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January was meteorological roller coaster on Long Island

Frozen South Shore of Long Island near the

Frozen South Shore of Long Island near the Robert Moses Causeway. (Jan. 7, 2014) Credit: Asia Lee

Meteorologically speaking, January was a month of extremes -- of roller coaster temperature shifts, of bouts of brutal cold, of bursts of snow.

In one 24-hour period from Jan. 6 to 7, the temperature at Long Island MacArthur Airport plunged 48 degrees, from 55 to 7.

That occurred a few days after a nor'easter on Jan. 2 and 3 dropped 11.2 inches of snow -- the same amount recorded at the airport following a storm three weeks later.

Indeed, as of the end of Thursday, 16 daily weather records had been broken, eight of them related to cold weather, one to a daily high, four to snow and three to rainfall, according to weather service data.

What we've been seeing is a pattern of "periodic delivery of polar and arctic air," with "very pleasant mild spells" in between the intrusions of cold, said Michael Schlacter, chief meteorologist with Manhattan-based Weather 2000, a research and forecasting consulting firm.

Still, the pattern is a normal function of the jet stream's dipping south, allowing polar air into the area, and then migrating north again, "relaxing its grip," said Tim Morrin, a National Weather Service meteorologist who is based in Upton.

One thing meteorologists in his office did remark on, he said, was a few occasions of wind chills of 15 to 20 degrees below.

As of Thursday the month's snowfall at the airport was 25.2 inches, which buried the average monthly amount of 6.7 inches. That made it the second snowiest January in the past 30 years, according to the weather service's Facebook page. Still, it's 9.2 inches shy of 2011's record of 34.4 inches, said National Weather Service meteorologist Joey Picca.

While the frigid cold might be at the top of people's minds, the month's average temperature as of Thursday was 27.5 degrees, just 3.1 degrees below normal, and that's thanks to the month's swings into above normal temperatures, Morrin said.

Since 1984, Long Island's weather records for Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma have been kept by the National Weather Service. From 1949 to 1983, the records were maintained by the Brookhaven National Laboratory.

As for what's to come? Looking to the three months ahead, the Climate Prediction Center says there's an equal chance of above, below and normal temperatures and precipitation levels.

Still, Schlacter points out that February and March can be big blizzard months, and that "we have interesting things still ahead of us."


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