Winter 2012 Ranked as Fourth Warmest on Record
The region has enjoyed relatively warm, sunny days for most of the winter. Will Mother Nature decide to balance the stats before spring returns?
New data from the National Climactic Data Center (NCDC) confirms what everybody has suspected since December: This winter has been relatively warm so far.
The NCDC, a department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reports that January 2012 counts as the fourth warmest January on record and the warmest since 2006. According to the monthly study, the average contiguous U.S. temperature in January was 36.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 5.5 degrees above the 1901-2000 long-term average. Precipitation, averaged across the nation, was 1.85 inches. This was 0.37 inch below the long-term average, with variability between regions.
"It's warmer this year mainly because of the jet stream pattern," said AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Michael Pigott. "Generally, for the most part of the winter, it has been on a west-to-east pattern. Essentially, we've seen a lot of storms moving from west to east, and not a lot traveling northward or southward. So, anything in the Arctic is staying up there, and anything in the U.S. is staying put as well."
In the Northeast region, average temperature was 28.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 4.7 degrees above normal and 6.8 degrees warmer than January 2011.
The NCDC states it was the third month in a row that each of the twelve states in the region posted above normal temperature averages. In addition, all of the states had averages that were within the top 23 warmest in 118 years. The Northeast’s two-month (December-January) average of 31.2 degrees Fahrenheit made this period the eight warmest in 117 years (1896-2012).
Last week's bouts of snow can only be chalked up as blips in contrast to the two-and-a-half months of mostly clear skies and temperatures ranging between the 40s and reaching as high as 60 degrees on some days.
Don't expect to hear any complaints about the weather from folks like Kate Hartenstein and Betsy Mueller, who have taken advantage of a blustery, 50 degree afternoon to take their dogs, Lucky and Ginger, for a walk around Warminster Community Park.
"It's been great," said Hartenstein. "We've been able to get the kids outside and play basketball and ride their bikes, instead of being cooped up inside."
Mimi Miranda and her fiance Eddie McLean are also happy to enjoy a day clear enough to take their son, Steven, to the park for some tie on the playground. Miranda, in particular, does not exactly miss the snow.
"I'm definitely a summer person," she said. "I hate the cold and the snow. We're going to enjoy this while it lasts."
How long the warm winter can hold out remains to be seen. Many times, Mother Nature proves to be a fickle master and decides that we need a reminder of who is really in charge. Consequently, we may see the cold winter air come later in February and stretch well into most of March, according to Accuweather.com Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston.
"Unfortunately, I can see a pattern developing where we will have cooler-than-normal weather in the Northeast starting later in March and continuing through April. We expect blocking to develop in the atmosphere," said Boston. "Basically, that means we'll see cooler air steered down into the eastern U.S. more frequently. I think that may be setting up in late March and into April, making the arrival of spring a little bit sluggish."