It hasn’t snowed in New York City in a long time — 324 days if you’re counting. And many New Yorkers are.
Local meteorologists said public interest in the ongoing drought of icy flakes has, well, snowballed. And the lack of measurable snow – defined as one-tenth of an inch – is bad news for sledders, snow plow businesses and folks worried about a warming world.
Call volume this week was about double a typical week over at New York Metro Weather, said meteorologist John Homenuk. He compared this year’s curiosity around the snow drought to what he saw around 2014’s Polar Vortex event.
Over at the National Weather Service, meteorologist Dominic Ramunni said they’d also seen an uptick in weather inquiries, also about double. He appreciated the public’s interest.
“It's nice to be wanted,” he said. Even if there’s nothing significant going on, he said, it shows that the weather “can tell a story.”
If there’s no snow by Sunday, the city will break a 50-year-old record for the latest arriving measurable snowfall for a winter season, set on Jan. 29, 1973. If the pattern lasts beyond Feb. 4, it’ll be the longest recorded period the city has gone without snow.
Ramunni was in the process of generating a graphic with statistics that his team expected to share Sunday on social media, in anticipation of matching the first milestone.
All the experts interviewed predicted that New York City would break the 1973 record.
“It’s not going to snow,” said Homenuk of Metro Weather. “We're as close to a hundred percent as you can be. They teach you not to say a hundred percent in meteorology, but it’s very unlikely that there's gonna be measurable snow in New York on Sunday.”
Why there is so little snow this season is due to a complex set of factors, explained meteorologist Lauren Casey at Climate Central. But to break it down simplistically, she said, you need two main ingredients: cold air and moisture.
Weather in New York City is affected by elements as far away as the Southern Hemisphere. This year, for example, cooler temperatures over the Pacific Ocean meant stronger jet streams pushing the cold air farther north. All that brought milder weather to most of the U.S., including New York City
“We're just missing that cold air element,” she said, noting that wintertime temperature in New York City has also heated by 3.6 degrees since 1970 due to climate change.
Temperatures this January have been about 10 degrees warmer than average for this time of year.
Despite all the extra interest about the weather, meteorologists said the snow drought isn’t exactly their equivalent of the Super Bowl.
“It’s kind of like a really low scoring, disappointing Super Bowl game,” said Casey.
“It’s a buildup to nothing,” said Homenuk, who said it was a strange time to be a meteorologist and to regularly be reporting on nothing.
All the meteorologists expressed longing for at least a little snow.
“It can be a little underwhelming, I think, for the weather weenies in us,” said Ramunni.
“We're all children who want to go out and play in the snow at heart and we're not really getting that opportunity,” said Casey.
But, she added, folks who hope for flurries can hold on to the fact that there’s always February. That’s typically the snowiest month in the city, with an average of 10.1 inches of snow per month.
So far, there are no indications of a dramatic pattern change, said Ramunni. But he, too, was hopeful.
“It only takes one storm,” he said. “We get one big blockbuster Nor’easter or some sort of event that'll drop a foot or two across the region and suddenly folks are gonna forget all about this.”