We turned a big corner on winter this week with Wednesday's beautiful weather. It’s the warmest sunny day since before Christmas.
That also means the snowpack may have maxed out in southern New England -- big emphasis on "may have."
March is certainly known for some historic storms, so winter snow may not officially be over just yet.
So how are we doing so far in the snow department this year?
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Going into the winter I wasn't too optimistic about big snow this year. First of all there’s a La Niña (cool water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean), which usually means warmer winters for most of the U.S. with the storm track more through Canada.
Plus, we had a significant snowfall near Boston at Halloween. T-Rex and I measured 6 inches of fresh snow at Faxon Park in Quincy, Massachusetts, on Oct. 30.
Usually when it snows on Halloween we don’t get as much snow during the winter (for reasons not quite understood).
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Much to my amazement, these rules did nor hold true this winter, at least for southern New England so far.
In fact, in some cases we’ve already had a complete winter's worth of snowfall. Especially in the zone that had that 40-plus inch record snowstorm in parts of Vermont and New Hampshire from December 16 to 17.
It seems like there have been a lot of snowstorms. But most of the storms have been marginally cold enough for snow. Places like southeastern Massachusetts have seen more rain than snow.
On Cape Cod, Jeff Merz in South Dennis has measured 21.5 inches so far. That’s only 1.2 inches more than Little Rock, Arkansas, where one of the snowiest winters on record is in progress across the deep south.
But 21.5 inches is close to the average amount of snow Cape Cod gets through February.
Once you move north and west, interior portions of Massachusetts and especially Rhode Island and Connecticut are well over the average normal snowfall to date.
Here’s a rundown of snowfall totals from several official New England climate sites:
Location Snowfall Normal Percent of Normal
Blue Hill Obs., MA 72.3" 44.1" 164%
Worcester, MA 69.8" 47.4" 147%
Windsor Locks, CT 40.7" 31.2" 130%
Warwick, RI 33.5" 26.4" 127%
Concord, NH 57.8" 45.5" 127%
Boston, MA 38.4" 32.2" 119%
Burlington, VT 57.7" 58.0" 99%
Caribou, ME 77.1" 78.6" 98%
Portland, ME 40.8" 44.2" 92%
Mt. Washington, NH 140.2" 177.8" 79%
Bangor, ME 34.6" 48.3" 72%
It’s interesting that during the month of February so far, Bridgeport, Connecticut, (not on the list above) has had more than 30 inches of snow, while Caribou, Maine, has only had a little more than 28 inches.
Also of note, the Mount Mansfield snow stake has a depth of 48 inches at 4,000 feet -- that's 14 inches below the climatological average for Feb. 23.
There are many reasons why you do or do not get a snowy winter.
One of the big factors this season has been a persistent ridge in the southeastern United States with abundant warmth and moisture coming up the coast, and an anomalous well of cold air across central Canada and the central United States, a rather unusual event in a La Niña winter.
Even more astounding is the snow cover chart for Feb. 16. The National Weather Service reports that 72.3% of the lower 48 United States had snow on the ground. That's the greatest extent of snow cover since such records began in 2003.
As of this writing, I look out the window and it’s 50 degrees and the snow is disappearing from the yard. My daffodils and hyacinths are up, and there is a yellow pansy flower. But at the same time, it’s snowing again in the mountains of Vermont.
March can be the snowiest of the season for the mountains of New England, though that hasn’t really happened so much lately. Last year we had a record amount of snow in May. That happened during the coronavirus lockdown, so it went pretty much un-skied.
We will revisit these numbers when the snow season ends. When is that?
The latest measurable snowfall for southern New England is May 9, 1977, when Worcester, Massachusetts, got about a foot.
But then there’s also that Memorial Day storm of May 26, 2013, when 3 feet of snow fell in the Adirondacks of New York, with snow falling in the mountains of New England too.
It's already been quite a winter, but we’re not quite done -- check back again in a couple of months.