BOSTON (CBS) – The WBZ-TV weather team will not be scooped by a groundhog!
In less than 24 hours Punxsutawney Phil will peek out (or, better yet, be yanked out) of his hibernation in Pennsylvania to a rabid crowd awaiting the definitive word on the next several weeks.
Will it be an early spring or 6 more weeks of winter?
Well, sorry for taking the wind out of your sails Phil, but we have some thoughts of our own for the remainder of winter.
This winter has been a bit strange.
You really can’t say that it has been a mild winter. Overall, temperatures have averaged a few degrees above normal but certainly nothing like the non-winter of last year.
We have had some serious bouts of cold, including the longest below freezing stretch in 8 years (January 21-27) but we have certainly had some mild spells too, including two days over 60 in January. So, temperature-wise, it has been a fairly normal winter thus far.
Snowfall has been a very different story.
While many areas like Worcester and Cape Cod have seen near normal snow this season, Boston just can’t seem to buy a snowstorm!
It has been sort of like a Goldilocks syndrome this season for Boston – storms have either been too far south, too mild, or many times have developed just a bit too late. There are several reasons for this but the two most important I believe are the milder than normal ocean and a very “normal” NAO.
First, the waters of the Atlantic off the shores of New England has been running well above normal over the last few months. So, storms that normally would be snow-makers along the coast have turned to rain in Boston due to the mild ocean influence.
Second is something we call the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation). You may have heard us mention this before, it is a very important factor each winter here in New England. Basically, when the NAO is negative that means that a block has setup in Northern latitudes, near Greenland, and this forces two things to happen – cold air is shunted to the south (into New England) and storms are blocked and slowed down, often right near our coastline. This is often the cause of some of our big Nor’easters in winter.
Well the NAO for just about the entire winter has been very even-keeled (check it out here). You will see that there have been no large fluctuations since late October and early November (which just so happened to be when Sandy hit and an early season November Nor’easter).
Something you may also notice by looking at that NAO chart is that the forecast going forward into February is for more of the same.
This is very important in considering the forecast for the next several weeks. In order to get a big snowmaker under these conditions you kind of have to get lucky.
The pattern over the next 7-to-10 days is for an active northern jet stream, with several small, weak storms firing out of Canada (also known as “Clippers”). This is also similar to what we have seen all winter – a lot of 1-to-3 inch “snow storms” that are quick movers and we are left trying to catch their development as they fly by. But, so far, most of these storms have developed too late and dropped most of their snow over the fish.
So the forecast for February at this point is for more of the same.
Winter isn’t going anywhere just yet. We will have some very cold stretches followed by brief warm ups and each week there will likely be a couple of chances at snow. But more than likely you will see a lot of 1-3 inches of snow maps rather than the 6-to-12 inches until we can get a true pattern change.
Of course, it only takes one or two “big ones” to make up for what was otherwise a less than stellar snowy winter, but for now I do not see any of those big ones in our near future.
So six more weeks of winter – yes. But huge amounts of snow? Not so sure.
Take that Phil!
And by the way, if for whatever reason you are a groundhog junkie and need a fix on Saturday, head on out to Drumlin Farm in Lincoln where local groundhog, Ms. G will be making her bold winter prediction.
Members of our weather team will be on hand with the Mobile AccuWeather Lab as well.
For more information visit www.massaudubon.org.
You can follow Terry on Twitter at @TerryWBZ.