FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – With the amount of snow and the frigid temperatures that have swept through Fairfield County since December, you may not be surprised to learn that a new weather index says this has been the fourth worst winter in the last 60 years.
“It’s been extreme,” said Gary Lessor, assistant to the director of Meteorological Studies and the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
The weather index was created by meteorologist Barbara Mayes Boustead of the Midwest Regional Climate Center based in Illinois. It goes back 60 years to categorize the winters by looking at temperatures and snowfall, Lessor said.
The amount of snow that has fallen in February is high, but it hasn’t been record-breaking, he said. The snowfall totals for the area are still below the records set in 2003. But the average temperature since December has been lower than normal, Lessor said.
This winter has gotten steadily colder, with temperatures sinking increasingly lower as the season progressed, he said. Lessor blamed the several polar vortexes that have swept through the region, pulling arctic temperatures farther south than normal.
This winter has felt particularly harsh because it has been unrelenting between the snow and the cold, with many more days than usual with single-digit temperatures and below zero wind chills, Lessor said.
"We've gone from subzero to a snowstorm back to subzero. We have not had a break from winter," he said.
Temperatures have been below normal for the entire winter across Fairfield:
- In December, the average temperature was 30.8 degrees; the normal average is 31.8 degrees.
- In January we saw a steeper divide: The average was 22.3 degrees compared with the normal of 26.4 degrees.
- So far in February, it has gotten even more unseasonable. The average temperature has been 22.2 degrees, compared with the normal average of 29.3 degrees.
“We basically have a large trough – low pressure area – over the Eastern states,” Lessor said. A high pressure area over the Atlantic Ocean is keeping the polar vortex over the New England states.
And the winter may not be over. Another storm is in the forecast for Sunday night and into Monday night that may bring a half-foot of snow or more to Fairfield County, according to the National Weather Service.
Even worse, if you thought winter has been bad, summer may be even more extreme, Lessor said. Forecast models suggest that next winter will have a strong El Nino effect, which typically means a very hot summer is on the way.
“Provided that this modeling ends up being correct,” he said of the extreme forecast.