Snowy season so far?

2011-02-07 18:38:19.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

Snow on the peaks looks normal to me.

If you live on the eastern seaboard this winter, it seems like every other day you hear the nightly news reporting about the most recent “Snow-pocalypse”, “Snow-mageddon”, or “Snow-icane” hitting your area. If you live in southern New England, especially in big cities where a few inches can wreak havoc, this is most certainly true. As Mike Carmon showed last month, most large cities in the Northeast are several inches above normal this season with several already reaching their seasonal snowfall before the end of January. And having traveled from southern New England to northern New England last week, I can say there is definitely a lot of snow out there, but it seems it is very dependant on where you live. Having lived in northern New Hampshire the past five years (Berlin, NH area to be precise) I have to say this winter feels average to me. It’s not as deep as I remember in past years nor is it as dry as I remember in past years. To me, it seems about average for the Great North Woods. So after finishing Mount Washington’s monthly summary this week, I started looking into how totals are varying around the state for this year compared to last year.

For my data, I went to the “NOWData” page on NWS Gray, ME’s site and grabbed snowfall totals for stations around the state for June to January of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011. The New Hampshire stations on the NOWData page I chose were: Berlin, Concord Municipal Airport, Epping, Lancaster, Mt Washington (of course!), and North Conway. I then examined the “Monthly avgs/totals” for snowfall of each of these sites and summed them up. These are the numbers I found:

June to January 2009/2010:
Berlin = 55.5″
Concord = 33.7″
Epping = 35.0″
Lancaster = 45.6″
Mt Washington = 111.2″
North Conway = 33.7″

June to January 2010/2011:
Berlin = 50.8″
Concord = 40.1″
Epping = 31.0″
Lancaster = 52.1″
Mt Washington = 119.4″
North Conway = 34.3″

So, if you were to examine just the seasonal snowfall totals, statistically, this year so far seems almost identical to where we were last year at this time. But if you look at the monthly totals, a slightly different picture comes out. While the summit and towns north of the Notches show the snow being spread out between the various winter months both winter years, towns south of the Notches show that a bulk of their snowfall so far this season came last month and not as spread out as the year before. So this partially explains why the north to me feels normal and the south feels like it is getting buried all at once. But digging a bit deeper, there is a bit more behind it.

First off, the storm tracks and types this year are different than they were last year. Examining old weather model runs as well as weather reports from last year compared to this year, storms last year were more from the north and west where as this year most of the storms this year are coming from the south. Southern storms typically bring more of a punch since they are able to tap into moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic. So last year, we got storm after storm but they only brought a few inches at a time. This year we are getting storm after storm but they are dumping several inches all at once. But the bigger thing this year compared to last year is the temperatures around the state. This year has seen colder temperatures when compared to last year but more importantly is the amount of time these cold days have lingered.

In a normal winter, it’s almost a given that New Hampshire will see snow. But what differs this year to make it seem so much worst is not only how we are getting the snowfall but where we are getting the snowfall and how long it is lingering. The snow is coming down several inches at a time in populated areas where there is very little room to put it then it just sits there and builds with every storm. Apart from a bit of a warm up at the start of the month, the “January Thaw” that seems to come every year really didn’t show up this year. So the snow’s just been continually building especially in these populated areas making it look and feel much worst to a larger population than it normally would. And the bad news (or good pending on your feelings towards snow) is it is only February, a month that typically is one of the snowiest times in NH. So, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time quite yet (especially looking at long term models). So, if you haven’t yet done so yet, you might want to clear your roofs and decks to prevent collapse. And I know a lot of people think this is the start of the next Ice Age but looking at long term models, there is hope in sight. So just hang in there, spring will come again, I promise.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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