winter 2016-2017

Winter 2016-2017 What You Missed

Winter 2016-2017 Preview Connecticut Hudson Valley

winter 2016-2017

As we look ahead to the upcoming Winter 2016-2017 we take a look at the Hudson Valley & Connecticut. These seasonal snowfall averages should be used with caution because it is my contention that the normals are not accurate for Long Island and Coastal Connecticut and should be at least 5 to 10 inches higher. Over the last 10-15 years with the addition of reporting stations in between the main stations, we have seen the emergence of many micro climates that enhance snowfall higher. For example in Southern Connecticut there is a hole that exists between Bridgeport and New London where averages actually should be lower than the areas on either side. This is due to the fact that many times the area in between misses out on coastal intensification that sometimes buries Central and Eastern Long Island and from Rhode Island eastward, but misses Southeastern Connecticut. In the Hudson Valley snowfall is usually enhanced by the east facing hills of Rockland, Orange, and Sullivan Counties where amounts can also be higher.

winter 2016-2017

We also have the general trend of the last 15 or so winters where the coast has seen more snow than inland areas. Last year was a perfect example of this as the snowfall deficits from normal were far higher as you went north. Also there are errors on this map where coastal areas of Long Island should be showing a surplus of snowfall as many areas near the coast finished with 40-50 inches for the season. However the inland area stats are correct. Thanks to the Blizzard 2016 it brought the snowfall totals up in southern areas whiel areas to the north including the Hudson Valley and Connecticut showed snowfall deficits of 20-30 inches or more from normal.

There are some things about this coming winter that at the moment are nagging at me. The first is the persistent drought that continues and there seems to be no signs of that pattern changing in the next few weeks. Granted that October is the driest month of the year so it is playing to form according to the season. However at some point we need to see that pattern flip. There is nothing that says that the winter can’t be cold dry and snowless.

winter 2016-2017

The second thing that is bothersome to me and it is tied to the drought pattern is the persistent ridge in the east that shows no signs of breaking down. It keeps popping up time after time and until that breaks down, we can’t even begin to confidently forecast anything in the medium and longer term much less the entire winter.

Winter 2016-2017 Eastern Pennsylvania

 winter 2016-2017

When it comes to annual snowfall in Pennsylvania there are three worlds. First is the world of Southeastern Pennsylvania extended westward to not quite Altoona. It is mostly the area along and south of Route 76. This area has among the lowest 30 year averages around the state based on the National Weather Service 30 year average from 1980-2010. These averages are skewed lower because of a number of below normal years that occurred between 1980-2000. When you adventure into Northeastern Pennsylvania the amounts go sharply higher thanks to the colder winter climate there and elevation. Then of course numbers increase considerably as you head west of Williamsport thanks to lake effect. This of course peaks in the northwestern corner of the state where it is in the 70 inch plus range. All of this was horribly reversed last year thanks to the Blizzard of January 2016 which was pretty much most if not all of the snow that fell for last winter!


The question going forward of course is what about Winter 2016-2017? Well first off lets look at the normal numbers for a few specific spots. The first chart is for York Pennsylvania.


Now here is a list of other nearby areas and their annual snowfall. Notice that amounts skew higher as you go north into more elevated areas



Winter 2016-2017 New Jersey

Many thanks to Tom Stavola for his generosity in allowing me to show his snowfall maps for New Jersey. His website is Lightinthestorm. 

Also many thanks to Robert Smith of Garden State Weather for his help with this. His facebook page gussed it…Garden State Weather!

With the winter of 2016-2017 coming very soon we have been doing a series of preview pieces on the upcoming winter. The prior pieces focused on Long Island, Ocean Water Temperatures, Siberian Snow Cover & Arctic Sea Ice. Links to those posts are at the end of this piece which will focus on New Jersey.

New Jersey from the standpoint of snow is a state where you could be having a snowstorm going on in the northern part of the state with temperatures in the teens while getting thunderstorms with temperatures in the 50s & 60s in the south. You could have instances of a snowstorm in the south while its partly sunny in the north. The normal snow fall across the state has a very wide range from south to north.

winter 2016-2017

You can see the annual range is from 15 to 18 inches in the south to over 60 inches in parts of Northwest New Jersey. Certainly this makes for numerous forecast challenges and my tendency to use interstates like Routes 80, 78, 195, and 95 as lines in the sand when it comes to snow amounts.

The last 4 winters have given us a wide variety of outcomes. Last year was an odd year for sure given the very strong El Nino pattern that dominated the entire winter.

nj-snow-totals-2015-16-617x1024 winter 2016-2017

The snowfall totals for the winter were dominated by the one big blizzard last January. Also the increased snowfall in parts of Northeast NJ was from two snow events that only impacted that area and points east. Northwest New Jersey missed out on all of this and finished with under 15 inches for the entire winter.

nj-snow-totals-final-2013-14 winter 2016-2017

Contrast 2015-2016 with 2013-2014 which brought heavy snow to the entire state with 40 inches or more across the south to pockets 65 to 75 inch snowfalls scattered around Central and Northern New Jersey. Suffice to say that in New Jersey the numbers could go all over the place depending on the winter pattern that sets up.

From the standpoint of temperatures last winter was warm than normal statewide and in some places it was among the warmest winters ever recorded. It just happened that it snowed during the few times it was cold enough. It was like snow in South Carolina!

I think with the absence of El Nino and only a very weak La Nina present at the moment that a no brainer forecast would be that we would revert to something resembling normal cold with average snowfall with more in the north and less in the south. But it isn’t that simple. Everything ultimately depends on the long term upper air patterns that drive all this. That is something we won’t even get a hint of until we get into late fall. Sometimes patterns set up early that lock in for awhile. There is no guarantee that it will be cold when storms come or whether the current dry pattern doesn’t continue into the winter.

Long Island Winter 2016-2017 Early Thoughts

The questions regarding the Long Island Winter 2016-2017 have already begun. Actually they began months ago but up until now I have been able to successfully deflect them Long Island especially Suffolk County have been enjoy an almost unprecedented stretch of above normal snowfall that began back in the year 2000. For the 30 years prior 23 of those 30 winters had below normal normal snowfall. This has been partially reversed by the last 16 winters where 11 of them have produced above normal snowfall and half of those have produced snowfalls of 50 inches or more. The average snowfall for Long Island as measured by Brookhaven Lab records is just under 32 inches (31.75).


The last 4 winters have been exceptional with all four producing 50 inches or more (2012-13, 2015-16) and 2 of them (2013-14, 2014-15) producing over 70 inches. What we are shooting for here is the 5th consecutive winter of 50 inches or more of snow! That has never happened at least since records have been kept at Brookhaven which go back to the late 1940s.


Last year even with a major El Nino pattern which trumped everything else in the atmosphere and every other forecast tool like Siberian Snow Cover growth is gone. The National Weather Service over the last few days has cancelled the “La Nina Watch” for this winter as it appears it is not going to develop, or at least not going to develop in time to effect the winter months. Take a look at what has happened to the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific. Back in July the beginnings of La Nina were showing up in a pool of colder than normal temperatures across the Northeast and Northwest Pacific.  The cooling of the northwest Pacific would have been a significant development. Warmer than normal water temperatures there would favor strong ridging in the Northwest and open up the cold air spigots from the Arctic regions. Colder sea surface temperatures in this region would have favored warmer than normal temperatures in the east .