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Feb 20, 2012 10:11 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

The Winter That Never Was

Feb 20, 2012 10:50 AM

It’s not over yet, but it certainly appears that the 2011-12 winter season may go down as the winter that never was. In fact, we have had quite a few spring-like, 50-plus degree days over the last two months.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, water temperature gauges for the New York area’s bays and oceans are reading approximately 5 degrees above normal for February. The mid-February water temperature at the Battery was 42.6 degrees Fahrenheit, Sandy Hook read 45.7 degrees and the Long Island Sound, off New London, registered in at 44.1 degrees. These compare to a February mean temperature of between 36 and 37 degrees for the three locations, at least 10 degrees above average.

Jim Monaco of Sag Harbor pointed out that the practice of the not-too-distant past of cutting ice on designated freshwater ponds and storing it for refrigeration could not have taken place this year.

While our warm winter temps are not necessarily evidence of a larger, global warming trend, the National Climatic Data Center reports that January had a combined global land and ocean average surface temperature that was 0.63 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. It also marks the 323rd consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with below-average temperatures was February 1985.

In order to avoid potential problems associated with reacting to the warm weather as if spring has already arrived, and then getting pummeled by an early March snowstorm, most plants and animals cue into day length, holding off on their spring routines until a specified number of hours and minutes of daylight (or darkness) is attained.

But there’s always some opportunistic individuals that will go for it, as was the case last week when crocuses and snowdrops flowered here in Barnes Landing, three full weeks ahead of schedule.

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