Late January can be the time when winter seems endless: The bright lights of the holiday season have mostly been packed up and put away; a persistent layer of salt dust from roads and sidewalks hangs in the air; the sun sets in the 4 p.m. hour. And spring? Who can even think of spring?
From a climatological view, mid-January marks winter’s halfway point, said Dave Epstein, GBH’s meteorologist and gardening expert.
“Climatological winter, we're a little over halfway through at this point,” Epstein said. “Remember: that runs from December 1st until the end of February, Feb. 29 this year.”
So how has Boston fared in the winter of 2023-24 so far? Of course, for a full view, we must wait until the end of the season. But here’s Epstein’s scorecard halfway through.
Snow: Less than average, but not historically low
As of Jan. 22, Logan Airport’s meteorological observation station has seen 7.9 inches of snow.
“That ranks 30th in terms of the least amount of snow,” Epstein said. “In 2007, up to this point, we only had 1.4 inches; 2019 we had 1.8; and another recent year, 4.3, in 2016. So we're just about double that.”
Temperatures: Warmer than average, with some cold snaps
So far, this winter is the 20th-warmest on record, Epstein said.
“Even though it was cold this weekend, it was, you know, more seasonably unusually cold,” Epstein said. “What I mean by that is you always get a little bit of cold in January that's colder than average. And that's what we had this weekend. But it wasn't certainly record-breaking or anything like that.”
What does it all mean in the broader climatological context?
The record books hold winters similar to this one, Epstein said. But climate is not just a measure of the weather on an individual day, or an individual winter.
“And this is what I always say: It's not that we didn't have this type of warmth before, or years with less snow. It's that years with less snow, years that are warmer, are now increasing,” he said.
New England will still have cold winters, like February of 2015 — one of the coldest on record, part of a record-breaking snowy winter.
“But again, there's fewer and farther between to have these cold bouts,” Epstein said.
As he looked at historical temperatures, he found that seven of the 20 warmest Boston winters on record have occurred since the year 2000.
“It's not evenly distributed because we're warming up. And that's the changing climate,” he said. “We don't have as many days in a row below freezing anymore. We don't have as many days below zero anymore. We don't have consistent days where the average is below 20 anymore. That's just the way it is.”