In New England, we could be chanting “We’re almost #1” except we’re exhausted from February.
Except for a heavy and wet snowstorm on Thanksgiving, winter got off to a late start in New England. At my home near Concord NH, the “White Turkey” snow was gone by Christmas. The lack of a January thaw and some small snowfalls made most of January unremarkable. That all changed in the last week of January – a series of snowstorms quickly left me feeling as though I was either dealing with snow or catching up on everything I had set aside to deal with snow. The storm track was south of Boston, so they got pretty much all snow, and more than me. They are just a few inches from setting a new record for the season and there’s a very good chance they’ll break it. The snow has been a big story, and continues to be so. However, regionally, the big story of the winter has been the cold temperatures.
A year and a half a ago, I wrote one of my historical posts looking back a the New England Hurricane of 1938 and the other extreme weather around then. One of my examples was February 1934 which set many records that still exist today. It was a truly awesome month, Mark Twain would have run out of superlatives to describe it, and I’ll try to refrain from using many more adjectives.
I didn’t know all that much about 1934 before then, and still don’t know as much as I should. It was in the middle of the Dust Bowl years, not a good time for much of the country. It was significant in my post because it was the coldest February in New England’s records and I expected I wouldn’t see a month like that in the rest of my life. That was then. Now I have – February 2015 was essentially a twin of 1934. While the old month remains the coldest on record for New England, the margin is minuscule. For example, Boston missed a tie by 0.1F°
It was a twin for much of the rest of the country. While Portland Maine did break their coldest February record, Portland Oregon broke their warmest February record. For both cities the old record holder was 1934! The driver for 2015 is a warm pool of water in the northwest Pacific, and that’s created the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” which has kept storms from California, brought warm weather to Alaska, and probably a lot of other things I’d know about if I hadn’t been moving snow for the last six weeks.
That ridge was a sign – we’ve seen it before. Last October a press release from the American Geophysical Union about the California drought observed:
“We noticed that 1934 really stuck out as not only the worst drought but far outside the normal range of what we see in the record,” said Benjamin Cook, an environmental scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and lead author of a new paper that has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
The new study also finds that the same atmospheric pattern of a high pressure ridge over the West Coast deflecting away storms laden with rain last winter was also present over the area during the winter of 1933-34.
The maps above are from NCDC’s Climate at a glance application, it’s an interesting site to visit.