Record Warm Fall and Early Winter 2015/2016 in the Adirondack Mountains

Welcome Garrett Marino, Adirondack Lifestyle Consulting Meteorologist
Mt. Marcy from Adirondack Lifestyle 01-08-16

Snowy Mount Marcy looked like it should in January, for a moment last week.

The fall of 2015 was the warmest on record in the Adirondack Mountains and throughout the continental United States. Early winter wasn’t any better – it was 64 degrees on December 24, 2015. In Lake Placid, the temperatures have not been just a little warmer than usual; it has been a great deal warmer than usual. Early season Nordic ski excursions were replaced by hikes and trail runs. Granted, the bizarre warmth gave everyone more time for winter preparation chores and saved on firewood and heating costs, but snow and cold are the point of winter preparation chores and firewood.

The big pout and turn around.

The 2015 Adirondack snow shortage drove me into a sad, sullen, ski-less silence. Then a surprise accumulating snowfall snapped me out of it on December 28. (It didn’t cure the alliteration.) “Hope springs eternal,” I thought. “Bring it on Old Man Winter, we’re ready already!”

Jackrabbit Trail Adirondack beaver house -01-08-16

The beavers were all tucked in on the Jackrabbit Trail in Lake Placid, for a moment last week.

Not so fast - bring in the expert.

This is a good time to introduce my friend and the new official Adirondack Lifestyle meteorologist, Garrett Marino. I hoped for a good news weather story to be his first mention, but El Niño and the Polar Vortex, or the Arctic oscillation, are not cooperating.

Garrett’s expertise is a great addition to Adirondack Lifestyle and my hobbyist weather musings. It can seem like the world stands still during an extreme weather event such as the current Adirondack snow drought, but it doesn’t. Fortunately, the world goes around and atmospheric conditions change. Weather awareness is important in the Adirondack Mountains, home to some of the best outdoor recreation in the United States and a spot where weather can be dangerous.

An MIT trained meteorologist, Garrett will provide statistics and observations from his lakeside meteorological observatory on Upper Saranac Lake, where he maintains a weather station. I’ve learned to listen when he talks about the weather. For example, he offered good advice last winter when he said, “Don’t worry Joann, you’ll like February; it is going to be cold and snowy. He was right; I was a happy skier last February.

Go home El Niño, you’re really drunk this time.

Pitchoff ice climbers 01-08-16

Ice climbers on the back side of Pitchoff Mt. in Lake Placid, NY, took advantage of a break in the warmth, for a moment last week.

However, it is not February 2015, it is January 2016 and the temperature is 45 degrees in Lake Placid. Sunday evening, January 10, it is raining and warm, uncharacteristic lightening just flashed across the mountains in front of me. The thunder is a strange soundtrack to a January day in Lake Placid. The remaining thin layer of icy crust between dirt and rocks is depressing. This bizarre weather is not only a bummer for local fans of outdoor recreation, it is a hit to the region’s business owners who miss the normal onslaught of visiting and hungry snow-sport tourists. Did I mention this weather is bizarre? I’m not sure “bizarre” is a technical term used by meteorologists, but it aptly describes the weather in the Adirondacks right now.

According to Garrett, this is the least snowy start to the winter season on record, since at least the late 1800s. Earlier this fall, in mid-November, Garrett predicted climate change already noticed in the Adirondacks would be exacerbated by the strength of this year’s El Niño. He said the Adirondacks would probably not see much real, traditional winter weather until at least mid-January, 2016. He said, “The pattern will likely break somewhat after mid-January, but I am doubtful now that any significant sustained cold will come this winter until February if even then.” The National Weather Service agrees and predicts a warmer than usual mid- and late-winter 2016 in northern New York.

MVH Nordic Skiing Lake Placid 01-08-16

The Olympic Nordic ski trails at Mt. Van Hoevenberg were remarkable good, for a moment last week.

The pattern will likely break somewhat after mid-January, but I am doubtful now that any significant sustained cold will come this winter until February, if even then.

 Thanks for the memories, snow of December 27 – January 9

Divine sign at Mt. Van Hoevenberg 01-08-16

It was a divine sign that led me to choose the Big Rock Loop. I’m glad I did. I had fun skiing, for a moment last week.

There was a little bit of skiable snow on the ground – about 6 inches total – for less than two weeks in Lake Placid so far this winter. Nordic skiers snapped out of their grief and hit the trails in full force. It was great fun while it lasted.

Maybe Garrett and his meteorological colleagues will have some good news for us about the cold snap that is supposed to hit the region tonight. Hey, the Great Lakes are open and if a blast of cold air sweeps across the water from exactly the right direction, the Adirondacks could get some serious lake effect snow! Hope springs eternal.

Stay tuned for more weather news from Garrett, and check out his weather station statistics at Great Camp Thundersnow.

Adk Ski Dog Ziggy on the Jackrabbit Trail 01-08-16

The Adirondack ski dog had fun, for a moment last week.


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