BOSTON (CBS) – Welcome to Spring! Yes, the meteorological and climatological spring begins on Monday, March 1st! If you’ve had enough of winter this year and don’t have to wait for the spring equinox on March 20th, join us scientists and celebrate today!
Why the difference in the seasons? Meteorologists and climatologists group their seasons into three months each.
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Winter: December to February
Spring: March to May
Summer: June to August
Fall: September to November
This is mainly done for the sake of accuracy in data collection and forecasting. Having the same data for the seasons every year makes it much easier to record and catalog data.
The astronomical winter is based entirely on the rotation of the earth around the sun, with the equinoxes and solstices marking the beginning of the seasons.
Having established this, let us bow to the winter of 2020-2021.
I wonder if I would take a survey. What would be the final impressions of most New Englanders this winter? What would I think of first when I think back to this winter?
Perhaps those with short-term memories would say cold and snowy (mainly think back to the last 4 to 5 weeks). I’m sure there would be some real snow lovers out there who would insist that this winter was rather weak or boring as we really only had a few “big” snowstorms and a very lackluster January.
Bottom line: I don’t think this winter will be “remembered” for all years, at least not in New England. People in Texas and other parts of the country may disagree.
Sure, compared to the last two winters this one was probably “covered with snow”
2018-2019: 27.4 inches of snow in Boston
2019-2020: 15.8 inches of snow in Boston
2020-2021: 38.4 inches of snow in Boston
((Dates include snow from October to April)
However, almost a third of our snow season this year came in that December storm and all of the snow was wiped out by a wet and warm Christmas Eve and day. Take away that storm and you have a season very similar to the last few years.
This Christmas meltdown was one of two major turning points this winter. Wiping the snow-free landscape in late December resulted in a very calm (some would say boring) and mild January. We had 30 consecutive above-average days from December 22nd to January 20th, one of the longest such strips ever recorded in Boston.
But just as people started asking the question way too early, “Is winter over?” We had our second big event and the turning point of this winter.
In mid-January we had a so-called sudden warming of the stratosphere. In essence, very rapid and dramatic warming in the stratosphere over the Arctic resulted in some significant global weather changes over the next 6 to 8 weeks. This warming caused the Polar Vortex to split and migrate south from the Arctic to the mid-latitudes. Europe and Asia were the first to feel their impact as cold-grip record-breaking places like Beijing and Seoul. Same offer in Europe – several large snowstorms and record-breaking cold in the second half of January.
While the other side of the world excavated, much of the US stayed calm and many wondered if we could escape the Polar Vortex drama this round. Not to be the case.
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Winter came back here with a vengeance at the end of January. Boston hasn’t been above freezing for the last three days in January. And then the snow came. A large blizzard hit the area on February 1st and 2nd, dropping well over a foot in most areas. Downtown Boston was spared the heavy snowfall, but still saw snow 8 out of 10 days between January 26th and February 4th. The active pattern was set and the rest of February brought storm after storm.
New England was spared the worst siege, as the storm trail was largely too far south of us. We have found ourselves on the northern edge of many storms that brought record breaking snow and ice to places like Texas and the deep south.
In the end, February ended up being slightly above average for snowfall in Boston and slightly below average for temperatures, although most of the other major pick-up sites in southern New England were slightly above average in temperatures.
The final snow totals for a given time of year are due to some storms that hit or are absent. If that snowstorm hadn’t occurred in December, we would have another well below average snow season. If a couple of those February storms went a little further north, we may have compared this month to the infamous February 2015 snow lightning bolt.
And that brings me to our WBZ-TV winter forecast. For those who took part, we forecast above-average temperatures and below-average snowfall this winter. This went largely according to plan.
However, we expected La Nina to play a much bigger role this winter than it did. Had it not been for the sudden warming of the stratosphere and the shifting of the polar vortex, we might have made it. These kind of events are very unpredictable, but then again, it would be pretty silly to expect a three month forecast to go smoothly.
The jury is still not informed about the final amount of snowfall. If we have another snowless March like last year, Boston will be about 10 inches below average. But like I said, all it takes is another storm, and our memories (and predictions) for winter 2020-2021 will change forever.
So that begs the question: what is the outlook for March?
Week 1 (this week) seems to be a very up and down week. Large temperature fluctuations in the next few days.
Later this weekend through early next week, there appears to be a “window of opportunity” for some sort of snow or coastal event. Most of our modeling right now, however, suggests that the storm trail will be far too far south (sounds familiar?) For storms to affect New England. We can stay cool and dry here for the first 6 to 10 days of March.
Early signs suggest we could get a significant warm-up over the longer range (week 2 and beyond) with La Nina finally flexing its muscles and pumping up the southeast ridge over the eastern US.
I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone that even in some of our warmest parts of March, it only takes one storm and cold shot to get one final blizzard on our way.
The only thing that cannot be denied is the sun.
Our days are getting longer, we gain 86 minutes of daylight in March AND daylight saving time begins on March 14th. The sunset begins at 5:34 pm. March 1st until 7:09 pm until March 31st.
The sun is also getting higher and higher in the sky, rising from a maximum altitude of 40.3 degrees to 52.0 degrees in this month alone, which means that any snow that falls will be quickly eaten alive.
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