The Winter That Wasn't?

By Andrea Michalenicz

February 9, 2012 Updated Feb 9, 2012 at 7:49 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) "Mild" is the theme for this winter in the Tiers. And consequently, we've seen very little snow so far. It's what may be called the "Winter That Wasn't."

The typical blanket of white has been nearly non-existent through most of this winter season.

Hilltops remain bare, and even grassy areas show bits of green because of the mild temperatures.

"It's been a long stretch of just unusually warm conditions here," says Dave Nicosia, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

"It's actually the fourth-warmest winter on record," says Art DeGaetano, the Director of NOAA's Northeast Regional Climate Center.

The question many are wondering - why has it been so mild?

There has been a La Nina pattern in place all winter, but that was also the case last winter season - and it was one of the ten snowiest winters.

The answer lies in a different pattern.

"We are in the warm phase of the Arctic Oscillation right now, which means the cold air stays in the Arctic, and it's milder in the mid-latitudes," says Nicosia.

"The combination of both La Nina and a positive Arctic Oscillation is a recipe for keeping us warm," DeGaetano adds.

That combo has been in place since November, keeping the cold in places like Alaska, Europe, and northern Asia.

"There is a lot of cold air in the northern hemisphere, it just is not over us," Nicosia says.

And if the pattern does not break, it means bad news for snow lovers.

"We could be in for one of the least snowiest winters on record, and possibly even break the record," Nicosia tells Action News.

The current record for least snowiest winter is the 1988-1989 season, where only 47.9" of snow fell, mainly in little bits at a time.

That season's pattern resembles this one a lot, but there is still hope for a blanket of white.

"In terms of snowfall, it really only takes one or two storms perhaps to change that around," DeGaetano says.

"You get these mild winters, and then as the sun returns to the Arctic, it starts to break up these really cold air masses into pieces," Nicosia recalls from past experiences. "And then cold air will actually come south into the mid-latitudes."

Whether it's more snow or no snow, there is still plenty of time left to weather the winter season.

Through February 9, 2012 only 27.1" of snow has fallen, and there has only been one February day at the Binghamton Airport where the high temperature was at or below the average temperature of 31 degrees.