Blame it on La Nina, but New York’s colder and snowier winters are here to stay for years to come, according to the state climatologist Mark Wysocki.
If you’ve been finding conditions this winter unpolar-bearable you are not alone. Wysocki, who works at the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, told the Chronicle that the United States is under a 20-year cold pattern, and this is year three.
He explained that La Nina is the climate condition that causes above-average precipitation. It is due to the Pacific Ocean getting colder than normal. “That causes a more intense storm out west, and as it makes its way across the country, it brings down cold air from Canada,” Wysocki said.
He noted that the pattern creates highs and lows in air pressure so storms are not pulled out to sea. “That keeps the snow patterns longer, and they linger, causing heavier snowfall,” the weather expert said.
Wednesday’s nor’easter, which Wysocki accurately predicted would drop eight to 12 inches of snow in New York City, was a result of a storm off the North Carolina coast and a second low over eastern Illinois. He predicted “another major interruption for the Big Apple, so people should be patient. Snow removal will be slow.”
Winds up to 30 miles per hour were expected to cause drifting and whiteouts. “But the major problem is the rate of snowfall, one to two inches an hour — that will be faster than the plows can remove it,” Wysocki said.
He expected the city to concentrate on plowing the main roadways, causing snow to accumulate on the side streets. “And the deeper the snow, the longer the time it will take to clear the roads,” Wysocki said.
But as it turned out, many residential streets were cleared quickly.
The state’s weatherman noted that the average seasonal snowfall in the city is 24 inches, but for 2010 it was 46.8 inches, the fifth heaviest on record. The top amount was 62 inches in 2003.
“We can’t predict the rest of this season, but it looks like January will be above average snowfall,” Wysocki said.
The good news is that a cold winter does not necessarily bring a cold, wet spring. “We checked 110 years in the northeast and found no correlation between a cold winter and spring,” Wysocki said. “Last year, we had a cold winter and a warm, early spring.”
This year, spring begins on March 20, a little over nine weeks away.