Domes are a seasonal necessity, but what is it that decides whether we’ll have a long winter and short summer or a short summer and long winter? At the Farley Group, our busiest seasons are the spring, when domes come down, and fall, when they go back up, so our schedules need to consider the outside temperature and when the snow will be—and won’t be—falling. For this, we need to rely on weather reports and when the expected end of seasons are, based on past years.
But as this year demonstrated, seasons don’t always follow they’re expected course. This past winter was the warmest ever since we’ve been keeping track.
Many consider this a sign of a changing climate—note that climate and weather are two distinct things—and it very may well be, but it is impossible to make inferences on climate based on weather within a single year.
Weather is the variable conditions that we can forecast, climate is what the conditions are like over a long period of time. If atmospheric conditions were numbers on a scatterplot graph, you would say that weather are the little points and climate would be the trend line showing the average of those points. This is why you can’t see a change in climate unless it’s already happened—you need to look at averages over a long period of time.
Therefore, if we’re talking year to year variations, we’re talking about the weather. So what makes the weather different from year to year? Well that’s a difficult question to answer—meteorologists have spent centuries learning about all the systems and conditions on our planet that affect it. Despite all this time spent studying weather, they still don’t fully understand it, which is why we can still get the forecast wrong.
The science is pretty good, though. Nowadays, it’s possible to forecast within the next two to three days with relative confidence, but the farther out you go, the less accurate forecasts become. This is good news for planning a soccer or lacrosse game for the coming weekend—not so much when trying to decide a date months in advance.
Start planning anything more than a couple months away, and it’s pretty difficult to forecast anything besides a best guess. But luckily, there are a couple ways to make a guess that’s not completely arbitrary.
We can usually expect summers and winters to occur around the same time and have relatively consistent temperatures and snowfall, but there are a couple of systems that can affect these—and you’ve likely heard of them.
One of these systems is El Niño. El Niño is a weather system that originates from the Pacific Ocean and happens every few years. Warm water and air creates a weather system that migrates towards us in North America giving us a milder winter. It can’t be controlled, but it can be tracked.
By monitoring systems like El Niño, weather scientists can make educated guesses on how severe a winter might be and help us to figure out when the best times are to install, or take down a dome. We still sometimes have to work in cold and snow, but thanks to meteorologists, we can try our best to work around the weather!