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Where is winter? If things keep up, we could see an early spring

A woman and her dog run in the morning mist earlier this month on the Esplanade.Erin Clark / Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

You might not remember, but back in November, temperatures started to cool rapidly as we headed through the month. November would end up as a cooler-than-average and somewhat stormy 30 days.

This pattern continued into the first part of December with an early snowstorm and plenty of cold air. However, towards Christmas, things began to warm up — and we haven’t looked back. Many of the long-range forecasts for the winter had been calling for above-average snowfall. Many of those predictions now look like they will be a bust. Long-range winter forecast are fun to read, but they should never be taken seriously because it’s just a way too complicated atmosphere to be able to predict an entire season accurately.


January will end up being a dry month, the driest in three years.NOAA (custom credit)/NOAA

The lack of snow is frustrating for many, but there are also plenty of people loving the bare ground. This isn’t to say that things couldn’t change in the next couple of weeks, but we are rapidly running out of time for those of you hoping for a blockbuster snowy season.

There’s multiple reasons why we haven’t seen much in the way of snow or cold. One of these reasons is the polar vortex — which we often hear about when it expands or move south — has been locked up tight across the northern part of the planet. This keeps the cold air from penetrating very far south, so even when we’ve gotten some storms without the availability of the cold stuff, we’ve just seen rain.

The arctic oscillation typically fluctuates from positive to negative.NOAA (custom credit)/NOAA

The position of the jet stream has continued to allow Pacific air to stream across the country. When there has been a dip in the jet stream, the dip has occurred in the western part of the United States rather than here in the east.

The upper pattern in early February keeps a southerly flow across the east with milder air.Tropical Tidbits (custom credit)/Tropical Tidbits

The warm weather has also kept the ground from freezing very deeply. One of the earliest blooming small trees in southern New England is called a hamamelis. Mine was already starting to open up this morning a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.


Hamamelis "Diane" was already in bloom in Natick this month.Dave Epstein (custom credit)/Dave Epstein

With the forecast keeping warmer-than-average air in place over the next couple of weeks, it does look to me like we may be in for an early spring.

Of course, we can still get a big snowstorm, and many people who read this will point out it has snowed a lot in March, April, and even into May. However, the reality is that early next week, the gap between sunrise and sunset will increase to 10 hours of daylight, and that starts to prompt nature to go into spring mode. Lots of animals will begin mating, root activity starts to increase, and within the next couple of weeks, the songs of many birds will start to change.

The North Atlantic Oscillation is forecast to remain in the positive mode through mid-February, a bad sign for a cold and snowy period of weather.WeatherBell (custom credit)/WeatherBell

It is going to snow again. The winter season isn’t over yet, but the transitional period from the coldest and darkest days is well underway. If we’re going to get a few cold weeks with significant accumulation of snow, some of these patterns that have been stuck in the warm mode are going to have to change. If not, then you can put a fork in this winter — it will be done.