No other season affects your lifestyle or wallet more than winter. While knowing the details of an upcoming season are impossible, we can understand some trends that will be heading our way.
The key to our winter weather lies in the oceans. This year there is a stronger La Nina compared to last year. This tends to keep the southern and eastern United states dry and mild with storminess in the West and Midwest.
The North Pacific also helps to determine the jet stream flow. For the first time in a long time, there is no strong signal in the Gulf of Alaska. If anything, a pool of cool in the NW Pacific may push the jet into western Alaska and create a pipeline of arctic air into the mid-section of the nation. Close enough that we will get some pushes of frigid air.
The growth of snow and ice plays a big role in the growth of winter's cold. Snowcover grew fast early before slowing and now lies well above average in North America. This will help for some spells of very cold air for our area, but these spells may not last long.
Lastly, we need to look to the Atlantic for our big storm potential. The active hurricane season helped to cool waters, but with slightly warmer waters off of the Northeast Coast, odds are there for at least one big storm this winter.
Here are the specifics of your Wintercast. I'm forecasting for more of a front-loaded winter. December will be colder than average thanks to a couple of serious pushes of arctic air. In fact, we may have the rare feat of December being the coldest month of the winter season. January will be a more back and forth month but starting to lean to the milder side of average. Last year we had our warmest February on record, and while it would be hard to repeat, I think it will be mild again. Our only significant snowstorm of the season last year came in March. Can it happen this year? I'm leaning against it. I think March will be warmer than average.
It's impossible to forecast specific amounts of snow as we normally have a wide variety of snowfall across Central Pennsylvania. With a more active storm track to our west, I believe we're going to have sloppier events this year including snow, rain and even the most dreaded ice. Overall, snowfall will be near to slightly below average with the roughest winter near to north of I-80.
As for the impacts to you, I believe utility bills will be below average but higher than last year. Wintry mixes will increase the demand for salt and there will be more frequent travel issues than last year. Lastly, I believe there will be more school disruptions compared to last year.