The countdown is on. We're just a month away from the official start of spring!

I think most will agree that Old Man Winter has gone pretty easy on us so far, especially compared to the last couple of years. Temperatures have been milder than average, with snowfall near to below-average for most.

So will winter come back with a vengeance and make us pay the piper over the next month, with plunging temperatures and lots of snow?

Many of you have been asking, and it's a valid question.

I'll begin this long-range outlook just like any other, using phrases like "take this with a grain of salt" and "we live in Newfoundland and Labrador, so anything can happen" .... yada yada yada. 

Now that we have that out of the way, here are five clues that the worst of winter — with days of prolonged and dominant Arctic air and the snow piling up — is already behind us.

1. Last week's warm-up, with another on the way

A warm-up on the way

Most residents of Newfoundland and Labrador can expect mild weather in the coming week. (Ryan Snoddon/CBC)

Most of the province had a record-breaking warm-up this past week, with widespread double digits and even some temperatures into the teens.

While it's still a ways out, forecast models have been pretty consistent with another big warm-up on our menu for this coming week.

As always, the storm track will be key. However, it looks fairly similar to our last system, with the island set to see more rain and a push of mild temperatures and wind.

By the time that system departs, more snow will be lost and we'll be nearing the end of February.

2. The North American Ensemble Forecast System

North American Ensemble Forecast System projection

This model anticipates warmer weather for Newfoundland. (Environment Canada)

The North American Ensemble Forecast System forecasts temperatures eight to 14 days in advance, which takes us through into early March.

As you can see, it's signalling warmer than average temperatures for the island, and to near normal temperatures for Labrador.

3. The Global Ensemble Prediction System

 GLOBAL ENSEMBLE PREDICTION SYSTEM

(Environment Canada)

This 30-day temperature forecast from Environment Canada is produced from the average conditions forecasted over the period by the Global Ensemble Prediction System.

This updated projection goes through mid-March with near to above-average temperatures for the island.

4. Long-Range European forecast models

long range European Ensemble Prediction System

(CBC)

The long-range European Ensemble Prediction System, or EPS, is also forecasting a mild end to the winter season for the province and especially the island, with a persistent storm track through the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

It's true, forecast models are less accurate the further out in time you go.

However, some of the better long-range models can help to give you a good sense of what the overall weather pattern might be over the next few weeks. The 15-day European ensemble forecast model for instance, has been doing a pretty good job predicting the past few big warm-ups we've had.

For the next 15 days, it shows a fairly active pattern, but one with a dominant system/storm track over the Gulf of St. Lawrence and/or western Newfoundland.

That type of set up would bring more mixed precipitation systems and more warm-ups for the island.

The latest European 30-day model projection shows more of the same, with a dominant storm track through the Gulf of St. Lawrence right through the first official day of spring.

It's worth noting however, that this type of track and set up would make for a snowy pattern for parts of Labrador!

5. El Nino

El Nino effects on Newfoundland and Labrador 1998

During our last 'very strong' El Nino in 1998, temperatures in March, April and May continued milder than average. (ClimateReanalyzer.org )

There have only been a few El Nino events as strong as this one, which makes predicting the impact of this "very strong" event, as it's called, a little more difficult.

Only the El Nino events of 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 have been as warm in the Pacific. Ideally, you'd like to have a few more years to compare with, however much like this season, the winter of '82-83 and especially '97-98 on the island were warmer than average.

The key here is that March, April and into May also continued to be above average in those years.

The last word

It's not over until it's over, especially here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We can see big storms and snow events, well into spring. After all, on the island, we've had 80-centimetre storms in April and 50-cm storms in May!

It only takes one storm to move through with some colder air in place and we're snow-covered again.

Will we see cold days? Yes.

Very cold days? Yes.

More snow? Yes.

But with that said, "a dominant cold and snowy finish" for the island certainly doesn't appear to be in the cards.

The countdown is on.

It's one month until spring and it looks like the worst from Old Man Winter may very well be behind us.