Most people in New England think of February as a month of big snowstorms. It can be when the overall favorable weather conditions take place at precisely the right time.
The recipe for our impressive nor’easters calls for certain important ingredients — a strong, cold, dry air mass to our north and a warm, moisture-laden air mass to our south. Very cold air sweeps down from Canada to New England, and a cold northeast wind results over our region. In the meantime, the warm, moist air to the south moves northward. This warm air rises over the colder air below. Heavy cloudiness results, and as the storm intensifies, our precipitation begins. If our surface temperatures are cold enough, it will be snow.
Some storms intensify explosively, and the winds cause the snow to drift and coastal locales become subject to disastrous erosion and flooding. If, perchance, the storm slows to a standstill and we have astronomical high tides (as in the case of the Blizzard of 1978), prolonged blizzard conditions will prevail.
On the other hand, if the important ingredients do not mix according to the recipe, our weather can be on the more pleasant side. Last year there was very little snow during the month, just about 1 inch total. There were only six days that were completely cloudy.
SALEM’S JANUARY WEATHER
High 63 degrees, low 1 degree above zero
Average 30.5 degrees (3.2 degrees above normal)
Prevailing wind southwest
Peak gust 60 mph on the 31st
Rainfall 1.36 inches
Snowfall 5.3 inches