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Anyone who stepped out of the office for a pleasant lunch Friday can confirm it: It's been unusually dry and warm recently in Boston.

At an average temperature of 48.6 degrees, last month ranked as the ninth-warmest November the city has had since recordkeeping began in 1872, according to data from the National Weather Service.

It was just the 15th November in all those years without even a trace of snowfall.

And the recent dry spell has parts of Massachusetts in a moderate drought.

Forecasters expect the pattern to continue for at least a few more weeks, creating the potential that some local communities could break records for the latest date of measurable snowfall. (Boston's record is Jan. 13, set in 2000.)

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But Boston could still see big snowstorms, forecasters say.

Remember: Winter has not even begun yet, and last year's first meaningful snowfall didn't come until late January.

The main factor behind the warm weather now is a strong El Niño, an area with unusually warm sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that can dictate long-term weather patterns for much of the country.

"We're not surprised this winter has gotten off to a slow start, given the strong El Niño," said Joseph D'Aleo, chief forecaster for WeatherBELL Analytics.

But even during a strong El Niño, snow and cold, while less likely, cannot be ruled out.

"It doesn't mean it can't snow," said Brett Anderson, a senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com.

And, forecasters expect El Niño to start to weaken at some point, possibly during a month that residents know all too well as generally miserable.

"If you're looking for snow and cold, you're probably going to have to wait until February," Anderson said.

The timing of when El Niño weakens could be crucial in determining how much snow we get this winter. If it doesn't weaken until spring, that could mean less snow. If it weakens sooner, we could have a snowy finale to winter, experts say.

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Numerous forecasters have said in recent weeks that they doubt this winter will see snowfall totals anywhere close to last year's record-breaker, nor do they expect the sustained cold that froze the region last year.

But don't throw away your boots and shovels just yet. Precipitation and freezing cold are likely on the way, and that can be a woeful mix.

"We do think it is eventually going to get cold enough so that some of these storms are snow," D'Aleo said.


Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau @globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele.