The blizzard of 2015 unfurled largely as scripted for southern New England, burying much of Massachusetts in a blanket of white, fluffy snow. But a slight deviation in the storm’s path left New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania with little snow to show for all the hype of the past few days.
The nor’easter occurred at the intersection of several atmospheric disturbances: a low-pressure system that churned up the coast, a disturbance in the jet stream, and a high-pressure system of cold air anchored over eastern Canada. The merger of those disturbances — and the deepening and intensification of the storm — occurred later and slightly farther east and northeast than meteorologists expected.
“The result of that wasn’t extremely meaningful for us,” said Matt Noyes, chief meteorologist for NECN. “We ended up certainly still getting into the teeth of it.”
Because of the cold temperatures, the consistency of the snow was very light and fluffy in much of Massachusetts, allowing it to blow off power lines rather than accumulate as sometimes happens.
The deviation in the storm track meant that areas of Southeastern Massachusetts, such as Plymouth County, may have ended up with fluffier flakes, because the storm came together slightly east of where it was predicted.
“On a very small scale, it meant you had a colder solution for some of the Cape: The rain-snow line stayed out over the ocean instead of’’ advancing to Chatham, Noyes said.
Still, forecasters noted that the strong winds caused power outages, such as on Nantucket, where gusts were measured at greater than 70 miles per hour.
“Southeastern Massachusetts is the area that has power outages, and that coincides with how strong the winds are,” said Stephanie Dunten, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
At Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory, program director Don McCasland said that the ratio of water to snow measured was not unusual: For every inch of water, there were about 10 inches of snow. Farther west, he said, there were reports of greater ratios, with each inch of water creating 15 or more inches of snow.
“We’re only 10 miles from the harbor, and that allows the snow to get a little more saturated, and as you get farther away from the ocean, that saturation decreases, so the ratio is able to go up,” McCasland said. “That is a typical pattern.”
Meteorologists will still be crunching numbers and finalizing observations to determine exactly how long blizzard conditions prevailed, but the accumulation was enough to make it the snowiest in recorded history for January in Boston. It also was one of the top 10 snowiest storms for the city.
January is not typically a month for big storms, so winter-lovers can take heart that this is probably not the last storm of the season. A small storm is brewing for later this week, but if history is any indication, there may be bigger ones to come.
“By the time February comes along, we’re getting into a different pattern of the jet stream bringing storms to us. Temperatures are going up. Humidity is going up,” McCasland said. “Based on 1978 and based on the entire period of record, the answer is yes, we can look forward to more snow.”