ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Now that the first month of winter is behind us, we still have 2-3 more months (give or take) to go before things get too warm around here to support any good snows. From a climatological standpoint, Rochester typically averages the most measurable snow from November to March, and occasionally that lingers into the month of April. This just means all the more opportunity to see some flakes fly around here as the winter treks on.

As far as this season goes, snow has been a tough commodity to come by in Rochester so far for a multitude of reasons. 

  1. We haven’t had any “good” widespread, or synoptic scale, systems with enough cold air in the atmosphere to support a snowfall with anything more than a couple inches at best recorded at the airport.

The highest snowfall recorded so far was 2.4” on November 17th, more than a month ago!

  1. The fact that we’re in our third successive La Nina year only supports the greater likelihood of continuing our ongoing streak of having a winter with above average temperatures, and therefore greater odds at ending up below average for snowfall. 
  2. Lake effect snows have favored areas downwind of Lake Erie as opposed to Lake Ontario due to the combination of cold air intrusions lining up with the proper wind direction. This year the bulk of snows have come from winds blowing out of the south/southwest favoring places like Buffalo, Batavia, and the western Southern Tier, but not so much places like Rochester or the Finger Lakes.

There are some exceptions to these rules that are worth noting. Like that fact that just because we’re in a La Nina year, doesn’t mean we’re not capable of getting a big snow event that could send our totals sky high at the last second. For example, this happened about 25 years ago during the month of January in 1996. Known as the “King of all Snowfalls” in La Nina years, Rochester recorded 23 inches of snow in 24 hours, and remains the largest single day snowfall in Rochester weather history. The bulk of the snow wasn’t actually from one organized system, but rather was the result of lake effect off Lake Ontario!

There’s no doubting the fact that the recent cold blast during Christmas weekend of 2022 that sent temperatures plummeting across the entire United States, and ultimately led to the fatal blizzard in Buffalo that will go down in history books. When we look for more snow, we certainly don’t wish a situation like that to unfold anywhere, but sometimes Mother Nature has other plans.

This event just goes to show just how localized and powerful lake effect snow can be, but as far as this winter is concerned Rochester just isn’t getting in on all that winter has to offer; not yet anyway. 

For some perspective, here are some previous monthly snowfall totals recorded at the Rochester airport for the months of November and December for the past 4 years.

Based on NOWData from the National Weather Service in Buffalo, it’s been since 2019 that we’ve seen a November or December record anywhere close to, or above normal numbers, and by a long shot too. With that in mind you could ask, what was different in 2019 as opposed to now?

For the past 3 winters La Nina has been active, so one could argue that there could be some correlation to that, but based on previous data it’s difficult to make that conclusion considering other La Nina winters have proven to be more than capable of producing big snows as mentioned above. In 2019, we were considered to be in ENSO neutral, which means there is no lean towards a La Nina or El Nino conditions during that time.

This now begs the question, do we have time to catch up? I think we certainly are more than capable of doing so. The matter of how and when we do that is still up in the air.

For those who don’t particularly care for big snows, you’ll be happy to know that in the next couple weeks there aren’t too many signs of any big snow storms to be concerned about. Although if you’ve lived around here long enough, you know better than to doubt what this area is capable of around here. Until then, we may see more people busting out the bikes more often than hitting the ski slopes at this rate!