Where is the snow? US approaches midpoint of meteorological winter

Where is the snow? US approaches midpoint of meteorological winter

Rare ‘snownado’ caught on camera in Idaho

The Idaho Department of Transportation said an employee caught the winter phenomenon. (Credit: Idaho Department of Transportation)

As the country marches into the heart of winter and approaches Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, some communities are wondering where the season is, with a lack of snow and temperatures that would make any snowman shiver.

Aside from an arctic blast in December, overall temperatures have been above normal and precipitation below normal for parts of the Northeast, Ohio Valley, and southern Rockies.

A weather pattern flow that has kept major storms from touching the abundant moisture is partly to blame for the lack of freezing precipitation.

The Interstate 95 corridor is one of the regions where the snow deficit is adding up fast. Boston has seen about a foot of snowfall below average, and New York City is half a foot in the red.

Snowfall Tracking (FOX Weather)

The lack of precipitation has caused some popular New England ski resorts to temporarily close due to minimal snow accumulation.

Communities along the US-Canada border, the Northern Rockies, and the Sierra Nevada are experiencing what snow lovers in the Northeast have been clamoring for — lots of freezing precipitation.

Cities such as Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Reno, Nevada, are all reporting above average snowfall.

US Snow Cover Anomaly Map (FOX Weather)


Weekly forecasts released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center show no change in the near future, with an ongoing warm spell affecting the East.

“It’s not just for the North and Northeast, but we’re going to see more in the way of drier and warmer conditions across a good portion of the country,” said FOX Weather meteorologist Craig Herrera.

One big exception to the eastern snow deficit is along some of the Great Lakes, where warmer air masses can lead to heavier precipitation.

“We’ve had a number of lake effect events and they’ve been historic in parts of Buffalo and the Southtowns. Buffalo is now 62 inches above what they normally see for this time of year. Burlington, about 12 inches and, of course, Watertown too,” said Herrera.

The overall warmer and drier than average pattern across much of the East and South was predicted by NOAA ahead of the start of the season.


Warm Weather Tracking (FOX Weather)

Great Lakes ice cover is also below normal

The warmth experienced in the eastern US has also led to a lack of ice on the Great Lakes.

As of early January, Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario averaged about four percent ice cover.

Great Lakes Ice Status (NOAA)

A new year typically begins with double-digit coverage, which rises steadily to around 44 percent during the peak in late February.

In the latest report, Lake Superior led the pack with the most ice, and Lake Ontario had the least with only about one percent of total ice cover.

The ice status of lakes has big implications for how much snow communities around giant bodies of water see.

Great Lakes ice status compared to previous years (NOAA)

Experts say when the lakes are mostly ice-free, it allows the air to pick up extra moisture and create heavy snow events, usually on the east and south coasts.

Areas in New York such as Watertown and Buffalo have been living this pattern since late fall with two historic events that temporarily paralyzed the area.

In November, more than 80 centimeters of snow fell in western New York, causing thousands of power outages and the deaths of at least four people. And just a month later, more than three dozen people were killed when the storm’s strong winds and feet of snow buried the region.

Historically, the pattern known as lake-effect snow tends to close when the lakes freeze and the moisture available to the air masses becomes harder to find.

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