The winter of 2011-12 has been a very unusual one. Mild temperatures and below average snowfall rates have effected many parts of the country.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Northeastern United States had the third-least snowiest January since the administration started keeping records in 1966. And in that month, 2,890 daily high temperatures were recorded across the nation. And as of Feb. 22, snow covers only 27.1 percent of the continental United States.
Why has it been so unseasonably warm? According to the National Weather Service, the reason is primarily because of the jet stream; the air current that flows West to East across the Northern latitudes of the U.S., Europe and Asia stops cold Arctic air from drifting far south. This year, that jet stream has been straighter and further north, sending the snow the Northeast would usually see to Northern Canada instead. In fact, there is so much snow that Canadian snowy owls have been migrating south to places like Michigan. Flowers are blooming in the Southeast and migrating birds have returned to the Midwest a month ahead of schedule demonstrating the effect winter has had on the environment.
In an area that is known for its snow amounts, this year Central New York has witnessed weather diversity. Winter events have been canceled, winter clothing industries have slumped and thin or no ice has caused more deaths than usual.
The weather is hurting some businesses, while saving money for others.
“We’ve seen a 50 percent drop in the attendance at the slopes this year,” said Rick Bunnell, marketing manager at Labrador Mountain Ski Area.
“We’ve got snow makers and we’ve got 12 trails up and running. But when people don’t see the snow in their own backyard, they have no motivation for skiing here.”
Because of the conditions, little snow removal equipment has been needed.
“We saved a lot of money in 2010 because of a long January thaw,” said Kurt Ospelt, Oswego County Highway Department Superintendent, “we started out with a budget of about 2.7 million and ended the season with 400,000 dollars still to our name. We expect even more this year. We haven’t spent much money on salt, fuel for the plows, or anything this year.”
Forecasters say that it is nearly possible for winter to simply pass on by. March is still ahead and is a popular month for cold weather and storms.