Is winter over? Not if the Polar Vortex can unleash some cold air.

Posted at 10:58 AM, Feb 18, 2020

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — I've been asked on a number of occasions why our winter season has been so mild. The most common question I hear: "is it climate change?"

For some perspective, I researched last winter. Last winter, Buffalo had slightly below normal temperatures with above normal snow totals. We had thirteen lake effect snow events which is three above normal. The main reason for this was an active polar vortex.

We're watching the polar vortex, an area of low pressure over the poles which traps the coldest air over the Arctic, very closely. Unlike last year when the polar vortex was unstable and a number of cold blasts barreled through Western New York, this year, the polar vortex is strong and stable, keeping the coldest air locked up over the North Pole.

Interestingly, the cold air of the Arctic has allowed for the Arctic Sea Ice to grow in size at an above normal rate. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

Through the month, sea ice grew by an average of 45,200 square kilometers (17,500 square miles) per day, fairly close to the average rate over the 1981 to 2010 period of 42,700 square kilometers (16,500 square miles per day). This contrasts with December, when the growth rate was considerably faster than average.

It does look like the polar vortex will stay strong through March and that will keep the coldest air trapped up to our north. If it were to break down and unleash the cold air we could still salvage some snow and cold for this winter. The Climate Prediction Center is suggesting colder air across Western New York for early March.

If we look at the last seven March average temperature values for Buffalo, six of the last seven have been BELOW normal.