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February was nice but nippy

February provided a welcome spate of sunshine after two months of steady rain in Southern Oregon, but the clear skies also meant three weeks of scraping icy windshields in the morning.

The second month of 2006 opened with gray skies and heavy rain that made it feel like a replay of December and January, but the deluge stopped abruptly on Feb. 5 and clear skies reigned for the next three weeks.

The taste of spring brought record-high temperatures on Feb. 9 (70 degrees) and Feb. 10 (69 degrees), but hopes that winter was gone for good disappeared at the end of the month, and by March 2 snow covered the foothills around the Rogue Valley.

The clear skies and cloudless nights pushed temperatures as low as 20 degrees on Feb. 20, which tied the record low temperature in Medford for that date. For the month, there were 18 nights with temperatures at or below freezing.

Three weeks of dry weather held February's rain total (1.94 inches) slightly below the monthly average (2.15 inches), but January's 5-plus inches gives Medford a total of 7.06 inches of rain for the first two months of the year ' 2.49 inches above the two-month average.

— A spell of sunshine around Valentine's Day (sometimes called the February thaw) occurs across much of the Northwest and signals the beginning of the transition from winter to summer, said George Taylor, Oregon state climatologist.

February the tilt in the Earth's axis that produces our seasons has put the northern hemisphere well on its way back to a warm sun. Days are much longer (as long as the days in October), and the air begins to warm when the sun shines.

Taylor said high-altitude jet stream winds also begin to shift farther south as the northern hemisphere begins to warm, carrying winter storms with them.

Precipitation patterns along the West Coast tend to reflect the movement of the jet stream during the course of winter, Taylor said.

November, when the jet stream moves farthest north, tends to be the wettest month in British Columbia and Washington. November and December are usually the wettest months for Medford, but California's wettest month tends to be February, when the jet stream has shifted south.

February was nice but nippy"bkettler@mailtribune.com.

Snow and low clouds cover the mountains south of a Central Point housing development off Highway 99 in this image taken on a blustery Friday afternoon. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell