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New England Sees Mild Winter With Less Snow (for now)...Which Was Expected

This winter has not produced prolonged periods of winter-like weather for New England. As we inch closer to the start of spring, there are not many indications of wintry weather on the way. In fact, most signals are all pointing toward generally mild weather as we turn the page to meteorological spring. 


Here in late-February, there is a stark lack of snow on the ground across the United States. Northern New England (and upstate New York) are among the few places in the United States (outside the western mountains) that have any snow on the ground at all. With a wave of mild temperatures sweeping across the northern tier this week, snow depth will be shrinking more. 


Current snow depth:


Aside from a couple decent snowstorms, precipitation has generally come to New England in the form of rain. This has led to below average snowfall through the winter. All official weather reporting stations in New England are reporting a snow deficit heading into the end of February. Boston, Burlington and Portland are all seeing a deficit of at least two feet. 




The increased number of rainstorms over snowstorms in New England this winter can be seen in the precipitation departure from average. While snowfall is running below average, the percent of normal precipitation is running above average for much of New England. From November through January, a large portion of New England has seen 125-150% of normal precipitation.



This lighter snowfall is closely tied to generally above average temperatures throughout this winter. Arctic blasts have been very rare so far this season. One could say there hasn't really been a truly arctic surge of air into the region at all, just a few generally brief cold snaps.


Caribou, Maine; Burlington, Vermont and Concord, New Hampshire are all on pace for one of the warmest winters on record. Temperatures in December ran about 5° above average. All six states saw a top 5 warmest December on record. January saw temperatures run 4-6° above average for New England's states.



Since February is still ongoing, final numbers (naturally) aren't available yet, but it has been more of the same. Burlington, Caribou and Portland experienced their warmest starts to February on record. Worcester, Concord, Hartford and Boston are in their top five warmest February starts, which officially factors in temperatures from February 1-15. For the first time in recorded history, Boston will not see a single high at or below the freezing mark this month.



All of this does not come as a surprise. Back in October, we published an in-depth look at major factors that would be in play for New England during this winter. The major factor was the formation and strengthening of El-Nino. This season's El-Nino event became very strong. Since 1950, there have been six strong El-Nino events, including three very strong ones (not including this year's).


Four of these six El-Nino winters produced above average temperatures. The other two produced near-average temperatures. All three very strong events produced an above average winter. With the above average temperatures typically come below average snowfall. The Great Lakes and northeast typically see the largest snow deficit during El-Nino events.



For most of this winter, both snowfall and temperatures have been the definition of what's expected during a strong El-Nino event. The Midwest, which is typically the most mild, is looking at their warmest winter on record.



Looking ahead, meteorological winter will be closing on a very mild note, with widespread 50s likely by the middle of the week. After a cold front brings a cool-down at the end of next week, there are continued signals for generally above average temperatures to lead off March.



March is a very dynamic month weather-wise for New England that can be especially difficult to predict in the long-range. So, despite what long-range guidance may be showing, we're far from declaring winter weather over for New England.


El-Nino currently has a 79% chance of seeing a transition toward what's called "ENSO-Neutral" at some point this spring. This would signify the end of the current El-Nino event. A La-Nina is looking increasingly likely to develop for this upcoming summer.


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