Winter - Bitter Cold Or Above Normal? -

Winter - Bitter Cold Or Above Normal?

There seems to be a difference of opinion regarding the outlook for this coming Winter, a rather large difFerence of opinion. The Farmers' Almanac has issued an outlook for this Winter that features "numbingly cold temperatures" for our area. This outlook is significantly different than the outlook issued by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), a U.S. government agency.

The CPC outlook is based largely on an ongoing El Nino event in the Pacific. I won't try to explain what an El Nino is in this article but for more information here's a link. Historically, El Ninos result in above normal Winter temperatures in most of North America - including here in America's Heartland.

So where does The Farmers' Almanac seasonal outlook come from? I can't answer that. They claim a somewhat secret formula that is, at least partially, based on Science.

Here's something to keep in mind. These seasonal outlooks attempt to describe how the seasonal average will compare to long term averages. In other words, at the end of the season if we look back and average all the daily highs and lows for the season we think that number will be above the 30 year average. What gets lost in these averages is individual events. For instance: Say most of the days this Winter are warmer than normal. However 2 significant arctic outbreaks result in several days of below zero tempertures. Even with these cold waves the average temperature for the season may remain above normal. If an almanac had foreast bitter cold temperatures they may point to that individual outbreak and claim that their forecast verified. That happened this Summer which I think everyone in our area will remember as a cooler than normal season. But in June we had a stretch of 7 consecutive days with temperatures in the mid to upper 90s. So if I had forecast oppressive heat for the Summer I would certainly have pointed to that June heat wave.

Time will tell of course. As for me, I feel pretty good about anticipating a warmer than normal Winter ahead. El Nino has become a fairly accurate indicator of seasonal trends (although there have been notable exceptions). I would also caution that we will likely see some bouts of bitter cold and/or snow. That seems like a pretty safe bet. - Kent

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