What to Expect – NBC New York

Trees are shedding, temperatures are trending down and the holiday season is heating up. Winter is right around the corner and it’s time to get ready for the tri-state’s typical fickle winter weather.

Whether you love the white stuff or loathe it, snow is always top-of-mind when it comes to the winter forecast. “How much snow are we going to get?” For the best answer, we need to look back — to our last two winters. Those can be summed up like this:

  • Warmer-than-normal temperatures for the season as a whole
  • A few cold snaps that make your teeth chatter
  • One or two big snowstorms that close schools

During the winter of 2020-21, Central Park picked up 39 inches of snow. Average winter snowfall is 30 inches, so we were snowier than normal. But most of that came from one big storm, on February 1, 2020, that dumped 17 inches. The rest of our snow that season came in smaller chunks.

The same story is true for last winter. The one “big” snowstorm of the season produced 8.5 inches of snow on January 29th. Other smaller snow events brought the season total to 18 inches.

This winter, the weather pattern is shaping up very similarly.

For the third year in a row we’re dealing with La Niña, which is defined as cooler-than-normal water temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. You wouldn’t think something so far away could impact us, but it does!

La Niña impacts global wind patterns, which in turn dictate weather patterns. One staple characteristic of La Niña is a jet stream that tracks north of New York. That promotes more warmth in the winter and less frequent snow.

But when conditions are just right, a big coastal storm with deep moisture collides with very cold Canadian air and drops a ton of snow. It doesn’t happen often, but as the last two years prove, we can usually count on at least one big snow every winter.

Climate change is also having an impact on our winters. Our average winter temperature has been steadily increasing due to increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The net result is fewer overall snow events for us and more rain.

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