Where's Winter? Mythbusting: Your questions answered
Scroll down for an interactive "Where's Winter?" mythbuster video.If you watched the weathercast on Thursday at 5:30 you saw us talk about why there has been so little winter (i.e. snow and cold) so far this year. Dave Longley just posted a blog summary of what is going on in the atmosphere this winter. Also, I took a moment to dispel a few myths about the winter. Call it the CNY meteorological mythbusters. Our winter has been so mild and so snowless we are going to ‘pay’ for it.
It’s human nature to think this. In science class the conception that “for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction” is drummed into our head. In fact, Sir Issac Newton discovered this as one of his laws of motion back in the late 1600s. However, in the world of weather it doesn’t mean we have to pay for this winter right away. After all, by this theory we are still waiting to pay for our warm Fall.
To show we may not ‘pay’ for this winter as we head into the late-winter, early-spring, here are some numbers. I looked at temperature and snowfall during March, April and May in the top 10 least snowy winters in Syracuse (using airport data):
Overall, just going by this chart it doesn't look like the early spring season is that particularly harsh in those past winters with much below snowfall. When looking at March, a large majority (8 out of 10 years) had temperatures above normal and none listed above ended up with above-normal March snowfall.
|2001-02||59.4”||+2.7 F||14.1”||+3.0 F||2.6”||-3.1 F|
|1994-95||62.2”||+3.2 F||7.1”||-3.7 F||4.7”||-.4 F|
|1982-83||66.0”||+1.5 F||8.3”||-1.8 F||16.4”||-3.7 F|
|1956-57||76.1”||+.9 F||12.7”||+2.3 F||7.0”||-1.4 F|
|1961-62||77.3”||+.4 F||1.2”||+1.2 F||5.7”||+4.9 F|
|1952-53||77.5”||+2.6 F||9.2”||-.8 F||.1”||+.1 F|
|1980-81||79.0”||+2.2 F||10.6”||+3.9 F||.4”||+1.8 F|
|1972-73||81.2”||+8.4 F||3.6”||+.7 F||5.3”||-3.1 F|
|1967-68||81.2”||-1.0 F||10.7”||+ 2.0 F||Tr||-3.8 F|
|1966-67||83.0”||-2.6 F||14.9”||-1.2 F||.3”||-7.2 F|
April is a bit trickier as temperatures are almost split down the middle. What probably jumps out at you is the 16.4” of snow that fell in 1983. At this point, I don’t think that's a possibility for us this time around. The winter of 1982-83 occurred during one of the bigger El Nino events of the past 40 years. This winter we are still in the midst of a La Nina, which is why I think it's not fair to include 1982-83 in any comparison.
If there is a historical case for us paying for a snowless winter -- then May could be the month. Six of those ten months had temperatures that were below normal with only 2 above and 2 were close to normal.This winter is a lot like the Winter of 1965-66 leading up to the Blizzard of ‘66.The Blizzard of ‘66 was certainly one of the most impactful storms in Syracuse weather history. Over 40” of snow fell in Syracuse over the course of 3 days with 100” of wind-whipped snow in Oswego.
True, there are some similarities to this year. In 1965-’66, the weather to start winter was rather quiet by Central New York winter standards. Through the first week of January there was little snow (just over 14” of snow for the season through that point) and it was mild. However, after January 10 things began to change. Snow began to fall on a regular basis and it did get cold, in fact very cold at times. In the two and a half weeks leading up to the Blizzard of ‘66 our high temperature averaged 23 degrees. It culminated with -26 on February 26th which, 46 years later, is still tied for the coldest recorded temperature in Syracuse history. There were also a couple of feet of snow that fell in that time frame and we had a decent snowpack before the Blizzard hit.
So it is hard to make a case that this year is just like 1965-66 where winter started in earnest in early January, while this year we are still waiting for true winter, a full month later on the calendar.We’ve never had a winter like this before.Readers of this blog already know the answer to this since I blogged about it a week ago. Through early February our numbers this winter matched up closely with the Winter of 2001-’02. If anything, that winter was actually a bit warmer than what we’ve experienced this winter.
And before that winter, we had the Winter of 1994-95 which featured only 66.2” of snow for the season and a stretch of 60 degree weather in the middle of January.
Before that there was the Winter of 1982-83. A winter that could have ended up with about 50” of seasonal snow if it wasn’t for a very snowy April.
So a winter like this has happened before, and quite recently.With the lack of snow this winter our water tables are going to suffer.This is also a myth. We don’t live in the west where they depend on a stormy winter season for snow and ultimately water for the rest of the year. Luckily, our precipitation is spread throughout the year with most months receiving 3 to 4.” We had a very wet 2011 headed into this winter and even if we haven’t had much snow we have had rain. Since December 1st we are about a third of an inch ahead of normal for precipitation.
Here is more from a blog that Dave Longley wrote a few weeks ago.
So it may feel that with all this warmth and lack of snow 'something' is going to happen, like we aren't getting enough moisture or we'll get a stretch of winter that will bring to normal, but as you can see that may not be the case.
Interactive "Where's Winter?" Mythbuster
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