Comment: For more recent wild and crazy weather, see our latest SOTT Earth Changes Summary - March 2016: Extreme Weather, Planetary Upheaval, Meteor Fireballs.

From the warmest December on record to the "Blizzard of 2016" and snow in April, the winter of 2015-2016 put itself in the record books across the northeastern United States.

The transition to a strong El Niño brought a much different weather pattern to the region compared to the winter of 2014-2015 which brought copious amounts of cold and snow.

The winter of 2015-2016 impacted the northeastern United States differently based on location, causing some locations to end with below-normal snowfall and above-normal snowfall in others.
2015-2016 Snowfall
Warmest December on record hinders lake-effect snow season

The AccuWeather winter forecast for the Northeast and Great Lakes highlighted a mild start to the winter season as El Niño strengthened in the equatorial Pacific. The milder pattern would also lead to a weak lake-effect snow season across the Great Lakes.

"We were certain that the winter cold would be less persistent and less frequent compared to last year," AccuWeather Long Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said.

The mild start to the season failed to produce many days of air cold enough to produce significant bands of lake-effect snow prior to 2016.

"The mild pattern during November and December took over across the eastern United States and allowed very few lake-effect events to occur at the beginning of the season," Pastelok said.

While November ended as one of the warmest months on record for portions of the Northeast, December not only became the warmest month on record across the Northeast, but shattered the previous record.

Temperatures from Boston to New York City, Washington, D.C. and places in-between averaged more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for the month. Some locations broke their previous December average temperature by 3 to 5 degrees.

"The highlight of December was the warmth on Christmas Eve," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio said.

The mild start to the beginning of the weather season helped to break a 117-year-old record for the latest measurable snowfall in Buffalo, New York. The new record is Dec. 18. The record for the latest date for an inch of snow fell just shy of the record set on Jan. 4, 1937 when Buffalo received 1.9 inches of snow on New Year's Day.

As the calendar shifted into 2016, enough cold air arrived for several lake-effect events to unfold, however, there lacked a large number of significant lake-effect storms to help erase the snowfall deficit from November and December.

"While the cold hit during January and February, there were a few big lake-effect events but most locations still received less than half of the normal snow typically received from lake-effect storms," Pastelok said.

Cleveland, Ohio, for example, received only 33 inches of snow this season, exactly half of the normal snowfall of 66 inches. Buffalo, New York, received around 52 inches of snow, more than 40 inches below the normal of 93 inches.

With much of the interior Northeast relying on lake-effect snow as their main snowpack for each season, the winter season ended with below-normal snowfall. The same was not the case along the Interstate-95 corridor as a single storm produced more snow than some locations receive for an entire season.

Blizzard of 2016 breaks mid-Atlantic daily snowfall records

The most memorable snowstorm of the winter season occurred during Jan. 22 and Jan. 23 across the mid-Atlantic states and became known as the Blizzard of 2016.

This powerful storm led to widespread snow totals of 1 to 3 feet, strong wind gusts between 30 and 50 mph and shut down major cities for days.

The major cities of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York City and Philadelphia shattered daily records for the most snow on Jan. 23.

This storm produced a typical entire season's worth of snowfall in a span of one and a half days across many locations along the Interstate-95 corridor.

"The big snowstorm from Jan. 22-23 across the mid-Atlantic led to portions of the mid-Atlantic toward New York City receiving above-normal snowfall for the season," Pastelok said.

For example, Philadelphia, received 22.4 inches of snow from the Blizzard of 2016, right at the normal of around 22 inches for the season.

If that storm failed to occur, the entire region would have received very little snow.

"New York City to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. only received about 5 inches of snow outside of the Blizzard of 2016," AccuWeather Meteorologist Eric Leister said.

April snow, cold enough to break the least snowiest year on record

Outside of the lake-effect snow belts and locations outside of the Blizzard of 2016, snow was little to be seen.

"Little storms brought a significant amount of snow across portions of the interior Northeast, especially from northern and central Pennsylvania into portions of southeastern and eastern New York state," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Thompson said.

Williamsport, Pennsylvania, failed to receive 10 inches of snow while Albany, New York, failed to reach a foot and a half.

However, as many were looking forward to an early spring, cold and snow returned to the Northeast during the first two weeks of April.

As the polar vortex shifted south toward the Hudson Bay, shots of colder air plunged across the Northeastern states and opened the door for a few snowstorms to sweep from the Great Lakes to the mid-Atlantic coast.

The cold air and fresh snowpack caused some locations to set new record lows during early April. For others, enough snow fell to prevent this season from being the least snowiest on record.

Williamsport received enough snow on April 9 to fall short of the record for least amount of snow in a winter year. Williamsport has accumulated 7.7 inches this winter, slightly more than the current record of 7.0 inches set in the winter of 1988-1989.

Albany, New York, will mark this winter as the least snowiest on record at 16.9 inches. The previous record was 19.0 inches set in the winter of 1988-1989.

Further confirmation from local National Weather Service offices will determine which and if any locations received the least amount of snow this winter season on record.

The official winter year ends on June 30.

The chance for any additional snowstorms across the Northeast is unlikely until fall as milder air will return and stay for the remainder of April starting this week.