Win­ter out­look is study in con­trasts

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - WEATHER - By Seth Boren­stein On­line: Na­tional Weather Ser­vice’s Cli­mate Pre­dic­tion Cen­ter, www. cpc.ncep.noaa.gov

Fed­eral fore­cast­ers pre­dict this win­ter may paint the U.S. in stripes of dif­fer­ent weather: Warmer and drier than nor­mal in the South, and colder and wet­ter than usual in the North.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice win­ter out­look, is­sued Thurs­day, gets murky in the na­tion’s mid­dle belt, with no par­tic­u­lar ex­pec­ta­tion for trends in tem­per­a­ture or pre­cip­i­ta­tion.

Still, some nasty storms might make the win­ter there mem­o­rable, said Mike Halpert, deputy di­rec­tor of the weather ser­vice’s Cli­mate Pre­dic­tion Cen­ter.

The ma­jor driver of the win­ter fore­cast is a bud­ding La Nina, a cool­ing of the cen­tral Pa­cific that warps weather world­wide and is the flip side of the bet­ter­known El Nino, Halpert said.

For the South and Cal­i­for­nia, “the big story is likely to be drought,” Halpert said.

And that’s not good news for Cal­i­for­nia, which is in year five of its drought. The win­ter is the state’s cru­cial wet sea­son, when snow and rain get stored up for the rest of year. Halpert said the state’s up­com­ing win­ter looks to come up dry, es­pe­cially in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

“It’s prob­a­bly go­ing to take a cou­ple of wet win­ters in a row to put a big dent into this drought now,” said weather ser­vice drought ex­pert David Miskus. He said it will take “many, many years, and it’s got to be above-nor­mal pre­cip­i­ta­tion.”

The north­ern cold band that the weather ser­vice pre­dicts is mostly from Mon­tana to Michi­gan. Maine is the ex­cep­tion, with un­usu­ally warm weather ex­pected.

The pre­dic­tion cen­ter’s track record on its win­ter outlooks is about 25 per­cent bet­ter than ran­dom chance for tem­per­a­ture and slightly less than that for pre­cip­i­ta­tion, Halpert said.

Pri­vate weather fore­cast­ers are pre­dict­ing quite a dif­fer­ent win­ter. They fore­see a harsher one for much of the na­tion, in­clud­ing a re­turn of the dreaded po­lar vor­tex, which fun­nels cold Arc­tic air into the U.S.

Ju­dah Co­hen, of At­mo­spheric and En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­search in Lex­ing­ton, Mass., fore­casts an un­usu­ally cold win­ter for the east­ern and mid­dle two-thirds of the na­tion, es­pe­cially east of the Mis­sis­sippi River.

Co­hen, whose re­search is funded by the Na­tional Science Foun­da­tion and closely fol­lowed by me­te­o­rol­o­gists, links North Amer­ica’s win­ter weather to Siberian snow cover in Oc­to­ber.

He agrees that Maine will have a warm win­ter, and also pre­dicts a warm South­west.

The pri­vate Ac­cuweather, of State Col­lege, Pa., calls for fre­quent storms in the North­east, early snow in the Great Lakes, bit­ter cold in the north­ern tier and oc­ca­sional cold in the mid­dle. Like other fore­cast­ers, it pre­dicts a warm and dry South­west, with some hope for rain and snow from San Fran­cisco north­ward.

NOAA (VIA AP)

This map, pro­vided by the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, shows the win­ter 2016-17 pre­cip­i­ta­tion out­look for the United States.

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