Ask anyone about the winter of 2010/2011 in Dutchess County and they will all say, “Enough is enough!”
Since Thanksgiving, temperatures started their decline and we’ve averaged well below normal since then. We virtually had no snow in December until after Christmas, and since then it hasn’t stopped. At least eight storms since our blizzard on December 26 and 27th, with more than six feet of snow in Pawling so far. Bitter cold temperatures, with below zero readings at least three times, not to mention that this has been one of the windiest seasons I can recall.
Do you remember the winter of 1995/96? More than 100 inches of snow was recorded, but for some reason, this season seems worse. In this meteorologist’s professional opinion, In 1995/1996 the storms were spread out over a longer period of time. As we all know, up to this point, this season has shown no mercy…one storm after the other.
As I sit in my weather office gazing out the window (yes we do have a window), and looking at the long range maps, it appears a pattern shift in coming soon, on or about Feb 16th. At that point, I would say we will have broken winter’s back. This is not to say we won’t see more snow or cold weather, but we will see intervals of warmer air, with more storms producing rain or ice.
Why the change? Until recently, the jet stream (air currents in the upper atmosphere) has produced a flow of very cold air from eastern Russia and western Canada. If you haven’t heard the term “Alberta Clipper” before this season, you’ve become aware of it now. Up to this point, the jet stream has been Meridional, or north to south. It now appears that the jet stream will become less persistent and we will begin seeing more of a zonal flow (west to east), which means instead of the bitter cold Polar/Arctic air mass we’ve been accustomed to, this air mass will be Maritime in nature, as it originates in the Pacific Ocean. This flow pattern will result in a more moderate temperature scheme.
Why such a cold winter so far? Global warming, global cooling, sunspot cycles, La Nina, El Nino? Nobody knows for sure, but in my humble opinion, I believe what is obvious to me – that the sun influences global weather and that we are entering into a new solar cycle that has a history of cooler global temperatures, meaning in the next 20-25 years, you may start hearing cries about global cooling again, like we did in the 1970’s.
I truly believe, while La Nina and solar cycles do influence our local weather, it was just one of those random years where Mother Nature was annoyed.
Predicting weather on a daily basis months or years out may never be more than 50 percent accurate. Anytime new construction takes place, someone coughs, new trees or plants are grown – on a micro scale – you are changing the weather. So, unless one day, we live under a dome with a controllable atmosphere, like what we’ve seen in some Star trek episodes, Mother Nature will continue to throw curves balls at us. By the way, January, 2011 was the coldest January in the U.S. in 17 years.
Mike Shustak has a Bachelor of Science degree is Meteorology from Lyndon State College and has worked in aviation weather for 31 years.