As forecasters close the door on meteorological winter — December through February — we might ask: Just what is winter on Long Island with only 4.4 inches of snow?
That’s the total for those three months, with this year's stretch tied for fifth place on the least-snowy list, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, located at Cornell University. It's based on records dating back to September 1963 for Long Island MacArthur Airport.
Compare that to what graced the Island last year — 29.4 inches, well above the normal 19.2.
Still, conditions could be picking up for winter-weather lovers. The first day of March started with an early morning splash of light snow and was to end with an overnight snow and slush event, as another system looms on the horizon late Sunday into Monday.
Interestingly, this entire meteorological winter’s inch-count was just a tick above the 4.3 inches that fell over five or six hours at the airport Nov. 15 — before winter set in — in what certainly was the most memorable snow event of late.
A dusting to an inch had been expected for that evening commute, but gusty winds and wet, heavy snow ended up delivering more of a punch, thanks to cold air sticking around longer than anticipated, forecasters said at the time.
And, while there is nothing scientific to say about such a coincidence, Jessica Spaccio, climatologist with the regional center, says, “Isn’t weather interesting?"
The lack of flying flakes was not for lack of precipitation, as the season came in at above average, and there have been bouts of cold air. Also, there has been a run of systems that have mostly started with snow, then switched to a mix and then rain.
At the root of it, the storm track can be thanked for delivering “the big 'juicy' storms” — meaning lots of precipitation — to other areas, says Jase Bernhardt, assistant professor and head of Hofstra University’s new meteorology minor program. At other times, storms were suppressed too far to the south, leaving the Island “on the fringes of the snow.”
While many Long Islanders see snow as an unpleasant burden, weather aficionados have been lamenting that time is running out.
“It seems most weather nuts on Twitter around here are snow lovers,” Bernhardt said, “so there has been a general sense of disappointment, and increased urgency that this last gasp of winter produces a snowstorm of note.”
Of course, they will recall what last March delivered: weekly nor’easters and record snowfall of 31.9 inches.