Long Island Winter 2016-2017 Early Thoughts

Long Island Winter 2016-2017 Early Thoughts

Long Island Winter 2016-2017 Early Thoughts

The questions regarding the Long Island Winter 2016-2017 have already begun. Actually they began months ago but up until now I have been able to successfully deflect them Long Island especially Suffolk County have been enjoy an almost unprecedented stretch of above normal snowfall that began back in the year 2000. For the 30 years prior 23 of those 30 winters had below normal normal snowfall. This has been partially reversed by the last 16 winters where 11 of them have produced above normal snowfall and half of those have produced snowfalls of 50 inches or more. The average snowfall for Long Island as measured by Brookhaven Lab records is just under 32 inches (31.75).


The last 4 winters have been exceptional with all four producing 50 inches or more (2012-13, 2015-16) and 2 of them (2013-14, 2014-15) producing over 70 inches. What we are shooting for here is the 5th consecutive winter of 50 inches or more of snow! That has never happened at least since records have been kept at Brookhaven which go back to the late 1940s.


Last year even with a major El Nino pattern which trumped everything else in the atmosphere and every other forecast tool like Siberian Snow Cover growth is gone. The National Weather Service over the last few days has cancelled the “La Nina Watch” for this winter as it appears it is not going to develop, or at least not going to develop in time to effect the winter months. Take a look at what has happened to the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific. Back in July the beginnings of La Nina were showing up in a pool of colder than normal temperatures across the Northeast and Northwest Pacific.  The cooling of the northwest Pacific would have been a significant development. Warmer than normal water temperatures there would favor strong ridging in the Northwest and open up the cold air spigots from the Arctic regions. Colder sea surface temperatures in this region would have favored warmer than normal temperatures in the east .

Long Island Winter 2016-2017 Early Thoughts Pacific Water Temperature Anomalies in July


However there has been a significant and important development over the last 2 months. The cooling of the Northern & Northeastern Pacific Ocean has completely reversed. The budding La Nina is all but gone.

Long Island Winter 2016-2017 Early Thoughts Pacific Water Temperature Anomalies September


Again if this is correct it is one ingredient that would say that no worse than normal temperatures would be forecast for the east. This would be a water temperature profile similar to the cold winters of 2013-2014, & 2014-2015.

However it is important to note that this is one of many factors in play. The almost non existent Greenland Block which has been no where to be found in the last 4 winters may or may not make an occasional appearance. Who knows!!!

Long Island Winter 2016-2017 Early Thoughts Atlantic Water Temperatures Post Hermine


Tropical Storm Hermine has actually had significant impact in the water temperature profile here in the east. We have been seeing above normal water temperatures off our shorelines for months. Hermine created significant up welling which has cooled the waters of the Northeast & Middle Atlantic Coast significantly.

Long Island Winter 2016-2017 Early Thoughts Pacific Water Temperature Anomalies Post Hermine



Water temperatures have dropped by more the 2 degrees Celsius over much of the Middle Atlantic & Southern Areas of the Northeast southward to off the Southeast US coast. Water temperatures have also cooled across much of the Atlantic Ocean as well.


When we look at the actual anomolies there is still a large area in the Western Atlantic that is showing above normal temperatures. The extent of that however has been reduced. I would however be cautious about this in that just as the water temperature profile reversed in the Pacific it can very well reverse here. Hurricanes provide short term changes. The question is whether other storms (if any ) or if a colder profile in the northeast would accelerate or reverse these short term changes that have appeared.

So what are we left with? I never liked putting out winter forecasts. I have frankly never seen their practical value unless your an energy trader or maybe a farmer. It isn’t as if you are going to pick up and move based on a long range winter forecast. What I have presented is just the beginning of the observation process. Over the next 2 to 3 months I will be watching how the pattern evolves across North America, the appearance if any of blocking, water temperature profiles, and of course the continuing Tropical Storm activity. Typhoon action in the Pacific is very imporant as they can energize low pressures in the Gulf of Alaska and drive cold air southward.

Specifically for Long Island, it would seem to me that a 5th year of 50 plus inches is a very tall order. In fact if this winter leads to above normal snowfall it will be will be the 8th winter out of the last nine with above normal snowfall. That has never happened. Before last year 7 of 8 hadn’t happened and neither did 6 of the last 7. On the other hand, we have been in an up cycle for snow and cold winters for 16 years. Patterns usually continue longer than you think. Until proven otherwise the smarter bet would be the trend is your friend. We will reevaluate the situation for Long Island over the coming weeks and months so stay tuned.

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