February 28, 2002

Experts Predict Warmest Winter Ever

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Ask Cornell students or Ithaca residents what the strangest phenomenon this winter has been and chances are they will tell you, the weather.

If current trends continue, the winter of 2001-2002 will be the Northeast’s warmest on record, according to Cornell University climatologists.

“It looks like this will be the warmest winter on record for much of the Northeast, including Ithaca,” said Keith Eggleston, senior climatologist at the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC) at Cornell.

The Northeast region’s warmest winter had been in 1931-1932, when the average temperature was 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The second warmest winter, 1997-1998, had an average of 30.8 degrees.

Although an overall average for the region won’t be available until next week, Eggleston predicts that this will be the first winter in 107 years of official record keeping that the average temperature was above freezing.

“Much of the country east of the Rockies has experienced warmer than normal weather this winter,” Eggleston said. “For the United States, November through January was the warmest such period since records began in 1895,” he added.

Although temperatures are warmer this winter, they are not necessarily the product of global warming, according to Eggleston.

“There were other warm winters in the 1930s,” he said. “We have been experiencing a weather pattern this winter where the jet stream has been farther north than normal for winter months,” Eggleston said.

This has left warmer air south of the jet stream, rather than colder Canadian air. This trend has remained relatively consistent for the last three months, according to Eggleston.

“It’s not unusual for the jet stream to take such a track from time to time but it is very unusual for it to hold this track for such an extended period of time,” Eggleston said.

Cornellians and Ithacans should not get their hopes up for similar winters, however.

“I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a trend,” Eggleston said. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens in future winters.”

Archived article by Marc Zawel