Snow drought continues with one month left of winter

Winter Weather

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Winter, where are you? Mother Nature isn’t playing so nicely for those who want a cold, snowy season in Southern New England.

Winter 2019-20 so far

The latest numbers show we are well below average in terms of snowfall this winter. Since Dec. 1, 2019, a total of 11.6″ of snow has been recorded at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick. The climatological average (the average taken over 30 years) for mid-February is 23.3″ — meaning we have a deficit of nearly a foot.

Meanwhile, Boston is experiencing a similar snow deficit while neighboring Worcester and Hartford haven’t done too terribly so far this winter.

LOCATIONSEASON TOTAL [12/1/2019 – 2/19/2020] SEASON AVERAGE [2/19/2020]
BOSTON15.1″28.9″
WORCESTER35.0″41.9″
HARTFORD25.7″27.4″

The contrast can be seen from outer space. The image below was taken on Monday, Feb. 17, and shows the stark difference between the snow-covered ground north of the Mass Pike and the brown, snowless ground south of the highway.

New England satellite image from Feb. 17, 2020

This story differs across interior Northern New England. Let’s take Burlington, Vermont, for example. Since Dec. 1, 2019, a total of 47.2″ of snow was recorded at Burlington International Airport in South Burlington. The climatological average for mid-February is 49.8″ — a deficit of 2.6″.

With minimal snowfall in Southern New England, it’s been difficult for ski areas like Exeter’s Yawgoo Valley to maintain a good snowbase.

Yawgoo Valley remains open despite below-normal snowfall »

What’s causing the Southern New England snow drought?

First off, a snow drought doesn’t mean we are experiencing a drought (a deficit of precipitable water). In fact, T.F. Green has recorded 11.64″ of precipitable water since Dec. 1, 2019. That is 1.53″ above the normal value of 10.11″ for mid-February.

With that in mind, we haven’t had a lack of precipitation, just a lack of cold air! The majority of winter storms that have traversed across Southern New England have traveled too far north, which allows for a warmer air mass to undercut any cold air.

To simplify: When an area of low-pressure (center of the storm) tracks across our region, if it comes to far inland, generally we see a wintry mix to all rain. If the center of the low-pressure system travels south of us, we have a better chance of seeing snow.

One other thing we could look at includes where all the cold air is. As we’ve previously discussed, we have felt mild temperatures since the start of the new year.

In the animated image above, you are looking at the Polar Vortex. Think of this as an area of an arctic air trapped underneath a spinning dome. During the forecast, it doesn’t show any signs of breaking off, sending a surge of cold air south.

According to NOAA, over the next three months, all of Southern New England will experience a 33% chance of above-average temperatures.

NOAA 3 month temperature outlook.

What does this mean for the rest of the winter?

Spring officially arrives on March 19 so the clock is ticking down on what’s left of winter. So what can we expect for the rest of the season?

The model forecast doesn’t favor any significant weather in the coming days. Rather, the extended forecast looks mostly quiet. There are a few minor hiccups that will require monitoring late next week and early next month.

Otherwise, the forecast doesn’t appear to bring in any periods of significant unsettled weather.

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