Is Winter Slipping Away? Update 2/2/13

What started with so much promise late December and early January has gradually wasted away to a corpse. As I like to say, “The snow pack doesn’t lie!”

After the Thaw to end January, here is the snow pack comparison for February 1st between 2013 and 2012:

Snow pack

Snow pack February 1

There are subtle variations, but the pattern is essentially the same. It took almost a month, but the Ghost of 2011-12 has whittled away our early bounty.

What happened?

The two January Thaws were the obvious problem. The subtle problem was failure of the polar and subtropical jets to phase into significant snow events. In addition, the Alberta Clippers in the polar jet were amazingly WEAK. Aside from a nice 3-6 inch snowfall on the 28th and lake effect snows on the 31st, the central Adirondacks essentially got stiffed for snow fall in January. In short, we whiffed on the opportunities for snow when it got cold.

What’s up next?

The North Atlantic (NAO) and Arctic Oscillations (AO) are forecast to be in their positive phases well into February. That is NOT good!

Osciillations

That configuration scours the cold air out of the Canadian Arctic. No cold in Canada means no cold for us!

Look at the relative WARMTH extending across Canada into the eastern United States by mid-February:

Temperature Anomaly

The present cold spell is doomed to collapse because of the NAO+/AO+ configuration is already in place. But this time, there will be no fresh Arctic air mass to replace it!

Any hope for significant snow in early February?

Outside of the lake effect areas, the weak clippers are not going to generate significant snow. However, we may see a decent snow around the 8th as a disturbance in the Pacific jet (X1) approaches:

ECWMF February 8th

Even IF we get decent snow before next weekend, the wheels will be starting to fall off. The polar jet will have retreated into northern Canada, scouring out the cold air. The following storm (X2) will likely be a rain event. The moral of the story is to hit the snow if we get it!

Can we get a big finish?

I believe the North Atlantic and Arctic Oscillations would have to start tanking simultaneously into negative territory around mid-February for that to happen. That has only occurred ONCE this winter, around mid-December. We all know what happened in late December. Rarely does March turn a lousy winter around. Most of the time, a snowy March is the extension of a good winter in progress. So, the bottom line is that we’ll need to start making some serious noise on the back third of February to make a good run into March.

Could that happen? Maybe. But the stubborn tendency for the North Atlantic Oscillation to remain essentially neutral for the majority of the winter doesn’t excite me. Sometimes, things are what they are.

As always, we’ll see what happens!

Darrin @ ilsnow.com

Comments welcomed!

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