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What Winter? Fairfield County Springs Outdoors

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Under sunny skies and with temperatures near 60 degrees, it felt more like spring than mid-February on Friday to Ross Kronberg of New Canaan and two of his Sacred Heart University golf teammates.

The trio was among dozens of golfers out on the greens at the Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course in Fairfield. People also headed out to parks, walking trails, beaches and tennis courts throughout Fairfield County to enjoy the warm weather.

Kronberg, part of the team that won the Division I Northeast Conference championship title in 2011 and in three of the last four years, recalled how dramatically different the weather was a year ago.

“Last year there was always so much snow on the ground and it was so cold, we could never get out on the greens to practice,” Kronberg said Friday at the double 18-hole public golf course. “This year it’s been incredible."

Meteorologists and weather forecasters say this has been one of the warmest and least snowy winters in the Northeast in recent memory. But they warn that temperatures are likely to drop in the coming weeks with a chance of several snowstorms in late February and March.

“Let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t advise people to put away their snow shovels and winter coats just yet,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Jack Boston. “While we have experienced exactly the reverse of last year when the jet stream pattern in the Pacific pushed the flow of cold air west instead of northwest, the winter is not quite over yet.”

The combination of the reverse jet stream and drier conditions have kept temperatures higher and snow totals lower, Boston said. But he expects some winter weather over the next six weeks. And that's just what Punxsutawney Phil predicted on Groundhog Day, when he saw his shadow, which, according to legend, means six more weeks of winter.

Senior meteorologist Gary Lessor, assistant director of the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, said about 90 percent of the country is warmer than usual this winter.

Unlike last year, the jet stream — the high-atmospheric air stream that flows across the country — has stayed to the north, allowing warmer air to keep moving up from the South, Lessor said.

“We’ve also had less moisture, and it’s hard to get good storms to develop when the jet stream flows from west to east,” he said. “Last year, the polar Canadian air was dipping southward into the Gulf Coast region, and the interaction was generating numerous storms – which resulted in very heavy snow falls. This year the storms have been dying or going out to sea before they reach us.”

A total of 56.4 inches of snow had fallen by this time in Bridgeport last year, Lessor said, and normal is 18.2 inches. But so far this year, snowfall has totaled only 11 .6 inches.

“That could still change, and it’s likely we’ll get snow in March, so it would be premature for people to think we’ve already reached spring,” Lessor said.

But those enjoying the warm weather Friday didn’t want to think about that. They are just basking in the warmth: Weather researchers say this winter has been the warmest since 1932, with temperatures in the Northeast at least 5 degrees above normal on average.

“It seems like the warmest February I can remember,” said 56-year-old Pedro Malave of Fairfield, who played nine holes at the Fairchild Wheeler golf course Friday with three buddies. “Last year at this time we were still two months away from burrowing out from all that snow. Today is just a beautiful day, and I don’t want to talk about cold weather and snow.”

But not everyone is thrilled about the warm winter.

“Warmer winters are hard on many businesses, including people who make their living plowing snow, selling heating oil and retailers who rely on selling shovels and other cold winter merchandise,” said Paul Timpanelli, president and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council.

“On the other hand, good winter weather brings people out who spend money in businesses that sell cars and other big ticket items.”

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