WGBH News 2012 Winter Weather Outlook

By WGBH News

Dec. 7, 2011

jan 2011 weather map

Last winter was cold and snowy — witness this map of the Jan. 12, 2011 snowfall. This year's weather could be very different. (National Weather Service)

BOSTON — Maybe it’s the traditional New England Yankee conscience. As we run around in December in T-shirts and no gloves, many fear we’ll have to pay for this warm fall with another devastatingly cold and snowy winter —  a possibility that seems to draw nearer as rain and snow moved up the East Coast on Wednesday.
It really has been that warm. This has been “the all-time warmest autumn on record for the Boston area,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Sipprell told WGBH News’ Bob Seay on Dec. 7. The average temperature was 58 degrees — 4 degrees higher than usual. Records go back to 1870.

Will it snow, will it snow, will it snow? Listen to Bob Seay's conversation with meteorologist Benjamin Sipprell.

However, you may be able to tell your conscience to chill out. Sipprell made no guarantees but said temperatures will likely be at or above average this winter. In fact, he said, “There hasn’t been a period within the last 100 years where we’ve had a very warm autumn and then the following winter thereafter has been below normal.”
There’s another factor that suggests warmer temperatures: Sea ice in the Arctic tends to create an influx of cold air into New England — and the ice levels are low this year.
The precipitation forecast is more, well, hazy. There isn’t a strong relationship between autumn conditions and the amount of rain or snow that falls in the winter, Sipprell said.
Skiers and snowboarders, and the businesses that depend on them, might be in trouble. Along with the possibility of warmer temps, Sipprell noted that recent storms have tended to turn inward instead of staying on the coast. If that pattern continues, “it’s definitely going to be an issue of concern for those ski resorts,” he said.
As usual, we’ll just have to wait and dig out the ice scrapers just in case… and the umbrellas.

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