Northeast cities finally seeing a chance of snow after a near snowless January so far

That could change this week.

A shot at snow and ice is in the forecast for the Northeast Tuesday and Wednesday. New York City could see a wintry mix on Tuesday, making commutes hazardous. The city is under a winter weather advisory through midnight with snowfall amounts around an inch and a glaze of ice possible.

The ice will make travel exceptionally treacherous. There could also be potential power outages with the accumulation of ice on trees and power lines. This will be the first time many Northeast areas along the Interstate 95 corridor will see measurable snowfall since mid-December.

Where is winter?

New York City is currently running about 5.5 inches below normal for snowfall for the month of January. This entire season, much of the areas surrounding New York City have received less than an inch of snow.

New York City isn't alone. Even Boston is running well behind for snow. January 2021 has been the least snowiest January on record for Boston. Boston should have more than 10 inches of snow in January, and the city hasn't even received half an inch.

Philadelphia hasn't seen more than a trace of snowfall in January, and even Portland, Maine, is nearly a foot below normal for January snowfall.

"Cities in upstate New York that are known for snow are well below normal," says CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. "Buffalo is 15.9 inches below normal for the month of January and Rochester is 10.4 inches below normal."

Major cities well below normal for January snowfall.
Major cities well below normal for January snowfall.

Is La Niña to blame?

We are currently in a La Niña pattern and it's expected to last the rest of the winter. This phenomenon that occurs along the equator, has weather consequences around the world.

In the US, we typically see wetter than normal winters for the Northeast, but blaming the lack of snow solely on La Niña is tricky.

"It is difficult to say how much of an impact the La Niña we are currently in is having on the lackluster snow season in the Northeast thus far this winter, but it does fit the pattern," says CNN climate expert Brandon Miller.

"The winter outlook from NOAA, issued before the season began, called for warmer than normal temperatures for the entire East Coast, largely because of the jet stream's usual response to La Nina", says Miller. The warmer than average temperatures do not always correlate to low snowfall seasons, but so far this year they have for large portions of the Northeast.
This week, the Climate Prediction Center has put out their new seasonal forecast, and is forecasting warmer than normal temperatures for the Northeast to last through April.

This won't completely wipe out snow chances for the region, but it could mean more rain and less snow overall. "There also hasn't been a big amplified jet stream this year. This is limiting snow systems from moving through the region. That has resulted in a more southerly storm track, which has brought more snow to some southern locations, and less snow to the cities in the north that typically get snow," Chinchar says.

Three months temperature outlook for the US.
Three months temperature outlook for the US.

There's still time for snow

The winter season is still far from over, giving these cities plenty of time to make up for the lack of snowfall. A few long-range forecasts show a slight change in the forecast pattern that will give some of these big cities in the Northeast a better shot of snow during the next few weeks.

There could be another winter storm Sunday into Monday that could bring additional snow to these areas. All it takes is one blockbuster snowstorm to get the snowless cities back on track.

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