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DOVER — While Matt Burdy cautioned that winter “certainly isn’t over yet” — as evidenced by the dusting of snow our region experienced Wednesday — the National Weather Service meteorologist said the season has hardly been brutal in Delaware.
“It’s definitely been a mild one,” he said Monday. “It’s been above average as far as temps go (across the region) but definitely below average as far as snow goes, to say the least. So that’s, kind of, come together in tandem this winter so far.”
In Georgetown, according to the National Weather Service, the average daily temperature in January was 45.4 degrees, compared to the usual average of 36.9. Mr. Burdy said he’d be “highly surprised” if the numbers weren’t similar in Dover.
So, when Delawareans in all three counties woke up Wednesday to find the ground covered in a slight snow, it was truly an aberration.
After the sun rose on the first day of February, the flakes mostly melted by late morning.
As far as last month, though, state Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse said, “We’ve had one of, if not the, warmest January on record. There were probably only a couple of days, roughly, that were below normal for the month of January.”
But the warming is coming with some warnings for later in the year, he said.
“We don’t know what the future holds, but, in agriculture, it’s good if we have a long period of extreme cold,” he said, noting a couple reasons.
“When the ground freezes and freezes fairly deep, eventually, it will thaw and loosen the soil up,” he said.
Mr. Scuse was reminded of another concern Sunday, as he walked around his farm, east of Smyrna.
“There were all kinds of flying insects out there that there should not have been this time of year,” he recalled. That’s a problem because, “when you have a prolonged period of extreme cold, it will eliminate a lot of insects and prevent them from overgrowing, which helps us in the next growing cycle,” he said.
Additionally, the invasive spotted lanternfly may rise in dangerous numbers.
“If we continue with this warm cycle, you’re going to have these egg masses hatch earlier than they normally would, which would increase the devastation that these insects could have on some of our crops,” Mr. Scuse said.
Fruit trees could also be greatly impacted, he said, if they bud earlier than usual due to warmth.
“And when they do that, then they are subjected to a freeze that could follow,“ he said. “And when that happens, you lose all of the buds off the trees, and there won’t be any fruit. We had that happen last year, but it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. There were some losses, but they were minimal.
“But we have had, in the last five years, extreme damage, where most of the fruit was lost.”
This warm weather pattern may continue in Delaware for years to come, and that’s bad for agricultural interests, Mr. Scuse said.
“Unfortunately, I think that we’re going to be in this cycle for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We’re looking at each year, and it gets a little bit warmer.”
December 2022, however, wasn’t so hot, with preliminary Delaware Climate Office data indicating that it was the coolest last month of the year since 2017.
Temperatures did reach at least 50 degrees on nine days that month, the National Weather Service reported, peaking at 60 on Dec. 4 and 7. However, the overall average in part dropped due to a chilly burst around Christmas.
Mr. Burdy referenced the Climate Prediction Center, which focuses on longer-range outlooks, and its projection of slightly above-average temperatures and rain over the next month.
In three months, he added, the forecast is calling for somewhat elevated temperatures and normal rainfall.
Prior to Wednesday’s dusting of the white stuff, indoor track athletes at Dover High were preparing for their state championship meet in the sun Monday, feeling some decent heat.
That was fine with Jakwon Kilby.
“Outside is great. It makes you want to get out and run,” said the senior, who is being recruited by the University of Michigan and others for his prowess as a long and triple jumper.
“Inside, the area is closed off a bit, so trying to get air is hard. It makes you have to work harder (to breathe).”
When Senators coach Jim Solomon checks on the state’s best times and distances, he finds many of them “outstanding,” which he partly attributes to getting outdoors for workouts.
Caesar Rodney High coach Michael Tucci concurred, saying, “I think we can attribute some of the improved performance to the better weather. The body has to be really warmed up for explosive movements (like sprinting and jumping), so having better conditions has allowed for better, more in-depth practice in certain disciplines.”
He pointed to one Rider long jumper who improved his personal best from 18 feet, 9 inches last year to nearly 21 feet this season.
“Obviously, some of this is improved fitness and growing into one’s body, but some this is the ability to get real work in outdoors in the pit,” he said.
While there is a 165-meter track inside Dover High, “there’s a lot more you can implement” on the 400-meter one outside, Mr. Solomon said.
“You can pull a sled, (and) there’s opportunity for speed work and building endurance,” he noted.
One hot-button issue resulting from the winter’s warmer weather: swelling gas prices.
On Saturday, The Associated Press reported that the cost of fuel shot up around the country amid increased demand during the unusually mild weather and a slight increase in crude oil prices.
AAA Mid-Atlantic said the national average price for a gallon of regular gas was $3.50 last weekend, an increase of 11 cents for the second week in a row. Drivers were paying $3.34 a gallon on average at this time in 2022.
Analysts say the cost of oil hitting $80 a barrel has combined with the rising temperatures to put “a lot of upward pressure on gas prices at the moment.”