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Where is Winter?

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Where is Winter?

The beginning of February marked the official halfway point of winter. With spring a little over a month away, winter still hasn’t arrived in full force in many areas. This has many of you calling, emailing, and commenting on our site, wanting to know what gives.

The last two winters were dominated by a pattern known as the North Atlantic Oscillation, a big block in the upper levels of the atmosphere over Greenland. When that block is in place, very cold air over the polar region gets diverted southward and brings frigid air into the United States and southern Canada. This blocking pattern also allows storms moving up from the south to slow down, intensify, and dump a lot of snow. We saw this all too well over the last two years, with the Snowmageddon of 2010, the crippling Groundhog Day Storm of 2011, and plenty of other big snow events.

Ironically, when this happens, that very cold air is almost absent in the usually icy regions across central and northern Canada and Alaska, causing winters in these far-northern locales to be unusually mild.

Unlike the last two winters, though, this winter has seen a near total absence of NAO. That means the very frigid air has been pinned up across the northern parts of North America, while farther south, there has been very little penetration of cold air at all this winter. Alaska, for instance, is experiencing its seventh coldest winter on record. With no blocking pattern, most of the southern storms have been racing rapidly along, unable to intensify much, and depositing little in the way of substantial snowfall.

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Obviously, because of the lack of an Arctic Oscillation that was so prevalent the last two winters, this winter has been considerably milder than what most forecasts had indicated. However, in the coming weeks, we’ll be seeing more in the way of unsettled and even stormy weather conditions. There are signs that the NAO will try to make a comeback in the coming weeks, but we’re not 100% sure that it will. With the mild air still in place, the likelihood is that we’ll be looking at more rain than snow. All you need, though, is a properly positioned storm to develop relative to a wave of cold air and you can receive a significant snowfall.

March can be a pretty wild month, so if you’re a winter weather lover, don’t give up the ship just yet! Our long-range outlook suggests an active weather pattern in February and March, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens!

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1 Amana { 02.26.12 at 8:03 am }

I’m from fl but the navy has us stationed in new York and I hate hate snow!! Alittle bit is ok but last year was awful. I wish every year was like this!! Everyday I look out the window and see no snow (or very very little) I jump for joy!! Bring on spring without an awful snowstorm baby 🙂

2 Heather { 02.22.12 at 10:12 am }

I check this website everyday! Love it! So what does this mean for summer? I actually wish we had cold and snow. I keep getting sick from the wonky up and down temperatures. And I like to walk in knee deep snow to exercise..though I don’t like driving in it. I’m sad by the snow-less winter here in southern ontario. I’m getting married on a farm in August. I sure hope it’s not raining and cool!

3 Jaime McLeod { 02.21.12 at 9:01 am }

We’re calling for a pretty active tornado season, though probably not as bad as last year. You can see our full forecast for the next four months here:

4 sarah { 02.19.12 at 6:55 pm }


What is the Tornado season looking like for Virginia? Shenandoah Valley in particular?

5 Super08 { 02.18.12 at 12:24 pm }

I really appreciate the rain we have received here in the foothills of Rutherford, NC, and even though some snow is ok, I personally am fine with out it, but would liked to have had some much colder days than we have had because if we do have colder days I believe we will have a bad flea and tic season, so bring on some winter.

6 Phyllis Poole { 02.18.12 at 8:31 am }

No one mentioned the wind -I didn’t read all the comments. I hated northern Okla when I had to live there 4 yrs. (husbands home state). because of the dirty (grit filled) wind. Now I am in Ind where the weather has all 4 seasons and I like that except I am now on 6 acres with much farm land surrounding me and much wind -all yr. long! 40degree takes me out to hit golf balls for my dog to chase but the wind makes it more like 30 or less. As I get older I hate the snow -guess that’s why so many older people go south to live.

7 Carl Manley { 02.16.12 at 6:12 pm }

I live in Philadelphia,Pa. and these unseasonably warm temperatures are upsetting to many of us in the east because we are so used to snow and wind chill temperatures. many of us like to take our children sledding in the snow along with the typical snow ball fights and creating snow angels. children even complain about not having any snow days in school so far this year. I’m a cold weather person myself I don’t like really like the spring and I hate the summer time. But I guess we have to deal with the weather no matter if we like it or not because there’s not much anybody can really do about it except complain because life most certainly goes on !!!!

8 James { 02.16.12 at 9:43 am }

I myself & others believe this VERY mild Winter is due to the Gulf Stream’s erratic behavior which in turn affects the North Atlantic Oscillation. Most know the Gulf Stream is the engine to many day to day weather pattern’s, it’s the outer circulatory system of our Earth. Why has it changed and became erratic? All due to the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil blow out of 2010, oil, tar and corexit. A little research will show the Gulf Stream was wounded severely.
Truth, Peace & Love2ALL
SSArt98 (James)

9 steven { 02.15.12 at 10:11 pm }

I’m glad we have been getting a little bit of rain here in South Texas this winter, it will not end the drought but every little bit helps.

Hopefully another hundred degrees May,but I am an ACR

10 Jaime McLeod { 02.16.12 at 11:08 am }

The answer to your question would vary, depending on your location. You can see a portion of our long-range forecast here:

The third and fourth week of June aren’t up yet – we offer four months at a time, from today’s date – but they will be available by the end of February.

11 yoverizon { 02.15.12 at 9:07 pm }

I am always on this website lol. We are planning to go on summer vacation around the 3rd or 4th week of June. What is June forecasted to be like? Plenty hot enough I hope. Thanks!

12 Crystal { 02.15.12 at 7:41 pm }

Well Living in Ga I know that if we don’t get enough cold weather it effect the peach crop. Prices will be sky high. Also we will have Bugs. We need a cold winter and I love the winter and always hope for some snow…

13 Jenn Jenn { 02.15.12 at 6:00 pm }

What would life be without the four seasons? Love to have all four! If you despise winter that much, there are plenty of places where it doesn’t exist, so by all means, relocate! But don’t will my winter away. The only thing I can’t take is a dreadfully hot and humid summer. I like the gradual transitioning.

14 BeamMeUp { 02.15.12 at 5:07 pm }

Europe has had some brutal winter weather the past few weeks. It sound like that’s where our winter went.

15 Norma cheran { 02.15.12 at 2:38 pm }

I hope it never snows again in my lifetime. This winter has been bearable. Can’t wait for summer.

16 Katie { 02.15.12 at 1:56 pm }

I hope this doesn’t mean that we will fry in the heat this summer.

17 torry { 02.15.12 at 12:51 pm }

I would rather have rain than snow “th e rain is a lot easier to shovel than snow”

18 john { 02.15.12 at 12:28 pm }

Does the unusuality of this winter season signal the feasibility of Spring violent storms?

19 Jaime McLeod { 02.15.12 at 5:02 pm }

David, No, it was definitely 2010, though last year did have some big storms, too.

20 David { 02.15.12 at 11:08 am }

“We saw this all too well over the last two years, with the Snowmageddon of 2010, the crippling Groundhog Day Storm of 2011, and plenty of other big snow events.” — Wasn’t Snowmaggedon in 2011? I could’ve sworn that was last year, cancelled an entire week of school here.

21 Diana from CNY { 02.15.12 at 10:56 am }

My “old farmer” grandpa used to say: “Open winter, drought in summer”, I’m going to hope that is wrong.

22 Fizzles { 02.15.12 at 10:46 am }

It means that the Sierra mountains are in for a bad fire season and rural communities are worried about water source..

23 JP Madren { 02.15.12 at 9:42 am }

…seems to me like we’re getting in a pattern of getting more and more precipitation in the winter and even late enough in the spring as to delay planting, then pretty much nothing till mid September rolls around again. I’m glad I got my well dug out deeper!

24 bcreasey { 02.15.12 at 9:21 am }

I love the mild winters I will take the rain any day over snow!

25 stephan { 02.14.12 at 10:11 am }

@dyson, Typically the largest impact on a summer following little or no winter precipitation is drought. As the snow/ice would melt it would equate to rainfall. Hopefully the areas experiencing this will pick up the extra needed rainfall during Spring/Summer.

26 yoverizon { 02.13.12 at 10:38 am }

In Virginia we always have snow every year. In my years of living i havent seen a year without snow and i have a terrible feeling that this will be our first. Im a winter lover and February isnt any better. Maybe its about time I give up on a snow this year

27 dyson { 02.13.12 at 8:17 am }

So what does this mean for the upcomeing summer if anything

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