You’re not wrong. There’s been no winter this winter. So far anyway.
With little less than a week left in February and two weeks before Daylight Saving Time begins, the winter of 2019-2020 in Boston looks destined to go down in the books as unusually warm and fairly snow-free.
This meteorological winter, the period that includes December, January, and February, is likely to end up being among the top five or six warmest since records have been kept, said Glenn Field, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Norton office.
Temperatures rose into the 40s on Saturday and 50s on Sunday afternoon. Warm weather will continue into Monday before it turns cloudy and damp for the middle of the week, according to the weather service.
A storm dropped 7.1 inches of snow in Boston over three days at the beginning of December, but the pace has slowed markedly since. Only another 4.4 inches fell that month, followed by 3.1 inches in January and 0.5 inches so far in February. Forecasts suggest there’s not much chance of more snow by the end of this month.
For meteorological winter, the current total of 15.1 inches is far below the average of about 33 inches.
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are now largely free of snow cover, with the exception of a swath along the northern tier of Massachusetts and in western parts of the state, according to the weather service. There is snow covering the ground, however, in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
If you add up the total Boston snowfall from last meteorological winter and this winter, it falls a few inches short of one average season’s worth. The boxed set of mild winters is a change — and likely a welcome relief to many — after a decade of blockbuster winters and far-above average snowfall, including the soul-draining winter of 2014-2015.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in October predicted a warmer-than-normal meteorological winter. It doesn’t predict snowfall months in advance. But Accuweather, the private forecasting service, ventured to predict above-normal snow and other storms from New York City to Boston. It looks like that may turn out to be wrong.
Why so toasty? The seasons are affected by a number of large-scale atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns, including El Nino, La Nina, Arctic oscillation, North Atlantic oscillation, Pacific North American pattern, and Madden-Julian oscillation.
The patterns oscillate between different phases and, depending on where they are in their rhythms, parts of the globe can be warmer or colder than average and wetter or drier than average.
The patterns this season have been stuck in a mode conducive to warm weather in Southern New England. The Madden-Julian oscillation, for example, has been generally stuck in phases that have typically been correlated with warmer-than-average temperatures in the Eastern United States.
The Arctic oscillation also has been very strongly positive, which means that the jet stream winds at high levels of the atmosphere are stronger than average as they circle the pole. When this happens, the cold polar air has a tough time breaking out of those strong circulating winds and moving south.
The warmth hasn’t been confined to New England. Karin Gleason, a climate scientist at NOAA’S National Centers for Environmental Information, said this meteorological winter through January could be the warmest ever in the Lower 48 states, edging out the 2015-2016 season. “I think it is fair to say a record for winter is a possibility and that we will definitely be watching this closely,” she said in an e-mail.
Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, said a dip in the jet stream to our west has also helped New England.
Will the party end in March?
It is going to turn chilly next weekend, weather which will likely continue into the first few days of March, but thereafter it looks like another warm up. Winters that are this mild typically do not turn into “Blockbuster March” stretches with lots of snow or deep cold.
The average March sees 7.6 inches of snow. The snowiest March, in 1993, saw 38.9 inches of snow. Last year, you may remember, 13.5 inches fell, while in March 2018, we got 23.3. So don’t stow away those scrapers, shovels, and boots quite yet.
“Never say never,” said Field. “We’ve been known to have snows as late as April . . . The good news is that the later we get in the season, the quicker it melts.”
Martin finucane can be reached at email@example.com