John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Following an epic 7-foot snow dump last year, the city is as powderless as the Sahara.
By this time last year, Buffalo had already suffered the wrath of a snowstorm that, thanks to the lake effect, looked like a frozen version of the hellish haboob from Mad Max: Fury Road. For those who don’t recall that incredible powder-slam, here’s the view from a plane:
The storm effectively sealed Buffalo under a white crust that measured seven feet deep in places and wouldn’t melt until August of this year. But now it seems like the city’s famously chilly skies expended all their energy on that one barrage, because there’s nary a snowflake or graupel pellet in sight.
In fact, Buffalo just broke a more than century-old record for its latest fall-winter date without snow since 1899. On average, 11.3 inches should have fallen by this time since July, but the city’s logged just a trace of snow so far. The National Weather Service explained on Friday in a “Record Event Report”:
THE RECORD FOR THE LATEST DATE WITHOUT MEASURABLE SNOWFALL (0.1 INCHES OR GREATER) WAS SET AT BUFFALO NY TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD SET BACK IN 1899. THE CHANCES FOR ANY MEASURABLE SNOWFALL APPEAR TO BE SLIM TO NONE THROUGH AT LEAST MID DECEMBER… ALLOWING FOR THIS LONG-STANDING RECORD TO LIKELY BE SHATTERED.
This photo comparison between this past Friday and November 19, 2014, lays out the vast disparity in snowfall:
What’s to blame for Buffalo’s arctic weather going AWOL? The Capital Weather Gang’s Angela Fritz has this to say:
Two key players are behind this pattern: El Niño, which has a huge influence on winter weather in the United States, and the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO), which has been remarkably positive this fall. The NAO indicates how much cold air is diving south into the United States. While a negative NAO often means big winter storms for the East, a positive NAO suggests the cold air will stay trapped up in the Arctic.
Without a source of cold air, Great Lakes snow season has been closed for business, a trend scientists suspect could continue in the coming decades.