Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tom Kalinowski’s Winter Weather Forecast

Last Thursday, the Climate Prediction Center, the long range weather forecasting division of the National Weather Service, made its prediction for this coming winter with a rather unusual statement.

The El Niño event that had started to slowly develop and was expected to strengthen and influence weather patterns across our continent, suddenly vanished. (El Niño is a cyclical warming of the surface water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean and helps to establish a broad area of high pressure over this equatorial region which can greatly impact weather patterns over the U.S., especially in the northeast.)

Although weather researchers would not speculate as to the cause of the abrupt disappearance of the initial phase of this noted meteorological phenomenon, they did state that this has never happened in the time since the Pacific Ocean weather patterns have been studied.

In the absence of an El Niño, La Niña, or any other notable weather anomaly in the global pattern, the Climate Prediction Center has taken a neutral position on this winter’s weather for the eastern Great Lakes through New England.

The National Weather Service is not the only organization that develops a long range forecast. Accuweather, which provides detailed, long range weather predictions over the internet, updated its winter forecast on Wednesday. In their summary they are anticipating a weak to moderate El Nino to eventually form over the next month or two and influence the weather into April. They are calling for an increase in the number and strength of nor’easters compared to normal.

This would produce a snowy season for southern sections of New York and New England; yet as anyone who is familiar with these coastal storms knows, their influence on the Adirondacks depends greatly on how far their center is from the Atlantic’s shoreline. It was also noted by the scientists at Accuweather that regular dips in the jet stream are very likely to occur which would allow an upper flow from Canada to draw down cold, arctic air over our region. Residents of the southwestern sections of the Park, especially around Old Forge know all too well that this weather scenario typically leads to Lake Effect snow events that yield bands of powdery snow in snowmobile country.

Both the Farmer’s Almanac and the Old Farmer’s Almanac which are known for their winter predictions seem to be in agreement with each other and Accuweather concerning the Northeast. Both are calling for a colder than normal winter with snowy conditions, especially in southern New York and New England. It seems that they believe that coastal storms will combine with cold, arctic air to produce above normal snowfall in the areas just to the south of the Park, rather than from low pressure systems that come across the northern tier of States or up the Ohio River Valley.

Finally, on Saturday morning, I encountered a woolly bear caterpillar near my wood shed. It had a very broad, light colored middle segment, which is indicative of a warmer winter. Of the dozen or so woolly bear caterpillars that I have noticed this autumn, about half supported a normal color pattern, while the other half had an enlarged middle section. Entomologists insist that this reflects the dry summer conditions that our region experienced this year and is not a sign of forthcoming weather patterns. Yet some folklore enthusiasts argue that previously established weather patterns create a complex series of conditions that foster the development of future atmospheric cycles.

My own personal prediction for this winter is that it will be one of “extremes”. I am forecasting that the Adirondacks will have a warmer than normal November and December with an abundance of rain, not snow and strong winds. In mid January, however, we will experience a nearly month long period of bitter cold and heavy snowfall, much like that which besieged Europe this past February. The remaining month or so of winter will contain numerous periods of well above normal temperatures. When averaged out, this coming winter will be noted as one of normal temperature and above normal precipitation, but it will have produced numerous weather records.

Just like everyone else, I really have no way of knowing what the weather is going to be next week, let alone next month or three months from now, but I am definitely going to have the snow tires on my car by Veterans’ Day, and the clutter cleared away from my snowplow by Thanksgiving.

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Tom Kalinowski is an avid outdoor enthusiast who taught field biology and ecology at Saranac Lake High School for 33 years. He has written numerous articles on natural history for Adirondack Life, The Conservationist, and Adirondack Explorer magazines and a weekly nature column for the Lake Placid News. In addition, Tom’s books, An Adirondack Almanac, and his most recent work entitled Adirondack Nature Notes, focuses on various events that occur among the region’s flora and fauna during very specific times of the calendar year. He also spends time photographing wildlife. Tom’s pictures have appeared in various publications across the New York State.

3 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    The Farmer’s Almanac and the Old Farmer’s Almanac have demonstrated zero skill in forecasting weather. I wish people would stop mentioning them when prognosticating.

  2. Big Burly says:

    Your forecast resonates with me. The Almanacs are fun to read, more often not on target.
    My add to your prognosticating … the warmth of spring will be delayed.

  3. Justin says:

    I think we will continue to see shorter duration “winter” as we have known it for decades, with an increase of shoulder season weather. Winter seems to start later and drag on a bit for the last few years.

    So my prediction is nearly identical to the original article. Warm first few months, bitter cold stretch to erase memory of short winter, and then average temps with a few big snowfalls to give the impression things are “average” or “normal” when we look back.