On Kelly’s Radar: Explaining different influences on snowfall in Massachusetts

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CHICOPEE, Mass (WWLP) – This winter so far in the lower Pioneer Valley has been pretty interesting, you could even say we barely had one. Yes, we had a major snowstorm at the beginning of December, but since then, we’ve been severely lacking snow.

What could be affecting our winters here in western Massachusetts?

One of the biggest things meteorologists, and even weather enthusiasts, look at for impacts on winter weather is something called ENSO — or the El Nino, La Nina Southern Oscillation.

Basically, ENSO explains the condition of the water in the Pacific Ocean, closest to the equator. If this water is warmer than normal, that means there’s an El Nino, and if that water is cooler, that means it’s a La Nina. If the water isn’t that far off from normal, it’s considered neutral — that’s what we have right now. All three of those conditions make up ENSO. El Ninos typically occur every 3 to 5 years. 

In the U.S., one of the strongest influenced seasons by ENSO is winter. You might’ve heard, in the northern U.S., La Nina winters are generally colder and wetter, and El Nino winters are generally warmer and drier. The conditions are opposite for the southern states. 

Massachusetts, it’s a little different. At least that’s what the data has been saying.

When diving into data taken at the Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, the snowfall change from El Nino to La Nina winters wasn’t really significant. Only half of the El Nino winters had below-normal snowfall, and it was the same for La Nina winters; only half had above-normal snowfall. This data spans from 1949 to 2018. 

Let’s not forget ENSO isn’t the only thing that affects our winters here, there are also air circulation patterns called the Atlantic and North Atlantic Oscillation that have positive and negative phases. A negative phase means colder, and snowier winters for the eastern U.S. If positive, colder air stays farther north over the arctic, so eastern U.S. winters are generally warmer but drier. 

So for Massachusetts, it’s never as simple as just looking at ENSO to predict upcoming winter conditions.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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