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For Forecasters, There’s No Business Like Snow Business

January 11, 2019
David Coe, 25, at the UMass Lowell Weather Center on Thursday, points out why Greater Lowell has not seen any significant snow in December and so far in January. SUN/Rick Sobey Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- No snow in December and so far none this year? This runner is totally fine with that.

But for researchers like David Coe at the UMass Lowell Weather Center, it’s a major bummer. On Thursday in the center, he called it a “rough” and “terrible” winter, typically phrases reserved for when there’s a blizzard one week after the next.

“It’s great for people who don’t like the snow, but it’s terrible for us,” said Coe, 25, a Ph.D. student from Leominster. “It’s boring.”

Despite a dry start to the winter, could school children be in store for a day off in the near future?

It’s hard to definitively say, but snow will eventually arrive, Coe predicted Thursday.

“It’s still coming, but it’s not going to be the monster winter we’re used to in New England,” he said.

Lowell’s average snowfall per winter is 54 inches. The only measurable snow in Lowell fell in November: 10.7 inches.

When it doesn’t snow in December, like this year, the region usually sees below-average snowfall for the season. By the end, Coe expects below-average snowfall for Lowell, in the 40-inch range.

The stormiest period this year should be late January through mid-March, he said.

“It doesn’t look like an outlier year of 2014-15 (114 inches) when we had snowstorm after snowstorm,” Coe said. “There’s nothing suggesting that from the models.”

He’s expecting colder than average temperatures over the next few weeks, in the 20s and teens. The cold shouldn’t plunge into the negatives, he added.

The lack of snow has affected area businesses. The cross-country ski trails at Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, usually bustling this time of year as workers groom miles of trails, is closed because of zero snow cover.

Meteorologists earlier this week were predicting potential snow for Sunday, as the Patriots host a playoff game, but that storm dipped south and will miss the region.

That air pattern has sucked storms south of New England this winter.

“It’s been our problem the whole season,” Coe said.

He expects, however, for the normal polar vortex to split over the next three weeks, leading to cold air siphoning down to the northeast. They’ve been waiting for that all winter.

An El Niño influence has also led to a drier winter.

In October, Coe was expecting a dry winter, but still thought there’d be storms in December.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted near-normal snowfall for this region, including one of the snowiest periods in early January. This region includes Maine and Vermont as well.

“From a local standpoint, the almanac wasn’t true for us,” Coe said. “Its scientific accuracy isn’t always the best.”

Coe, who is studying atmospheric sciences, has loved the snow since he was a kid. It’s one of the reasons he got into the field.

“I always wanted to know why a storm missed,” he said. “I also wanted school off.”

He’s researching extreme precipitation events in the Northeast, as well as seasonal transitions in the Northeast.

Down the road, he’s interested in continuing research, or consulting/forecasting for banks or insurance groups that rely on extreme precipitation outlooks for their rates.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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