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For much of the USA, winter never got off the ground

By Doyle Rice (USA Today) - March 20, 2012

Winter may “officially” end early Tuesday, but for much of the central and eastern USA, spring is already feeling more like summer.

Temperatures have climbed into the 70s and 80s across much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation over the past few days — including an all-time March record of 79 degrees in International Falls, Minn., on Sunday.

Snowfall totals were on the massive side last winter, so the snowfall totals for nearly every city east of the Rockies this winter look like they took a steep dive, according to the National Weather Service.

“Across the lower 48, we’ve gone from a snow feast to a famine between last year and this one,” said David Robinson, New Jersey’s state climatologist and a geographer at Rutgers University.

Albany, N.Y., and Concord, N.H., set record-low snowfall totals for the winter season, said Jake Crouch, a physical scientist at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Thank the location of the jet stream for this mild winter, Crouch said.

The jet stream, the river of air far above the Earth’s surface that helps push weather systems around, stayed far to the north for most of the winter, Crouch said.

This kept the cold air up in spots such as Alaska, which endured a cold, snowy winter even by its frigid standards.

Nearly 11 feet of snow has fallen on Anchorage this season, according to the weather service, forcing the city to haul away at least 500 million pounds of snow to its six snow disposal sites. If just 3.3 more inches of snow falls in Anchorage, that will break the city’s record of 132.6 inches.

In the contiguous 48 states, only a few cities in the Western mountains and in the Southwest — such as Denver, Flagstaff and Albuquerque — saw more snow this winter than last, the weather service reported.

Nationally, it was the third-least-snowy winter in 46 years of snow records, according to the Rutgers Global Snow Lab.

It marked the first winter since 2005-06 with below-average snow cover for the nation.

Bizarrely, one of the biggest snowstorms of the season in the Northeast occurred in October, Crouch noted.

Some spots in western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire picked up 30 inches of snow.