Weather forecast for 2012: a lot less crazy

People on the jetty at Crescent Beach in Niantic look at a grounded sailboat after Tropical Storm Irene hit the area on Aug. 28.
People on the jetty at Crescent Beach in Niantic look at a grounded sailboat after Tropical Storm Irene hit the area on Aug. 28.

How do you explain a year that brought record-setting snowfall, heat waves, a tropical storm that paralyzed the state and a freak October snowstorm that somehow managed to again top power outage records?

A couple of experts offered one explanation: There is no explanation at all.

The state's 2011 run-in with Mother Nature, which brought a bit of everything - blizzards, high-powered winds, immense rainfall and more - may just have been one of those once-in-a-lifetime occurrences.

"I hate to say it's coincidence, but you can't put your finger on just one thing," said Bruce DePrest, the chief meteorologist with WFSB-TV, Channel 3. "It's unusual for one year. I could see one all-time record being broken, but not a half-dozen."

DePrest was referring to a number of weather events this year that smashed precedents that span about a century.

Among them: the 54.3 inches of snow measured in January at Bradley International Airport marked the state's snowiest month. One storm also set a record for most snowfall in a 24-hour period.

Then on July 22, a temperature of 103 degrees was measured in Bridgeport, DePrest said, which broke another all-time high. And then Tropical Storm Irene and October's snowstorm broke records for statewide power outages.

To top it off, the state has experienced its wettest year since 1905, when record keeping began. As of Wednesday, DePrest said 69.06 inches of rainfall had been measured at Bradley. The state normally gets about 46 inches.

All of this has come in a year in which tornados in Joplin, Mo., and Alabama - and another in nearby Springfield, Mass. - added to the natural hazards that devastated much of the nation and caused $52 billion in damages.

"An explanation might be the most difficult thing to come by," said Mike Pigott, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College, Pa. "A lot of these things don't necessarily go together."

Pigott also pointed out the state's recent unusual weather. He said Wednesday that December temperatures in Hartford have been 6.4 degrees higher than normal.

The October snowstorm does have some parts of the state ahead of its average snowfall for this point in the winter, Pigott said. As of Wednesday, AccuWeather had measured 12.3 inches of snow so far in Hartford - about 4 inches ahead of schedule.

Very little snow has fallen in the weeks since. But it's mostly been a wildly unpredictable year, one that has left experts working to develop theories.

"In some ways we were due for it," Pigott said, of Irene in particular. "Statistical probability says that (the Northeast) should have a close encounter with a hurricane or tropical system every couple of years."

DePrest said it's difficult to place the blame for the year's unusual weather solely on global warming. He said the hot summer temperatures and the large snowfall offer conflicting evidence that global warming is solely to blame.

With the new year opening with another unseasonably warm day, could we be in for a repeat of 2011's chaotic and unpredictable weather?

"Chances are, no," DePrest said. "How many more records can you break? You had the wettest year and the snowiest month. That's going to be hard to top."

jeff.johnson@theday.com

Jay Ericson clears snow off branches weighing down on power lines at his home in Glastonbury following the freak October snowstorm.
Jay Ericson clears snow off branches weighing down on power lines at his home in Glastonbury following the freak October snowstorm.
Neighbors talk on Crescent Beach in Niantic on Aug. 30 near the Wyvern, a sailboat that washed up on the beach during Tropical Storm Irene.
Neighbors talk on Crescent Beach in Niantic on Aug. 30 near the Wyvern, a sailboat that washed up on the beach during Tropical Storm Irene.
Bryce Reck, 9, of North Stonington tries to read by two candles after his family lost power after Tropical Storm Irene.
Bryce Reck, 9, of North Stonington tries to read by two candles after his family lost power after Tropical Storm Irene.

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