We have officially hit the coldest part of the year– but have we really? In the historical sense, leading up to January 17 is usually the largest average decline in temperatures for the entire year, but of course, not this winter! We have had unusually warm temperatures during the days and nights. This is also an indicator of the lack of snowfall. Here, in Fairfield, we have only had two nights with temperatures below 32 degrees. 

Photo from @ericfisher on Twitter.

So what gives? We often talk about arctic or polar air plunging across New England, but this year that air has been scattered across other areas of the globe. Here in the United States, California has had more snowfall than Maine. The midwest and parts of Texas have experienced colder temperatures at night than Boston– the list of unusual observations goes on and on. As the jetstream has dipped from colder air pooling in the midwest, warm air from the gulf has been able to surge northward. This has allowed us to see above-average temperatures and precipitation in the form of rainfall. 

It’s one thing for temperatures to be slightly warmer than average, but it’s another to have temperatures exceptionally higher than where they are supposed to be. I could write a few pages on the consequences of warmer temperatures and the effects of global warming and climate change, but that’s environmental studies—not meteorology. Meteorology is about the now, or addressing the rest of the season. 

Photo from @TerryWBZ on Twitter.

So what’s so bad right now about our warm winter? For one thing, we rely on our snowpack for drinking water. Our reservoirs remain below average from this past summer’s unusually dry spell. We have rebuilt to safe levels once again, but our snowpack gives us an extra “cushion” and forces us to wait until the thaw period to use that water as a resource—you can think of it as a bond investment or rainy day fund (don’t mind the pun).

The biggest threat of this warm weather has been the disruption of hibernation patterns. Just look at the trees! They are already starting to bud, which signals that we have entered the spring season. The perennials have followed suit. I don’t need to tell you that birds have also stuck around a lot longer because there hasn’t been a cold snap to signal that it’s time to migrate. And it’s not just the birds; it’s the squirrels, raccoons, turkeys, and bears; oh my! Finally, tourism and the economy for areas that derive their revenue from snowfall, like ski resorts, ice fishing, and snowmobiling, are all suffering from churning a profit with these unusual temperatures and lack of snow. Thankfully, manmade snow, powder guns, and other new snow technologies have helped these areas adapt to maximize their resources. 

Is there any good news? Environmental activists are quick to rationalize that this is solely bad news, but there are some good things about a warmer season. For starters, people are happier! Scientists and psychologists have reported for centuries that people are happier during warmer seasons. This has brought down homicide rates in recent weeks in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia compared to past years. 

Additionally, people are paying less for oil and natural gas. Most people are still using heat this winter, but there hasn’t been a need to raise the thermometer past 70 degrees in most areas of New England. Natural gas remains at extremely high pricing levels, so this unusually warm weather has saved consumers more money. 

Lastly, the state of our beaches has largely been unaffected. Most of our coastal flooding and beach erosion in the Northeast happens during winter. Still, with the lack of Nor’Easters and other winter storms, our coastline has been able to continue to regain strength for previous winter seasons. This winter has been a much-needed blessing to those living directly on the coast after the last few winters that have been brutal and deadly. 

So will it snow? The short answer is yes. The possibility of going without any snow in New England would be astronomically low, but our chances from here on forward start to become less and less. The sun’s angle continues to improve, so we are gaining temperature that way and moving closer to the sun as we approach spring. For it to snow, we would need a larger change in the pattern where we get a week or two of a real cold snap in the 20s. That way, the atmosphere above our heads, all the way to the ground, would remain cold enough to accumulate snow. However, our snowfall on MLK day (2023) in Boston was all associated with a subtropical cyclone that developed over the Atlantic, which signals that the ocean remains “primed” for precipitation but also unusually warm, which is a bad signal for getting snow to the coast.

Photo from @MichaelRLowry on Twitter.

However, our winter season and shot for snow are far from being over. I have my bets on Valentine’s Day and an early March storm (March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb). If you’re looking for snow, put your bets in northern New York and northern New England. And if you really miss the snow, a ticket to Colorado may be your best investment, at least for this season. 

Here at the Rearview, we will continue to bring you updates on your weather and changes in the season that you need to be aware of.

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