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Wintercast 2013

What will our winter be like this year?
Few will argue that we had an unusual autumn with warmth, only a few chilly spells, and dull fall foliage. It was odd enough to wonder if Mother Nature has coming up her sleeve for this winter. It's not easy to make a correlation from one strange season to another. So what do I think for our winter forecast?

Most winter forecasts reference El Nino or La Nina, either of which help dictate the winter jet stream from the Pacific. Both of these do have strong correlations to the type of winter weather for parts of our nation and do influence our weather, but only a little. It doesn't really matter this year, because the tropical Pacific is running pretty close to average this year, a condition that we call La Nada. This La Nada will leave us with a finicky winter controlled by other shorter-term factors.

Colder waters in the Gulf Of Alaska helps to promote cold outbreaks for the Western United States and mild weather for the Southeast. My gut feeling is that the majority of the early winter cold will be missing us to the west with only brief spells of chilly weather.

Snow and ice through the Arctic, Asia and Canada grew faster than recent years setting a good environment to develop arctic air masses. While we may miss some shots early, this may set the stage for brief snaps of intense cold, especially through the mid-winter. Chances for some sub-zero mornings may be higher than the past couple of years. 

The last sign I look for is the water temperatures off of the Atlantic coast. Warmer than average ocean temperatures usually help to fuel storms along the coastline, while colder water inhibits storm development. This year, the temperatures are running below average off of the Southeastern states and above average off of New England. This tells me that we will have less big coastal storms, and the ones that do develop, may tend to do so once they pass our area.

Here are the specifics for the Wintercast. I'm forecasting for a near-average December, but that may come from some real warm days early in the month balanced with a couple of cold outbreaks. With the cold starting to win more at the end of the month, it could give us at least a better chance for a little snow for Christmas, especially in the Laurel Highlands. We're going to be prone to a couple of brutal outbreaks of arctic air in January making it a much colder than average month and harsh compared to last year's mild January. With the cold, we'll have several bouts of light snowfall, with the Laurel Highlands much snowier than other spots.

A cold January will leave us with snow on the ground more days, even without big storms. This will help the cold to last into February, especially for the first half of the month. The good news is that once we start to lose snowcover, the chill should start to ease and shift westward by the end of the month. Last year, ski season really didn't hit a peak until later in the year with a cold March. This year, I think the cold will ease quickly through March and we will end up a little above average by the end of the month and much warmer than last year.

It's impossible to forecast specific amounts of snow as we normally have a wide variety of snowfall across the region. Small events will help boost snowfall to near to slightly above average for much of the region, but upslope and lake enhanced snow will bring above average amounts to the Laurel Highlands. Places well east of I-99 will have near to below average snowfall. Totals will range from less than 30" to the east to over 125" over some of the mountains.

To recap, I'm expecting a colder than average winter with the coldest during the mid-winter. Precipitation will be below average, but snowfall will be near to above average in spots spots.




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