An Air Mass Based Approach to the Establishment of Spring Season Synoptic Characteristics in the Northeast United States


The Northeast United States spring is indicative of major meteorological and biological change though the seasonal boundaries are difficult to define and may even be changing with global climate warming. This research aims to obtain a synoptic meteorological definition of the spring season through an assessment of air mass frequency over the past 60 years. The validity of recent speculations that the onset and termination of spring have changed in recent decades with global change is also examined. The Spatial Synoptic Classification is utilized to define daily air masses over the region. Annual and seasonal baseline frequencies are identified and their differences are acquired to characterize the season. Seasonal frequency departures of the early and late segments of the period of record are calculated and examined for practical and statistical significance. The daily boundaries of early and late spring are also isolated and assessed across the period of record to identify important changes in the season’s initiation and termination through time. Results indicate that the Northeast spring season is dominated by dry air masses, mainly the Dry Moderate and Dry Polar types. Prior to 1975, more polar air masses are detected while after 1975 more moderate and tropical types are identified. Late spring is characterized by increased variability in all moist air mass frequencies. These findings indicate that, from a synoptic perspective, the season is dry through time but modern springs are also warmer than those of past decades and the initiation of the season is likely arriving earlier. The end of the season represents more variable day-to-day air mass conditions in modern times than detected in past decades.

Share and Cite:

R. Zander, A. Messina and M. Godek, "An Air Mass Based Approach to the Establishment of Spring Season Synoptic Characteristics in the Northeast United States," Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, Vol. 3 No. 3, 2013, pp. 408-419. doi: 10.4236/acs.2013.33042.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] K. M. Simmons and D. Sutter, “The 2011 Tornadoes and the Future of Tornado Research,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 93, No. 7, 2012, pp. 2-11. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-11-00126.1
[2] NOAA National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, “Monthly and Seasonal US Tornado Summaries,” 2012.
[3] C. D. Ahrens, “Essentials of Meteorology: An Invitation to the Atmosphere,” 6th Edition, Cengage Learning, 2012.
[4] F. K. Lutgens, E. J. Tarbuck and D. Tassa, “The Atmosphere: An Introduction to Meteorology,” 10th Edition, Prentice Hall, New York, 2006.
[5] NOAA National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, “Global ENSO Temperature and Precipitation Linear Regressions,” 2013. ENSO/regressions/
[6] D. E. Christiansen, “Impacts of Climate Change on the Growing Season in the United States,” Earth Interactions, Vol. 15, No. 33, 2011, pp. 1-17. doi:10.1175/2011EI376.1
[7] L. H. Lin, X. Huang and N.-C. Lau, “Winter-to-Spring Transition in East Asia: A Planetary-Scale Perspective of the South China Spring Rain Onset,” Journal of Climate, Vol. 21, 2008, pp. 3081-3096. doi:10.1175/2007JCLI1611.1
[8] R. E. Livezey, K. Y. Vinnikov, M. M. Timofeyeva, R. Tinker and H. M. Van Den Dool, “Estimation and Extrapolation of Climate Normals and Climatic Trends,” Journal of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 46, 2007, pp. 1759-1776.
[9] United States Census Bureau, “United States Census 2010,” 2010. 2010census
[10] Census of Canada, “2011 Census Population Counts,” 2012.
[11] K. E. Trenberth, “What Are the Seasons?” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 64, No. 11, 1983, pp. 1277-1282.
[12] T. R. Ault, A. K. Macalady, G. T. Pederson, J. L. Betancourt and M. D. Schwartz, “Northern Hemisphere Modes of Variability and the Timing of Spring in Western North America,” Journal of Climate, Vol. 24, 2011, pp. 4003-4013. doi:10.1175/2011JCLI4069.1
[13] I. M. Tombre, et al., “The Onset of Spring and Timing of Migration in Two Arctic Nesting Goose Populations: The Pink-Footed Goose Anser bachyrhynchus and the Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis,” Journal of Avian Biology, Vol. 39, No. 6, 2008, pp. 691-703. doi:10.1111/j.1600-048X.2008.04440.x
[14] D. Robson and C. Barriocanal, “Ecological Conditions in Wintering and Passage Areas as Determinants of Timing of Spring Migration in Trans-Saharan Migratory Birds,” Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol. 80, 2011, pp. 320-331. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2656.2010.01772.x
[15] T. L. Root, J. T. Price, K. R. Hall, S. H. Schneider, C. Rosenzweig and A. J. Pounds, “Fingerprints of Global Warming on Wild Animals and Plants,” Nature, Vol. 421, No. 6918, 2003, pp. 57-60. doi:10.1038/nature01333
[16] M. D. Schwartz and B. Reiter, “Changes in North American Spring,” International Journal of Climatology, Vol. 20, No. 8, 2000, pp. 929-932. doi:10.1002/1097-0088(20000630)20:8<929::AID-JOC557>3.0.CO;2-5
[17] D. R. Easterling, “Recent Changes in Frost Days and the Frost Free Season in the United States,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 83, No. 9, 2002, pp. 1327-1332.
[18] D. R. Warren, A. G. Ernst and B. P, Baldigo, “Influence of Spring Floods on Year-Class Strength of Fall and Spring-Spawning Salmonids in Catskill Mountain Streams,” Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, Vol. 138, 2009, pp. 200-210. doi:10.1577/T08-046.1
[19] D. A. Burns, J. Klaus and M. R. McHale, “Recent Climate Trends and Implications for Water Resources in the Catskill Mountain Region, New York, USA,” Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 336, 2007, pp. 155-170. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2006.12.019
[20] T. P. Suro and G. D. Firda, “Flood of April 2-3, 2005, Esopus Creek Basin, New York,” US Geological Survey Open-File Report 2007-1036, 2006, p. 85.
[21] G. A. Hodgkins and I. C. James II, “Historical Ice-Out Dates for 29 Lakes,” US Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-34, 2002, pp. 1-32.
[22] T. Bergeron, “über die Dreidimensional Verknüpfende Wetteranalyse, I. Tiel.,” Geofysiske Publikasjoner, Vol. 5, 1928, pp. 1-111.
[23] S. C. Sheridan, “The Redevelopment of a Weather-Type Classification Scheme for North America,” International Journal of Climatology, Vol. 22, 2002, pp. 51-68. doi:10.1002/joc.709
[24] D. J. Leathers, D. Graybeal, T. Mote, A. Grundstein and D. Robinson, “The Role of Airmass Types and Surface Energy Fluxes in Snow Cover Ablation in the Central Appalachians,” Journal of Applied Meteorology, Vol. 43, No. 12, 2004, pp. 1887-1898. doi:10.1175/JAM2172.1
[25] A. F. Hanna, et al., “Associations between Ozone and Morbidity Using the Spatial Synoptic Classification System,” Environmental Health, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2011, pp. 1-15. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-49
[26] D. M. Hondula and R. E. Davis, “Climatology on Winter Transition Days for the Contiguous USA, 1951-2007,” Theoretical and Applied Climatology, Vol. 103, No. 1-2, 2010, pp. 27-37. doi:10.1007/s00704-010-0278-7
[27] NOAA National Climatic Data Center, “Historical Observing Metadata Repository,” 2012.
[28] Environment Canada, “National Climate Data and Information Archive,” 2012. http://climate.weathe

Copyright © 2021 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.