DANBURY, Conn. -- The sub-zero temperatures and frequent snowstorms making winter so miserable in Fairfield County this year are actually normal, according to one local weather expert.
"A whole generation has grown up without ever experiencing an old-fashioned New England winter," said Gary Lessor, assistant to the director of the meteorological studies and the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
But as Fairfield County awakes to yet another snowstorm Wednesday morning, it is sobering to realize that winters like this one happened all the time just 20 or 30 year ago, said Lessor.
"This is normal," he said. "That's honestly what it is."
For the past two decades, Lessor said, winter seemed to last just a couple of weeks at a time, with longer stretches of milder weather and shorter stretches of snow and cold. Some years, like 1995 and 2013, winters were mild, even with one gigantic blizzard.
But this year, the subtropical jet stream is so far to the south that the cold air overwhelms the East Coast, he said.
"The Pacific is at an equilibrium, and that's when severe winters in the Northeast occur," Lessor said.
It's not your imagination: This winter has been more severe and colder than in the recent few years, he said, citing statistics measured in Danbury:
- In January, temperatures averaged about 4.1 degrees colder than normal with 5.2 more inches of snow than normal.
- In December, temperatures averaged 1 degree colder than normal with 6.1 more inches of snow than average.
- For the winter so far, we are averaging 2.55 degrees colder than normal.
- So far, Danbury has seen 32.65 inches of snow vs. a norm of 23.1 inches and 22 inches at this time last year.
For January, "pretty much the whole month was colder than normal," Lessor said.
After a pounding of cold and snowy weather in the seven official weeks of winter thus far, the groundhog saw his shadow, calling for six weeks more. Weekend forecasts are calling for another snowstorm.
It's enough to push even a New England meteorologist to his limits.
"Winter started early this year -- we got into December and it seemed like it was chilly immediately and below freezing by Dec. 8," Lessor said. "Now everyone is just wishing that winter was over."