Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Diminishing State Of Snow Cover

At this time last year Philadelphia had picked up the same amount of snow as we have so far this winter...0.3". Of course, we were about a week away from the Boxing Day Storm and the Jersey Shore was a week away from getting two feet of snow (and Philly getting a foot).   The pattern this winter has not been supportive...at least so far...of cold air intrusions and blocking patterns across the East Coast, which is in contrast to the last two winters where it could snow seemingly at will and once it started, it wouldn't stop.

That lack of arctic and high latitude blocking has brought a more zonal pattern the country, with mild breezes and not so much snowfall so far.  A year ago today, 48% of the lower 48 was covered by at least some snowfall.  Today, that number is at 25.7%, a reduction of about 46% in landmass that's been covered by snow.   You can see the difference in detail from this year (first map below) to last year (second map below)...the Midwest and Mid Atlantic were covered in at least some snow at this time last year whereas this year they're barren.  The only "add" from last year to this year was the recent blizzard that brought snow to the Southern Plains, an area that's been gripped by drought in the last year.

In terms of real estate percentage, that 25.7% statistic is the lowest in terms of real estate percentage since 2006 and the third lowest since 2003 (2004 was also less snow covered nationally than this year).  The general lack of snow now does not mean that winter will ultimately be without bite.  The winter of 2004-2005 featured 30" of snow in Philadelphia after January 1st with near average temperatures in both January and February.  The winter of 2006-2007 brought an icy grip to the Delaware Valley after January 15th with two ice storms in February and March gripping the region, along with the coldest February the region has experienced since the late 1970's.   Given the tendency to go to the extreme lately in weather, it's not out of the realm of possibility that mundane may flip to wild and wacky at the drop of a hat...it's a question of when that takes place.  Signs don't point to it happening before the holidays are out.