Experts see return to ‘old-fashioned winter’ this year

Remember how springlike last winter was? Well, don’t expect a rerun. Weather-watchers are predicting

Remember how springlike last winter was? Well, don’t expect a rerun. Weather-watchers are predicting that winter’s not going to play nice two years in a row.

According to CBS 6 meteorologist Chris Gloninger, the Northeast is heading into an El Nino weather pattern, which traditionally brings with it higher-than-average precipitation and lower-than-average temperatures.

“At this point it looks like all signs are pointing to an above-average setup for both snowfall and a cooler-than-average winter,” he said.

Last winter, the region’s largest snowfall arrived before trick-or-treaters hit the streets. Between Oct. 27 and 29, snow totaled 5.4 inches at Albany International Airport. In November, just a trace of snow fell, and in December less than an inch.

Winter numbers

Average snowfall and temperatures are based on data collected between 1981 and 2010.

• Average snowfall in Albany for December-February: 43.7 inches

2011-2012 snowfall total in Albany for December-February: 12.8 inches

• Average temperature in Albany for December-February: 25.6 degrees

2011-2012 average temperature in Albany for December-February: 31.5 degrees

Statistics provided by the National Weather Service.

“Even if it’s an average snowfall [this season], there’s going to be that misconception that it’s going to be a terrible winter regardless, due to the fact that we didn’t have a lot last year,” Gloninger predicted.

The Farmers’ Almanac, which has been predicting the weather since 1818, relies on mysterious methods to formulate its forecasts. According to the publication’s website, the almanac’s forecaster, Caleb Weatherbee, uses a top-secret mathematical and astronomical formula to make his predictions, and takes into account factors including sunspot activity, tidal action and the Earth’s position. Even though Weatherbee’s technique varies considerably from how Gloninger creates his forecasts, the two weather gurus have arrived at a similar conclusion.

Sandi Duncan, the almanac’s managing editor, gave details: “It’s going to be a lot colder and a lot more like an old-fashioned winter than last year for sure, but it seems like cold is going to be the primary adjective for the winter ahead. … We don’t use the term blizzard at all, so I don’t think it’s going to be anything too extreme as far as snow goes.”

The almanac has flagged a few dates when large snowstorms are expected: Feb. 12 through 15 and March 20 through 23.

“We do see some possible snow coming in December, a good chance of seeing some snow for the Christmas holiday,” Duncan noted.

Competing publication The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which formulates its forecasts using a combination of solar science, climatology and meteorology, is also calling for snow around Christmas, as well as a snowstorm at the end of February, according to editor Janice Stillman. But overall, the publication predicts the Northeast will see a colder and dryer winter than normal, with a frigid February that will run eight degrees below average.

Neil Gifford, conservation director for the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, looks to nature for clues about the weather to come. During fall, nature’s forecasters include woolly bear caterpillars and hornets’ nests, he said.

According to folklore, the width of the brown band around the woolly bear’s middle can gauge the winter ahead. The wider the band, the milder the winter is predicted to be.

Gifford hasn’t spotted any woolly bears yet this fall, but the hornets’ nests he’s seen have provided a clue about what winter might hold in store.

“The white-faced hornets, they build those big, classic, Winnie the Pooh-type beehives. The few I’ve seen are very high and supposedly, if they’re high, that means deep snow,” he said. “I’ve got one outside the office here that’s like 30 feet up in an aspen tree.”

Ingrid Amberger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, was the only weather expert interviewed who didn’t allude to cold or snow.

Last week, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center issued its outlook for December, January and February. According to Amberger, that report offers a slight indication that the winter months will be warmer than normal. A prediction has yet to be made in regard to winter precipitation, she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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