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Who Else is Missing the Winter of 2011?

A dive into the unexpected reasons why the past few years in Darien have been lacking snow and what to expect for the winter season ahead.
In+2015%2C+when+there+was+59+inches+of+snow+in+Hartford.+Here+I+am+after+one+of+many+normal+snow+storms+that+winter+season+where+there+was+so+much+snow+a+path+had+to+be+shoveled+for+our+new+puppy+to+walk+around.
Christina Galligan
In 2015, when there was 59 inches of snow in Hartford. Here I am after one of many normal snow storms that winter season where there was so much snow a path had to be shoveled for our new puppy to walk around.

It’s February 2011 and Darien is a winter wonderland; there are a few dozen kids sledding in Baker Park, snowmen being built in every front lawn and snowballs flying into puffer jackets. It’s a nostalgic and familiar site from the childhood of most Darien High School students when snow days were common and expected.

2023 was the hottest year in recorded history which corresponds to Connecticut’s snowfall last winter being 24 inches below average. The Darien scenery described from Connecticut in 2011 was the year Hartford saw 84.5 inches of snow, however, nationwide the average snowfall in winter has been declining which has left many DHS students wondering where the snow days have gone.

“We used to always go sledding at Baker Park. It was fun because it was something we only got to do a few times a year.” senior Caitlin Donaghue said. 

But the popular Baker Park hill has found itself empty and with poor sledding conditions the past few years as the amount of snow and snow days has been remarkably low. For most DHS students’ full lives (2005-present day) the annual snowfall averages have ranged between 30 inches and 80 inches, with most years found in the middle at 50 or 60 inches.

The night of January 6th, 2024 brought the first substantial snow of the winter season. Around 3 inches of snow fell but almost all of it was gone by the middle of the week. (Katie Galligan)

However, since 2020, the snowfall has not exceeded 35 inches. 2022 had 34.4 inches and 2023 was almost half of that at 17.1 inches.  2022 was the least snowy year ever recorded in Hartford. In the past, the numbers have always varied from year to year, sometimes 60 inches one year dropped to 30 the next, but it is not normally a pattern to have this many consecutive years of low snowfall.

“I feel like the lack of snow is just showing how we are going in the opposite direction with climate change and how the environment is supposed to be,” sophomore Logan Samuel said. “It is disappointing. Snow is supposed to be fun to play in and just to see it is relaxing.”  

Climate change seems like the obvious answer for the lack of snow and it is definitely an important factor. Most DHS students are aware of how man-made emissions warm up the atmosphere explaining why 2023 was so hot and creating less than desirable conditions for snow.  

“I think there’s less snow because the water levels are rising,” senior Sarah Williams said. “I learned in 7th grade science that since we live on the coast our winters are more mild and the coast is encroaching.”

But there is also another more natural reason for the lack of snow. For the past few years we have had El Niño winters. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon that causes the jet stream to move northward into Canada and weaken over other areas. Even with this knowledge meteorologists find it extremely difficult to predict the winter ahead. Most believe there is a 40-50% chance of a warmer-than-normal season and say that if it does snow heavily it will be in February and March.

The lack of snow has many environmental impacts as snow on mountain ranges is supposed to serve vital reservoirs, cool rivers, propel hydropower systems, and feed irrigation channels. But on the more personal side, the lack of snow can be a bit depressing as it normally brings fun days without school and a general nostalgic wintry feeling.

I and my brother sophomore Tommy Galligan proudly display our snowmen years ago. Snow brings the nostalgia of activities which current younger Darien students don’t get to experience. (Christina Galligan)

Additionally, many DHS students were disheartened by the lackluster skiing conditions in December with hopes for better snow in February. 

“I miss that whole cute little wintery and homey scene where you would put ornaments on your Christmas tree and it was snowing outside but you are all warm because you’re inside,” Williams said. “But I don’t miss shoveling, clearing off the cars, having to wake up earlier to defrost the windshield, and while I love them in theory, I hate how snow days mess up the school schedule.”

The lack of snow may remove some of our least favorite chores but it is likewise disheartening to have a gray dead landscape this winter without the usual accompaniment of snow that has been a staple part of many DHS students’ childhood. The combination of the El Niño winter with global warming may unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for some) may again leave Darien with a lot less snow than normal this season. 

 

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About the Contributor
Katie Galligan, Writer
Katie Galligan is a senior who has been writing for Neirad since the Fall of 2022. She enjoys writing about the arts, music, clubs, and current events in the Darien community. She spends her free time as a ballet dancer at the Darien Arts Center and the Editor-in-Chief of the Current Literary Magazine. She is interested in pursing international relations and journalism in the future.

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