By Eric Fisher

BOSTON (CBS) – Welcome to mid-winter! And, at least for a little while, it’s starting to feel like it. Every year we come out with an annual winter outlook, and some go better than others. We accurately predicted the harsh winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15, as well as the mild conditions of 2015-16. The winter of 2017-18 was going great, until March let loose at the very end. After feeling good about this “educated guess” project we try to make fun and educational for our viewers, we got egg smashed on our face last winter.

A season that looked like it was flashing snowy ended up being completely contrary. Weather is humbling, which is also why so many of us are fascinated by it! Which brings us to today. Are we going to get the seasonal outlook train back on the tracks?

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Well so far, so good! Much like last year, all the action has been upfront with very little to follow. More than halfway through climatological winter and the average temperature and snowfall totals across southern New England are nearly identical to this point last year. Again, most spots are having a Top 15 warmest winter on record. And this may be surprising, since the global weather patterns are almost completely opposite.

Instead of the circulation that had a strong polar vortex and no high-latitude blocking in 2019-20, we have a polar vortex that has split multiple times, continues to be weak, and tons of high-latitude blocking. Nearly the whole winter has seen -NAO (Greenland blocking) and -AO (a negative arctic oscillation, or high pressure over the North Pole). At first glance, a weather enthusiast would think we’d be getting thrashed with snow.

But the common denominator between this winter and last has been the dominant feature – the Pacific. And this is generally the elephant in the room during the winter season. Being upstream and a huge climate driver, what occurs over the Pacific has big ramifications for North America. Both this winter and last have seen a +EPO, meaning no significant ridging over the North Pacific near Alaska. Without a building ridge in that region, it’s more difficult to open the freezer door to the Arctic and let frigid air masses and polar disturbances come our way. Instead, all the cold has been pushed to the other side of the hemisphere, into Asia and, at times, Europe.

So to this point, a milder Pacific air mass has been in control. We just had a month straight where every single day was milder than average in southern New England, a remarkable feat of persistence that has been topped only once (in December-January of 2015-16). Boston has yet to have a subfreezing day in January, though that will finally change this weekend. Pond ice has been minimal, and snowfall has followed suit. Just 0.2” has fallen in Boston since the mid-December snowstorm on the 17th.

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All in all, everything is on track. The question becomes – what’s next?

The final week of January will bring a bout of -EPO as that ridge near Alaska bulks up, but it appears to be temporary. It will bring seasonably cold air to finish out the month, and along with it an opportunity for some snow. The first system arrives early Tuesday, but indicators are it will likely stay south of here with only minor snow potential. There should be another window at the very end of the month where snow would be *possible*.

Looking ahead to February, there aren’t any indicators that it is going to be a harsh month. If anything, we would favor another milder than average month overall, which locks in a milder than average winter. You can pretty much already bank that, because it would take some extreme cold in February to erase the big lead built up from December 1st to now. We will continue to keep our temperature outlook from November unchanged.

How about snowfall? Well, that’s always the trickiest part. We started off with a snowfall prediction in the 10-30” bucket.

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Currently, we’re at 17.5”. But there’s a lot of winter left. February is typically our snowiest month, and just 1 or 2 solid hits will put us over the limit. But without anything glaring on the horizon just yet, we’re going to let the outlook ride and see how it plays out. I can’t say I feel 100% confident we’ll stay under 30” in Boston, but the theme of the winter seems to be going as expected thus far with little to report in the way of harsh conditions or snow cover. We will have another (and likely final) update in early February when there are a few weeks left in the climatological season.

Eric Fisher