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Environment & Science

We're on track for our least snowy winter ever. Here's what could change the pattern.

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NOAA
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Climate Prediction Center
This graphic from the Climate Prediction Center shows our mild air moderating, with a chance for near normal temperatures by the end of the month.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — It certainly hasn’t felt or looked much like winter this season in the Lehigh Valley.

Only 1.4 inches of snow were recorded in December, according to the National Weather Service, and January has seen just a trace of snow and an average monthly temperature almost 9 degrees above normal.

It’s been the same story across the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, where multiple climate sites experienced one of their five warmest January 1-15 periods on record, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center.

  • The Lehigh Valley has measured just 1.4 inches of snow so far this winter
  • We're on track for one of our warmest Januarys ever
  • It's also been one of our least-snowy winters ever, but things could still change

Allentown was 9.6 degrees above normal in that time frame and had its third warmest January 1-15 period ever.

It all adds up to this: we’re on track for our least-snowy winter on record, with the early predictions for above-average temperatures for the season holding true.

For snow lovers, the biggest issue so far is that we haven’t been able to get cold air to settle in to go along with the 5.86 inches of precipitation measured since Dec. 1. A typical snow ratio would be 1:10 (one inch of rain = 10 inches of snow), though that varies depending on the type of snow and different conditions.

If you do the math using the basic ratio, the Lehigh Valley could have been buried under 58+ inches of snow so far this winter. Instead, it's looking at a current snowfall deficit of -7.1 inches as of Jan. 15 – good for the 12th least-snowy winter on record.

A window of opportunity?

Snow lovers hoping for anything to change will have to look to the future.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts “near normal” temperatures by the Jan. 25-31 time frame.

But local meteorologist Bobby Martrich of EPAWA Weather Consulting says the cold spell will likely be brief, and we won’t have the potential for snow if storms that roll through have no cold air to interact with.

“We have the 26th of this month as the target date for any change,” Martrich said in his latest video forecast.

“I personally feel that window is going to be about a 10-to-14 day window… and then we start to moderate a little bit,” he said, calling the time frame a “window of opportunity” but not a guarantee for any snow.

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Pivotal Weather
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This forecast loop shows the potential for upcoming storms, but they'll have to interact with cold air in order to bring snow.

Will this help?

Across the board, forecasters have pointed out that it’s not abnormal for winters like the one the region has experienced so far, especially during a third straight La Niña pattern that has caused changes in the weather pattern around the globe – and typically brings warmer weather in the winter for this area.

But NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center says a transition away from La Niña is anticipated during the February to April time frame, perhaps bringing hope for snow lovers into March when the weather tends to be more variable.

The region has certainly had its share of significant winter storms late in the season, which means it's way too early to write off this entire winter as a bust.

Here are some of the biggest snowstorms on record in March in the Lehigh Valley:

DateTotal Snowfall
March 3-4, 196014.2 inches
March 16-19, 195615 inches
March 13-14, 199317.6 inches
March 18-21, 195820.3 inches