(WTAJ) — In 2022’s Wintercast, we discussed a rare La Nina three-peat. This year, we’ve jumped back into an El Nino pattern. Does this mean we break our streak of relatively mild winters? Well, it’s not quite that simple.
What is an El Nino? It’s a warming of the equatorial Pacific thanks to weaker-than-average trade winds. A lack of this easterly flow allows water to warm in place with less coming up from the cool depths of the ocean.
This warming has ramifications on weather patterns across the world.
In the United States, El Nino usually brings an active storm track with wetter weather to the South with much of the North getting drier than average weather.
The stormier weather promotes colder-than-average temperatures to the South with warmth found across most of the North. Things are a little muddier when you get to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions which means other factors play a stronger role in our winter weather.
There is also a pocket warmer water south of Alaska. This is different than last year and may help to push colder air from the Arctic into the United States. I believe this may be pointed more to our west but will still give us the potential for arctic blasts.
The water temperatures off of the East Coast have a mixed message. There are pockets of cold to the north with warmth under it. This may cause coastal storms in the south to exit to our south. That being said, a storm may sneak close enough to give us a better chance for a major storm.
The last thing to look at is the growth of snow and ice from Siberia into Canada. This plays a big role in the production of cold air. Snow cover grew slowly at first but then really picked up over the past couple of weeks. This tells that the potential for cold to grow is there.
We look at all of these signs and compare them to similar winters in the past. This year, the strongest analog is to be the winter of 2015-16, but that is only beating out the other analog winters starting in 1987, 1991, 2006, and 2009. While these winters had periods of harsher weather sandwiched by mild weather.
Let’s break this down to your Wintercast.
While we expect cold to press in for the Thanksgiving Holiday, it should retreat for a while. In fact, we are forecasting December to be milder than average and a good bit warmer than last year when we had a couple of weeks of cold weather.
January may not be that much colder than average overall, but we are seeing the potential for a strong arctic blast to develop and that may last into part of February. As you can see by the numbers, this is going to lead January to be much colder than last year.
Since the cold may last into February, that month will also be just a little below average and much colder than last year. Keep in mind that we haven’t had a typical winter in a while, so while this won’t be our coldest, nor longest winter, it’s going to come across to many as such.
The good news is I see things flipping around later in February and an earlier spring to kick in during the month of March.
Forecasting a single snowfall amount is impossible. We normally have a wide variety of snowfall in central Pennsylvania. I do believe the blasts of cold will be accompanied by snow for the laurel highlands, also while the storm track may be mostly to our south and east, I think we have the potential for the first double-digit snow event in year.
All this will lead us to an average snowfall year, but keep in mind, it’s been a while since we’ve had that. Snowfall forecast ranges from around 30″ in the deeper eastern valleys with some of the Laurel Highlands getting over 80”.
As for the impact forecast, utility usage will be near average which means bills will be higher than in the past couple of years. Salt demand will be about average with smaller and events with a big one mixed in. Travel and schedule disruptions should still be low, but more than the past couple of years.
Finally, we will leave you with a couple of bold predictions. I think we could get our first widespread double-digit snowfall event in years. Also, while the winter will overall be near average, there’s going to be a brutal mid-winter stretch of cold. This combination compared to the past couple of years may make it feel like a harsher winter even if the numbers won’t show it.