What conditions should the Adirondack region expect this year?
By Chloe Bennett
A clear sign of winter landed in parts of the Adirondacks this week as several inches of snow covered the ground. Temperatures rose after the dustings, causing the fresh snow to melt away, but the wintry experience raised the question: What will North Country winter conditions be like this year?
Temperatures in the region have a probability of being higher than average, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports. The entire top tier of the U.S. is leaning toward a winter of warmer-than-average temperatures. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be less snowfall.
There are equal chances of experiencing more or less snow this winter, NOAA reports. Although the Adirondacks aren’t in the “near normal” range, the probability could lean in either direction. As of now, Western New York is more likely to experience a dry winter.
Despite the North Country snowfall on Nov. 1, a Climate Central analysis of data from 1970 to 2019 showed that snow across every region in the U.S. decreased over time before Dec. 1. Warming temperatures will allow more moisture in the air, causing heavier snow and rain.
Climatologists at NOAA compared data gathered from the last 15 years to the stretch from 1991 to 2020, which is considered a climatological period because it has three decades of information, differentiating it from weather data.
“These recent trends favor above-normal temperatures across eastern New York State early in the winter spreading to almost the entire state by late winter,” Scott Handel, the lead forecaster for NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said.
In 2022, a study from Paul Smith’s College showed that winters in the park are becoming shorter and milder, creating challenges for the “unique cultural ecology” of the region. The Adirondacks have long relied on snowy conditions for recreation and tourism, two critical industries for residents. In about 77 years, the study states, winters could be shortened by at least a month. On top of human-induced climate change, this year’s El Niño, expected in the winter, could raise temperatures.
The last El Niño caused record-breaking heat in the Adirondacks. December of 2016 was the warmest on record in the Adirondacks, according to NOAA. The average temperature in Saranac Lake, for example, was 34 degrees, 15 degrees above normal for the month.
Mild temperatures in the park last winter season led to fewer solid ice spots for skaters. One avid athlete, Dan Spada, said the lack of long-term climate action is frustrating.
“We’ve known about this climate change, climate disruption, global warming, we’ve known about it for decades and we’ve never bitten the bullet and done what needs to be done to avoid it,” he told the Explorer in February.
It’s too soon to tell how this season will play out for skaters, skiers and other winter enthusiasts, but the probability of unusually warm temperatures will become the new normal, climate scientists say.