Frozen in time: February 2015 is Berkshires' coldest since 1943

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With 11 days to go in February and no relief in sight from the Arctic air mass that has set up shop over the Northeast since mid-January, this month shapes up so far as the coldest on record in the Berkshires since 1943.

According to the 78-year National Weather Service database at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, February 1943 — with three mid-month, standing record lows of 20 and 25 degrees below zero — continues to hold the dubious honor of No. 1 most frigid with an average temperature of 10.4 degrees.

But until this year, no month since then has seen the prolonged, intense and off-the-charts deep freeze that area denizens are enduring. As of Tuesday, just past this month's half-way point, the average temperature stands at 11.3 degrees.

How do you spell relief?

M-A-R-C-H.

The long-range forecasts show no end in sight to this enduring big chill at least for the next 10 days of February, according Luigi Meccariello, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

The cause of the seemingly never-ending super-freeze is simply a persistent weather pattern caused by the jet stream, funneling in cold air from Canada on northwesterly winds, Meccariello said.

Warm winter elsewhere

Hard as it may be to believe, the National Climate Data Center reported on Tuesday that the U.S. overall is having its sixth-warmest winter on record, based on data back to 1895.

Despite all the suffering in New England, the western half of the nation enjoyed "phenomenal, record warmth," according to the NCDC, with 4,074 daily records set for warm temperatures in the West and only 236 records for cold in the Northeast.

But for the Berkshires, the government's Climate Prediction Center has nothing but cold discomfort, with more of the same as far as the computer models can see.

Second cold blast

At the Weather Underground, a division of Weather.com, meteorologist Bob Henson predicted that the Northeast region could move up a notch on the cold-record scoreboard.

"Dozens of daily records could tumble," he stated in a blog post, "because of a uncommonly frigid stretch for late February, especially as a second blast of Arctic air arrives later this week."

Among the many remarkable aspects of this Berkshire winter is the persistence of the extreme cold — 23 straight days of below normal readings, in many cases double-digit deviations. Measurable snow has fallen on 13 days since Jan. 23.

Not the snowiest

But total snowfall for this month, clocking in at 31.7 inches through Tuesday at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, is far from a record, though well above the 18-inch long-term average for February.

The snowiest month on record is a title held by January 2011, in first place by far with an astounding 52.2 inches. And on top of that came 26 more inches in February.

With a total of 65.8 inches so far this winter locally, the county has a long way to go to catch the all-time record — a beyond-belief 146.6 inches in 1995-96. Average seasonal snowfall for the area is 76 inches.

Bostonians are groaning under the weight of that city's 58.7 inches in February so far, the snowiest month on record, and that follows 34.3 inches in January, nearly all in the last week of the month.

With snow still falling on Tuesday and more expected this weekend, the state capital is less than one foot away from beating the winter of 1995-96, still the champion all-time snowiest winter on record there —107.6 inches.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.

Coldest months in the Berkshires ...

Here is a ranking of the coldest months in the Berkshires. This month's ranking is based on temperatures recorded through Feb. 17.

1. February 1943

2. February 2015

3. January 2004

4. January 1994

5. January 2003

6. January 2009

7. January 2005

8. January 2015

Sources: National Weather Service data at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, 1938-2015; AccuWeather.com, Eagle archives.

Snowiest months in the Berkshires. ..

Here is a ranking of the snowiest months in the Berkshires. This month's ranking is based on snowfall totals recorded through Feb. 17.

1. January 2011: 52.2 inches

2. December 1945: 46.0 inches

3. January 1996: 42.4 inches

4. March 2001: 41.6 inches

5. February 2010: 32.4 inches

6. January 2006: 32.2 inches

7. February 2015: 31.2 inches

8. February 1978: 28.4 inches

Sources: National Weather Service data at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, 1938-2015; AccuWeather.com, Eagle archives.


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