WEST LAFAYETTE — Indiana residents hoping that last week's mild spell could mean the state's punishing winter will soon give way to early spring may be in for a big disappointment.
The federal Climate Prediction Center's latest forecasts suggest that snow and cold could continue to lash Indiana into late March, said associate state climatologist Ken Scheeringa with the State Climate Office at Purdue University.
He said the agency's monthly and seasonal outlooks call for a colder than normal but mostly dry start to March despite a winter storm forecast to begin Sunday.
Scheeringa said that trend likely will continue throughout March but forecasters are less certain about precipitation later in March.
"A few days with temperatures in the 50s and 60s might have led us to believe spring is right around the corner," he said. "Not so fast."
Scheeringa said Indiana's winter weather usually continues into the first half of March.
That will be true this weekend as the start of March coincides with yet another winter storm that's expected to bring snow, freezing rain and sleet to the entire state.
Indianapolis has already experienced its snowiest winter season on record and other parts of the state have had near record snowfalls this winter.
Scheeringa said the Climate Prediction Center's spring forecast calls for a slight chance of a colder than normal spring in northern Indiana and wetter than normal conditions in the state's southern portions.
If winter weather lingers longer than normal, Purdue Extension corn specialist Bob Nielsen said farmers might have to wait a little bit longer for optimal planting conditions for their corn and soybean crops. He said that includes waiting for soil temperatures to reach at least 50 degrees at seeding depth.
Because most Indiana farmers don't get serious about planting corn until the third week of April, Nielsen said that means early April's weather is likely to influence planting far more heavily than March's weather.
"But if we get to a point where it looks like planting might be delayed, it's important to remember that planting date is only one of many factors that influence crop yields," he said.