For those who live in New England, I’m sure you’ve been asking, “What the HECK is with all this snow lately? It just seems like there is one storm after another!” Well, you aren’t going crazy; we have had an extraordinary amount of snow this winter season, and there’s more to come! There’s a complicated answer to this simple question. We are in the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Sounds interesting, right? I promise you, it is. Keep reading…
The North Atlantic Oscillation (we’ll call it the NAO) is a weather pattern in the North Atlantic Ocean. There is a semi-permanent area of atmospheric high pressure called the Azores High, named after a nearby string of islands known as the Archipelago of the Azores. There’s also a semi-permanent area of low atmospheric pressure called the Icelandic Low.
These two atmospheric pressure zones interact to create the westerly winds and storms that track over the North Atlantic ocean and, in turn, control the weather over both Europe and North America. During a “positive phase”, there is a strengthening of those two pressures that intensifies the westerly winds. The ceaseless activity of these winds prevent cold air from building up over North America, which translates to a warmer winter season with less snow.
Right now, during a “negative phase”, those high and low pressures are less intense. The winds decrease and a sluggish mass of cold air builds up over Canada, causing a very messy, snowy winter for North America. These negative phases can last for days, weeks or even months! So, for those who LOVE the snow, EMBRACE IT! There’s plenty more to come! Go snowboarding, skiing, snow shoeing… or try one of my personal favorites… extreme snow-tubing!
Trails of Freedom Chief Researcher, Justin Coleman, points out that we shouldn’t feel like we’ve got it too bad. People had it much worse in 1816, a time that came to be known as the “Year Without a Summer”! The eruption of an enormous Indonesian volcano one year earlier had filled the Earth’s atmosphere with dust. Soot-laden air lowered temperatures world-wide by blocking out a significant amount of sunlight. The result was one of the most unforgiving years of weather the Northeastern US has ever experienced in recorded history. Snow fell upon Albany, New York in JUNE! Ice was still hanging around in southern New England through AUGUST! And even more interestingly, during this crazy year when people weren’t exactly excited to go outside, the infamous “Frankenstein” was written in Europe, which had been experiencing it’s own corresponding shift in weather. So, if you are one of those people that wishes that the snow would just go away… write something! Maybe it will become famous! Well… I’m off to go play in the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation!