigan.

      A record high of 56 degrees was set at the National Weather Service (NWS) near Negaunee on February 26, 2000. Spring-like temperatures were drawn into the area as a big upper-air ridge set up over the central United States. (Image 1 above) Obviously, this was the complete opposite of what is occurring now (Image 2). Todayâ??s high temperature will be about 50 degrees colder.

      This warmth wasnâ??t just a brief spike and then back to winter. The weather pattern shifted into spring at the end of the third week of February. Record highs were set on February 21st and 23rd of 47 and 49 respectively. While there were brief cool-downs, cold arctic air essentially left much of Canada and the United States after February 21.

      The real warmth set in during early March when downright balmy weather washed over the Upper Peninsula. Records at Ironwood go back to the turn of the 20th Century, so a warm or cold spell has to be remarkable to show up in the books. In 2000, daily-record highs were set on the 1st (59), 5th (53), 6th (60), 7th (66) and 8th (69). At the NWS, six consecutive records were broken, peaking with a 71-degree high on March 8. This is the earliest temperature above 70 at the site. Iron Mountain topped out at a summery 77 on March 8.

      Winter wasnâ??t completely through after this incredible bout of early spring. While the U.P. basked under 70-degree temperatures on March 8th, low pressure was forming over the Plains, while a chilly high-pressure system dropped south through Canada. The two systems converged on the area that night. By midnight, after the last snow piles had melted in the warm spring sunshine, rain changed to freezing rain and then snow. Eight inches of fresh snow covered the ground the next morning near Negaunee. On the Gogebic Range, a daily-record 12 inches came down March 9, 2000. It was a wet, soggy snow with 1.64 inches water equivalent. However, since the winter snow cover had disappeared, this new snow left relatively fast. March 2000 had mostly mild days and ended an impressive 9.3 degrees above the long-term average.

      Each month of meteorological winter has been way below average this season. And, at least since 1979, this February may turn out to be the coldest. In 1979, the mean temperature was 6.9 degrees. Through yesterday, the mean for February 2014 stands at 7.3 degrees. The last three days of the month should each come in well over 20 degrees below average and that will probably put us close to a mean of six degrees.