Though the latest storm walloped much of Aroostook County, the region is expected to have at least an average level of snowfall this year, according to the National Weather Service. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

CARIBOU, Maine — Winter enthusiasts can expect a season much like last year in Aroostook County, according to the latest data from the National Weather Service in Caribou.

So far December has brought 17 inches of snow to Aroostook, lower than the 23.1 total inches recorded at this time last year and 26.3 inches in December 2020. The average December snowfall tends to land around 22 inches, National Weather Service meteorologist Anne Strauser said.

It’s still early to predict whether Aroostook will surpass last season’s snowfall total of 120 inches, a great increase from the 2020-21 season’s 107.9 inches. But the current patterns of the global La Nina cooling effect on ocean waters and the North Atlantic Oscillation — which is the changes in the strength of two interacting pressure systems, one a low and the other a high — will keep The County on track for a winter much like last season’s, experts said.

That’s good news for the many Aroostook businesses that depend on snowmobilers to stay afloat during the winter.

With a La Nina system, cold waters in the Pacific Ocean push the jet stream north and then dip toward the eastern United States. Fluctuations within the North Atlantic pattern could result in warmer or colder temperatures, which influence snowfall totals, Strauser said.

“We haven’t had extreme signals from either [the La Nina or North Atlantic] patterns,” Strauser said.

As of Dec. 29, the average temperature for the past month was 25.5 degrees compared with 21 in December 2021 and 26 in December 2020.

Though global temperature increases have been influencing the warmer weather, certain patterns this month caused a few swings between colder and warmer temperatures, Strauser said.

In mid-December, a “blocking high pressure system” from the North Atlantic Oscillation placed daily temperatures in the 20s but nightly temperatures in the teens or below. That trend leveled off later in the month, with average daily and nightly temperatures in the 20s.

While more extreme cold and warm temperatures can happen at periods throughout the season, this winter still appears on track for average or slightly above average temperatures and snowfall.

“Even though we’ve had some cold spells, we’ve still been on the warmer side,” Strauser said. “If we end up with a high pressure system to the east or west, we could have a lot more snow.”