Mar 13, 2023 - News

Boston just had one of its hottest winters

Average winter temperatures in Boston
Data: Climate Central; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axio

The winter of 2022–23 has been Boston's fifth warmest on record, with average temperatures from December through February of 36.8°F — 7.3 degrees warmer than those of winter 1970.

  • That's according to a new analysis of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration numbers from Climate Central, a nonpartisan research and communications group.
  • Boston's average winter temperature was 29.5°F in 1970.

Why it matters: Warm winters can exacerbate drought (because there's less snowmelt in the spring), wreak havoc on crops and gardens, and spell disaster for towns built around skiing, snowboarding and similar pursuits.

The big picture: Winter is the fastest-warming season for much of the continental U.S.

  • About 80% of the country now has at least seven more winter days with above-normal temperatures compared to 1970, per Climate Central.
  • Seasonal snowfall is declining in many cities — though heavy snowstorms can still happen when temperatures are cold enough.
  • In fact, precipitation extremes are happening more frequently and getting more intense, which can lead to feast or famine snowfall.

Driving the news: Not only are winters warming overall, but cold snaps are becoming shorter and less severe, the latest research shows.

Zoom out: This winter has been especially mild across areas east of the Mississippi River. But across the West, it's been colder than average. This is reflected in the balance of daily record highs to daily record lows.

  • Preliminary NOAA data processed by Climate Central shows there have been 4,857 daily record highs set or tied in the Lower 48 states this winter, and 4,421 daily record lows set or tied.
  • A combination of La Niña, a strong polar vortex and a stubborn area of high pressure in the far western Atlantic Ocean favored a weather pattern that kept the East Coast on the warm side of winter storms, delivering snow across the Great Lakes northward into Ontario and Quebec.

The bottom line: Over the coming years, most of us can expect to feel climate change's effects most acutely during the winter months.


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