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National Weather Service Winter Outlook

By abc40 First Warning Meteorologist Rick Sluben
sunny-winter-dayThe NOAA winter outlook has just been released for the country. Here in New England, temperatures are expected to be above normal levels for the period of December 1st – February 28th. As far as precipitation, there are equal chances for it to be above or below average in our area (in other words, it should end up close to normal levels). In a nutshell, forecasters say there’s no clear climate signals that will influence our nation’s weather this winter. If you read between the lines it means they aren’t quite sure what’s going to happen (see disclaimer below!).

Courtesy: NOAA

Also, a forecast of above normal temperatures during the coldest months of the year does not necessarily mean less snow around here. In fact, the warmer than normal temperatures could still mean plenty of storms with below freezing temperatures and result in snow. What it might mean is less periods of extreme cold from Arctic outbreaks. Normally in these situations we see very little snow anyway.

Courtesy: NOAA

If NOAA is correct and we see normal amounts of precipitation in December, January and February, this would represent a significant shift in weather patterns compared to this current season which has been one of the driest autumns on record. So, normal levels of precipitation would signal a return to more normal weather patterns meaning the regular parade of nor’easters, clipper storms and frontal boundaries that have been so few and far between in recent months.

Disclaimer: The bottom line with these seasonal forecasts is they involve climate patterns and sea temperature anomalies such as El Nino and La Nina as well as wind and pressure oscillations over the oceans often occurring a hemisphere away and can be unreliable. More often than not they offer very little skill beyond chance (they have a slightly better than 50/50 shot of getting it right). So take it with a grain of salt! In fact, NOAA makes it a point to throw in their own disclaimer concerning forecasting how snowy the winter will be. They state: “This seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.” If you’d like to read more on the technical factors that go into these seasonal outlooks, click here. I say – let it snow!

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