Six more weeks
The much anticipated forecast by the famous Puxatony Phil on Groundhog Day that six more weeks of winter are on tap is not likely a surprise to most of us in the Northeast. Quentin the Quahog on Nantucket concurred, and we settle in to watch another snow event clobber the region shortly. Are these real forecasts ? While some may argue that they are, the annual rituals which mark the midpoint of the winter season on the calendar are at best a good antidote for cabin fever. However, the scientific long range models which are presented by the National Weather Service happen to agree in this case. These are based once again on several computer models, with the most significant being ENSO, which is an acronym for the El Nino/Southern Oscillation.
Strange as it may sound, our large scale weather pattern is largely affected by sea water temperatures in the southern Pacific Ocean. El Nino refers to periods of time when the sea surface is warmer than average, and La Nina corresponds to cooler temperatures. We are presently in a period of neither -- called La Nada, which is typically the case about half the time. Oddly enough, La Nada events make long range forecasters less confident as the models do not predict extreme drought or wetness under these conditions well. The synopsis is once again to be prepared.
As we watch January disappear into the wake, we want to know the half time winter score in Schenectady. Not surprisingly, the data for the month provided by the NWS confirms what we suspected – it was nearly three degrees colder on average from “normal." Last year was just the opposite with an average daily temperature nearly three degrees above normal. It was snowy as well, with a total of 15 inches falling on 18 days. Not all of those days required the plows, but the fact that no more than three days went by without some flakes falling gives the sense that winter will never end. Good enough reason to turn a hopeful eye to Phil and Quentin – we always need hope.