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Scientists Probe Weather Patterns Behind The Mild Winter

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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GREENBELT, Md. (WJZ)– A warm day in February may be a rare gift, but for scientists, it’s one more bit of data in unlocking weather patterns.

Alex DeMetrick reports on why it’s feeling like the winter that wasn’t.

Daffodils are already blooming in Baltimore. People are walking unbundled in February.

“It’s amazing weather,” said one.

“It’s beautiful. It feels like springtime,” said another.

“I do like it, yeah. I don’t like the cold weather,” said a third.

So far this winter, there’s only been one day with any real snow, and it wasn’t much. Here’s why:

“This year, we’re in a La Nina stage, which means there isn’t a lot of moisture coming in from the Pacific over the continental U.S,” Gail Skofronick Jackson, a NASA physical scientist, said.

Jackson’s specialty is snow.

At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, all the variables that make up weather become computer data to better understand how it works. One of those variables is called the North Atlantic Oscillation, which effects the jet stream.

This year, it’s not pushing south. And with a La Nina in place:

“That combined with the jet stream staying so far north, we’re not getting that mix of liquid water in the clouds and the cold that’s causing the snow,” Jackson said.

It was just the opposite two years ago in February, when wet El Nino conditions met a cold jet stream pushing into the deep south:

“Guess what happens? It snows,” Jackson explained.

While a lack of snow makes for an easier winter here, it can make for a harder summer in other places.

“When the snow falls, it lands on snow packs, and out west they really rely on those snow packs to provide water all through the summer,” Jackson said.

And while a warm, sunny day is welcome, jet streams that stay up eventually come down.

To better understand winter patterns, NASA is launching a satellite that will track snow from formation to the moment we shovel it.

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