Where's winter?

By Wendy Clinch •  Updated: 01/10/12 •  3 min read

What is it they say: “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”
If only we could.
It’s no news to anyone that this winter has been dreadful for skiers. I have proof. Take a look at this map of the Western snowpack this winter vs. the snowpack last winter:

And check out how far below average the snowfall is here in Vermont:

Here’s some other scary stuff: Temperatures reached record highs in 268 places on January 5. As of January 6, just 16 percent of the U.S. had snow on the ground.  Midland, Texas, has had more snow so far this winter (19.5″) than Burlington, VT (15″). And for the first time since the late 1800s, Tahoe had no snow in December.
So this isn’t just me being cranky. It’s real. And for people like me who wait all spring, summer, and fall to click into our bindings, it’s more than a little frustrating.
So why is this happening? Is it global warming at work? Did someone forget to make a sacrifice to Ullr, the god of snow? Did I put my snow tires on too early? And more importantly, will it snow if I take them off?
To be sure, all of these are possibilities. Still, for those of us who were terribly spoiled by the epic snow we had last season, none of them are very satisfactory.
From what I understand, meteorologists are puzzled, too. Jim Cantorre of The Weather Channel says it’s a self perpetuating cycle. The lack of snowpack contributes to the warm temperatures. “Without a refrigerator to cool the airmasses that are coming down, they moderate very quickly,” he said  in a recent report on NBC Nightly News, “and we wind up with a lot of record highs.”
According to Weather Underground, part of the problem is the Arctic Oscillation, an atmospheric pattern of the northern latitudes that’s hard to predict more than two weeks in advance. Angela Fritz, an atmospheric scientist with WU, says that winter conditions in the upper tier of US states are often determined by the strengthening of pressure systems around the Arctic. When pressure systems are weak, cold air that’s normally trapped flows southward, resulting in extreme winter conditions for the US and Western Europe.While that was the case for the past two winters, Arctic high pressure systems this year are “allowing the cold air to get trapped up north,” she said. “Last year, the refrigerator door was left open. This year, the refrigerator door was left closed.”
All I know is that I want some snow. And if it takes dancing naked around a bonfire, sacrificing a sheep or a ram, or even yes, removing our snow tires, most of us skiers are prepared to do it.
Are you listening, Ullr?

Depiction of Ullr, the God of Snow.


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