Will it ever snow again in New York City?

The good old days.
Photo: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

A favorite among the city’s meteorology connoisseurs, New York Metro Weather prides itself on publishing forecasts without hype. But this winter there was very little for everyone to the hype in New York City and the surrounding area. After a brief freezing spell in December, the city has endured an unusually mild January that, depending on your perspective, has been refreshing, unsettling or just downright depressing. (For those in the latter camp, Europe’s much more extreme heatwave and recent climate data have only added to the despair.) The warmth has also brought with it a noticeable lack of snow. And with no flakes on the horizon, NYC could soon be in record territory. I spoke to New York Metro Weather founder John Homenuk about the likelihood of this winter’s trajectory changing, why the forecast has been so quiet so far, and how climate change is affecting all those 50-degree days.

We have now spent 316 days without any measurable snow in New York City fourth longest streak of all timeand is nearing the all-time record of 329. I can’t remember what year that was set.
This was set in 1973, the actually snowiest winter since records began in New York.

Will it ever snow again in New York?
I think it’s safe to say that we didn’t see our last snowflakes. The thing is, the pattern was snow hostile, especially along the coast – there was a lot of snow in the interior Northeast. The meteorology behind this is that we were very unlucky at the end of December. I’m sure you remember it got really cold. It was just luck – we didn’t get a storm where we needed it. And after that, the pattern really took a turn for the worse. We had very mild Pacific air coming in, the same jet stream that brought all the rain to California. All this mild air conquered the land. That being said, a long winter is ahead, there is still plenty of time. I think we’re going to have a lot of chances to see snow here over the next few weeks.

As a snow lover, those are words of comfort to me. I saw that it might be getting colder soon.
100 percent – ​​at least brings us closer to normal or slightly below normal. One must always remember that it is usually quite cold at this time of the year. With normal temperatures it can snow. And the upcoming pattern is active, so I think there will be chances and opportunities. Our peak climatology for snow is from late January to early to mid-February.

Whenever there is an abnormal warm period, one thinks of climate change. I know it is difficult for a meteorologist to take this into account. How do you feel about the warming related to the lack of snow this winter and how are you trying to integrate it into the way you communicate with the public?
It is very, very difficult. Of course, I firmly believe in the influence of humans on the climate. I firmly believe that will happen. Lots of people want to back this up – I’ll log it.

Many meteorologists want to secure that?
Well, sometimes I read or hear people and they sidestep the question a bit. They would rather talk about the meteorology and not necessarily dive in.

I knew that was true a few years ago, but thought it would have been extinct by now.
I still meet him. I personally think everyone knows what’s going on at this point. For me, the question becomes more complex when you look at how it affects our sensible weather. I offer the flip side of this. If we look at the effects of climate – one of the things we saw in the early 2010s when we had a ridiculous patch of snow in New York was how the climate was making the offshore waters warmer and allowing for a stronger shoreline Storms formed, which in turn gave us historically snowy winters from 2009 to 2013. And even in 2014 we had this big polar vortex event and a lot of it was related to that – is the climate changing? Is the polar vortex starting to move more than usual? stuff like this.

I think the jury is still out on how the changes that are occurring will affect our chances of snow or cold. What I’m saying is, I don’t necessarily think it’s a coincidence, if you look at the last 10 or 15 very long stretches in New York without snow, more than 50 percent or 60 percent of them within the last 10, 20 lie years. And those dates go back as far as 1890.

It doesn’t sound like you’d think that future winters will automatically see less snow than we’re used to.
Exactly. One of the theories that came up in addition to these warm water temperatures leading to stronger storms was what’s happening in the Arctic. For example, let’s start disturbing the Arctic just enough to move that air around so it’s almost like we’re getting the opposite of what you’d expect, which is New York winters getting colder and for a while become more extreme? There are many different angles and possibilities, and I think it’s too early to say how that will play out.

New York Metro Weather is popular and playful Social Media Presence. What is your followers’ reaction to this mild winter? Was it mostly positive or mostly dismayed?
I would say it was largely consternation on Twitter and Instagram, probably 80/20. The variability of what people enjoy is fun. We got some comments from people saying, ‘This is great. I didn’t have to whip out my shovel once.” Yesterday or a few days ago there was one that really made me laugh which read: “If you ignore the potential crisis we’re in here from a weather perspective, that’s actually it pretty great. Because right now I’m sitting outside having a coffee.”

But there are many snow lovers in New York. There’s magic behind it, isn’t there? During a big snowstorm, the city turns into something completely different. At least for a few hours before it turns to black sludge.

It’s great for 12 hours and terrible for three days, but those 12 hours are truly magical.
And with that comes nostalgia. I think most people are just a little screwed. That’s the key thought.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.