BOSTON (AP) — When Leah Offsevit was growing up in New England, her most cherished childhood memories were covered in snow. She remembers running out barefoot with her brother at the first sign, building snowmen and ice castles most of the time in winter, wearing skis as a child.
Offsevit and her husband, Jeremy Garczynski, want to pass on those traditions to their children, Lewis, 3, and Asher, 8 months. They hoped it would be a year: Tiny skis were purchased for Lewis, and they planned to hit their favorite Massachusetts ski slopes, towing Usher along in a sled.
But after three months of winter, with the arrival of March, their skis and sleds are mostly dusty. She doesn’t like it at all.
“It’s not what I envisioned for my kids,” says Ofsevit, who was on her high school’s cross-country team and lives in Melrose, near Boston. “Being a kid in New England is a big part of it.”
For much of the eastern United States, from Massachusetts to parts of West Virginia and into Ohio, winter has been a setback. While parts of the Midwest have been hit with repeated snowstorms, much of California, including Los Angeles, has been blanketed recently, and even parts of the Southwest have seen near-blizzard conditions, many cities on the East Coast haven’t gotten it .
Boston, known for nasty nor’easters and last year’s blizzard that dumped nearly two feet of snow on the city, saw just over 11 inches as of last week, compared to an average of 38.6, according to the National Weather Service . Philadelphia received just 0.3 inches compared to the average of 19.2. New York, which by this time typically exceeds two feet, saw only 2.2 inches. Similar deficiencies were seen in Providence, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and parts of West Virginia.
There were exceptions, such as Buffalo, which collapsed in November due to a lake-effect storm caused by cold air pulling moisture from warmer lakes. Still, says David Robinson, a Rutgers University geography professor and New Jersey state climatologist, “For the most part, it’s been a winter without a winter.”
Robinson says the main reason for the lack of snow has been warmer weather, conditions partly caused by human-induced climate change. The Northeast is one of the fastest warming regions in the country.
The region received plenty of precipitation, but it was often too warm for snow to fall. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont had their warmest January on record, while Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania were the second warmest, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. of research.
But other factors also influence.
La Niña, which involves a large-scale drop in ocean surface temperatures, has led to unusually cool conditions in the eastern Pacific. As a result, the jet stream, which would have brought colder conditions to the region, kept the air closer to the Canadian border rather than descending to the northeast.
The polar vortex, which spins as a swirling top over the North Pole, also remained strong into mid-January, trapping colder air in Canada, according to Juda Cohen, who studies the connection between the polar vortex and weather and is director of seasonal forecasting at Verisk AER .
This may become the new norm. The weather service analyzed snowfall totals through 2019 across the contiguous United States and found that the East Coast states had the farthest totals from mid-February averages.
Many who pride themselves on living well in New England winters find the unseasonably warm conditions disorienting and downright depressing. Gone are the four seasons and the scenes many have long associated with winter—snow blanketing backyards, covering trees, and piling up in mounds on street corners and parking lots.
Instead, the landscape offers brown grass, muddy yards, and early spring flowers.
“When I retired, I thought winter would be my happy time because I would be able to ski when I wanted to, be outdoors…enjoy everything about winter.” – Mother Leah Offewit , Nancy Maisonson. “It’s not beautiful from the outside… It’s not mysterious. Everything is still without the magic of snow.’
Caroline Nagy and her husband moved from New York to Troy in upstate New York hoping to catch colder, snowier winters. It didn’t turn out the way she expected. “A warm month is one thing,” says Nagy, “but a warm winter is terrible.”
Warmer conditions are especially difficult for traditional winter sports.
Cross-country skiing trails have not opened in many places. Skaters have abandoned yard ponds. Some ski resorts, especially those that rely on natural snow, struggled to stay open. In Pennsylvania, Whitetail Resort is already closed for the season; in Cherry Creek, New York, the Cockaigne Resort announced on its website that it was closing due to high temperatures and rain. And the popular 216-mile dog sled race in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was canceled due to inclement weather for the first time in its 33-year history.
“Wherever it was already thin, it was now turning into ice,” says Darlene Walch, president of the Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association. “When the snowpack gets saturated, it turns into concrete when it freezes. It’s not good for dogs, and it’s hard for boatmen to drive sleds.”
Many lakes and ponds are not frozen over, including the Great Lakes, where less than 12% of the surface was covered by ice in early March, according to NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The historical average for this time of year is close to 40%.
As a result, ice fishing tournaments from Maine to Pennsylvania were canceled. Several people have fallen through the ice, including three fishermen who died in one week on Lake Champlain in Vermont.
The absence of winter symptoms is not all bad. The spring conditions were a boon for cyclists. Golfers were spotted on courses that usually host skiers this time of year. The tennis courts are bustling on warm days and the playgrounds are packed with children.
Cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York are expected to save millions of dollars in snow removal budgets. Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns traditionally use up all of their snow budgets by the end of winter, but Kevin Maloney, a spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, says “budgets are virtually untouched” this year.
Robinson, a New Jersey climate scientist, says the snow isn’t going away anytime soon. “There is no sign of a decline in large-scale events,” he says. “Some evidence is starting to emerge that we have fewer small events.”
Still, it’s been tough for small businesses plowing parking lots and salt roads.
“Personally, I’ve never experienced a winter like this,” says Jordan Kenyon, who co-owns two snow management businesses in Mystic, Connecticut. Typically, they plan for 10 storms along the southeastern Connecticut coastline and 15 inland events. This year, according to him, his crews went out to spread salt only a few times and plowed only once.
Despite this year’s snowy winter, Kenyon says he’s not counting the snow removal part of his business.
“It’s always going to snow at some point. And that’s why we don’t see a change in the business model,” he says. “But we may have to make operational adjustments if we see this pattern continue.”
Associated Press writers Susan Hay in Hartford, John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, Mason Kahn in Albany, New York and Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to this report. Follow Michael Casey on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mcasey1