EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s mid-January, and the weather continues to be mild here in Southern New England. If you’re wondering where the cold and snow is – you’re not alone.
Climatologically, the coldest part of winter is the next couple of weeks. Through Tuesday, however, this winter has been the 13th warmest on record. Continuous temperature records have been kept in Providence since 1904.
This January is the sixth warmest on record through Jan. 17.
As far as snow goes, the average to date is 14.5 inches, but Providence (T.F. Green Airport) has gotten only 4 inches through Tuesday.
So what is the reason for the mild and not-very-snowy winter? There are actually a few reasons.
The frequent storms on the West Coast are due to a very active Pacific jet stream, bringing waves of moisture to California, resulting in flooding and mudslides there. That jet stream carries the mild Pacific air across the country to New England.
The polar vortex — a river of air around the Arctic — has been strong. When the polar vortex is strong, cold air stays locked around the North Pole.
We did have one blast of cold air around Christmas, following that massive storm that impacted most of the country. Other than that brief period, our weather has been pretty mild this winter.
As has been the case for a long time now, the sea surface temperatures off the New England coast are well above average. When coastal storms impact our area, really cold air is needed to overcome the mild air carried into the coastal plain of Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.
Could things change? Definitely.
There are some indications that the polar vortex could weaken in a couple of weeks, sending colder air southward.
In addition, the Pacific jet stream seems like it will begin to quiet down as well.
We’ve got a long way to go this winter, and weather patterns can change very quickly. Remember winter 2014-15? That winter was pretty quiet up until the last few days of January. Then, perhaps the harshest winter in Southern New England started, with frequent snowstorms and extreme cold.
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