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January 2020: Very dry, not much snow; February could be different

Winter’s harsh cold and snow drifts were on vacation during January as mild temperatures and lack of storms prevailed. Most were pleased with January’s results as the mild temperatures and little snow made life a little easier than it can sometimes be at this time of year.

The polar vortex of which you remember from the media blitz a few years ago has stayed put near the North Pole since the middle of December. The polar vortex in theory should be near the North Pole much of the time as we were taught in Atmospheric Dynamics back in college.

The theory from the college classroom doesn’t always translate well to the real world as Mother Nature has other ideas. In the real world the polar vortex usually roams around the northern hemisphere cycling south and even splitting up at times and never really making a home right at the North Pole for very long.

Early in the winter we were visited by a record setting snowstorm thanks to the polar vortex but ever since the position of the polar vortex well to our north has allowed Pacific origin air to flood across the nation keeping most areas milder than normal since New Year’s.

Even the northern Plains have warmed up in recent weeks, a region that has been plagued by persistent cold for more than a year. Milder temperatures have also been noted across parts of Europe for the same reason other than that the Atlantic supplies their mild readings.

Ocean heat content has been increasing recently and we’re reaping the benefits of this winter’s winds streaming across the nation from the Pacific. Your hearing bill in Nashua should have been about 18% lower than normal during January, the amount that heating degrees were down last month.

Those who pay for snow plowing got a bonus last month, although your December bill was probably a whopper. Snowfall has been above normal this winter through many of New England’s ski areas bringing a smile to the ski industry.

Some asked after our early December snowstorm of 20 inches if we were in for a bad winter and I said that one storm isn’t a harbinger of the winter. So far I’m correct, but we also have plenty of time to go before we put the winter of 2019-20 to rest.

There are plenty of indications that point toward a continuation of the pattern we’ve had during recent weeks through February and maybe longer. Despite the mild temperatures and lack of storms, don’t let your guard down. A quick dump of several inches of snow or a day or two of arctic chill are still likely candidates every so often, but not with high frequency.

This winter may also be a candidate for bookend storms. There have been a few years when early and late season dumps of snow framed little snowfall during most of winters’ core.

Nashua’s January weather statistics supplied by Pennichuck Water Works shows that we had the seventh warmest January out of 127 years of temperature data keeping. The average temperature of 30.3 degrees was 7.2 degrees above normal.

A spike of unusual warmth got a landslide victory of votes on the weekend of the 12-13th. The third highest January reading of record was observed as the mercury reached 67 degrees recorded on the 13th. This value broke the previous high for the date of 65 set in 1932 during a 3 day warm spell of 60+ degree readings.

A record high was also set the previous day when the high of 65 recorded on the 12th broke the mark of 58 set in 1933. The monthly low of 4 was observed on the 21st and some areas saw readings fall to a bit below zero early on this morning.

Temperatures failed to reach freezing during the afternoon on 5 days, 9 less than normal and all but 3 days saw readings fall below freezing at night, 2 less than normal.

Precipitation was lacking due to the lack of storms. With the polar vortex in place across the North Pole we saw fewer battles between warm and cold, thus fewer storms. Nashua’s rainfall total of 2.03 inches was 1.39 inches below normal putting January 2020 in a tie with 2 other years as the 18th driest January of the past 137 years.

The largest precipitation event brought 0.93 inches recorded on the 26th, almost half of the months’ precipitation total. A few small storms during the early and mid-month period accounted for the remainder of the sub-par total.

After shoveling through the 6th snowiest December on record with 29.6 inches we saw below normal snowfall for January. Measurable snowfall was observed on but two days with the heaviest being 5.0 inches recorded on the 19th.

The total for the month of 6.0 inches is 10.5 inches below normal. January was the 18th least snowy January out of 112 years of snow data.

While it appears we’re having a below normal snow season thus far due to recent lack of snow we’re actually still above normal through the end of January. The season total of 35.6 inches is 5.4 inches above normal.

We’re past the mid-point of winter and daylight has already increased by more than an hour since late December and we gain another hour before February comes to a close. Normal temperatures have been on the rise for a couple of weeks now and the normal high reaches 40 by month’s end.

February can play host to some of the fiercest snowstorms and coldest temperatures on record. Seven years ago Nashua saw its’ second largest February storm with 24.0 inches. On February 16, 1943, the mercury fell to -35 in Nashua, the coldest day on record for the city.

February 2015 was the coldest month on record for Nashua and came with 44 inches of snow. February 1978 brought us the Blizzard of ’78, the real perfect storm. It will be spring sooner than you think and in just a few months we’ll be complaining about the heat and humidity all over again.

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