OSWEGO — Snow totals in the Port City are well below historical averages as the halfway point of winter approaches, despite a snowy start to February.
Warmer than average weather, and a lack of snowfall have combined for a mild winter so far, though with nearly all of February left there is still plenty of opportunity for Mother Nature to play catch up. Through Feb. 1, the Port City had not yet seen 20 inches of snow, less than a quarter of the nearly 90 inches of snow the area has seen by that date in recent decades.
Four days into February, the snow total has risen to 24.1 inches, still less than one-fifth of the roughly 141 inches of snow that has fallen on average during Oswego winters. So far this winter, no single snowfall event has brought more than 4 inches of snow.
"The one thing about this season that really jumps out is how little snow we've had this winter," said SUNY Oswego Professor of Meteorology Professor Scott Steiger, who chairs the department of atmospheric and geological science at the school.
Steiger noted the decreased snowfall has occurred the past two winters, but "this winter is even way behind last winter." He called the lack of snowfall "the most striking statistic" so far this season, pointing out through the end of January the area had seen only 19.6 inches of snow.
"We should have had 87.5 inches in a normal winter," Steiger said of the long-term average for this time of year.
To reach the 30-year average of 141 inches, more than 10 feet of snow would have to fall on the city over the next seven weeks.
"The funny thing about snowfall is we could be way below normal, but one snow event could bring you back to normal or even above," Steiger said. "I don't see that happening this winter really, but it might happen still."
Though it has been a mild winter in the Port City, Steiger pointed out "Oswego has gotten missed a lot." Numerous storms have hit areas surrounding Oswego, and even some lake effect storms dropped significant snow on areas like Hannibal, Fulton and the Tug Hill Plateau without leaving much snow along the lakeshore.
Steiger, who also directs the Lake Effect Storm Prediction and Research Center, noted the most intense snowfalls in Oswego typically don't come later in the winter, as lake effect snow coming off Lake Ontario is "usually most impressive through mid-February."
Oswego can experience significant snow events after mid-February, but it's less likely, Steiger said, as the sun is positioned higher in the sky and "messes up the temperature patterns across the area that set up lake effect" snow.
"When the sun is higher in the sky that tends to warm up the land more, and really to get the lake effect going you want a warm lake and a cold land," Steiger said. "With a higher sun angle your land starts to get warmer, so that temperature contrast between the lake and the land is really reduced."
Temperatures have been above average so far as well, with average daily high temperatures in January sitting at 34 degrees, or about 4 degrees above normal for the month. The daily low temperature in January was 25 on average, or about 7 degrees above the long-term average for the month.
"We were well above normal for temperatures, especially the low temperature, for January," Steiger said.
The highest temperature in January was 40 degrees, recorded Jan. 14 and 15, and the lowest temperature of 6 degrees came on Jan. 31.
Throughout the month of January, which is historically the snowiest month in the Port City, 11.9 inches of snow fell in Oswego, nearly three-feet below the 30-year average of 45.6 inches for the month.
December temperatures were similarly higher than normal, with an average daily high temperature of 40 degrees compared to a long-term average of about 35 for the month. The daily low temperature in December was 30 degrees on average, or about 5 degrees above normal for the month.
The warmest temperature recorded in December was 54, which occurred multiple times with the latest on Dec. 24. The lowest temperature of the month, 14 degrees, was recorded a handful of days earlier on Dec. 19.