NOAA’s win­ter outlook is no snow lover’s dream for Le­high Val­ley

The Morning Call - - Local News - By Stephanie Si­gafoos The Morn­ing Call Morn­ing Call re­porter Stephanie Si­gafoos can be reached at 610820-6612 or ssi­gafoos@mcall. com.

If you’re as now-lov­ing, win­ter sports en­thu­si­ast count­ing down the days to your first run on the ski slopes, look away from the lat­est Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion outlook.

For the sec­ond straight year, the Le­high Val­ley and Mid-At­lantic re­gion are likely to have a mea­ger out­put from Mother Na­ture where snow is con­cerned. NOAA pre­dicts milder-than-av­er­age con­di­tions just about ev­ery­where but the north­west­ern tier of the coun­try.

Last year, the 5.3 inches of snow that fell at Le­high Val­ley In­ter­na­tional Air­port were the low­est sea­sonal to­tal in recorded his­tory for the area.

The snow-starved among us can blame La Nina for the mild win­ter outlook. The cli­mate pat­tern is re­spon­si­ble for cool­ing wa­ter in the trop­i­cal Pa­cific Ocean, shap­ing weather pat­terns in the U.S. to bring cold and snow to the North and North­west. The rest of us fall un­der a pat­tern where mild and dry con­di­tions are fa­vored.

“With La Nina well es­tab­lished and ex­pected to per­sist through the up­com­ing 2020 win­ter sea­son, we an­tic­i­pate the typ­i­cal, cooler, wet­ter North, and warmer, drier South, as the most likely out­come of win­ter weather that the U.S. will ex­pe­ri­ence this year,” Mike Halpert, deputy di­rec­tor of NOAA’s Cli­mate Pre­dic­tion Cen­ter, said in a news re­lease Thurs­day.

Halpert noted dur­ing a call with re­porters that La Nina typ­i­cally cuts down the odds of big snow­storms on the East Coast, but noth­ing is de­fin­i­tive this far in ad­vance. (El Nino, a cli­mate pat­tern that causes ocean tem­per­a­ture vari­a­tions that are op­po­site of La Nina, usu­ally brings snowier-than-av­er­age win­ters to the re­gion).

So is all hope lost for snow lovers of the Le­high Val­ley? Def­i­nitely not.

NOAA’s outlook splits the coun­try into three neat sec­tions based on tem­per­a­ture and pre­cip­i­ta­tion. It sees the south­ern tier — an area run­ning from south­ern Cal­i­for­nia to North Carolina — hav­ing a dry win­ter. Cool and wet con­di­tions are fa­vored in the north­ern­most states in a sec­tion that runs from Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton to parts of the Ohio Val­ley. The rest of us will be close to nor­mal, or have odds fa­vor­ing nei­ther wet­ter-than-nor­mal or drier-than-nor­mal con­di­tions, NOAA said.

The keys to a good snow­storm in­volve not just pre­cip­i­ta­tion, but the right tem­per­a­tures. Halpert said he doesn’t ex­pect blasts of Arc­tic air to be a big fac­tor for the re­gion this year, with the po­lar vor­tex more likely to af­fect the North­ern Plain sand Great Lakes.

The Le­high Val­ley area is fa­vored to have at least a 50% chance of above-av­er­age tem­per­a­tures this win­ter sea­son.

The warn­ing of NOAA’s outlook (or any long-range fore­cast) is that it’s ex­am­in­ing higher or lower odds of what the win­ter should look like. What it’s not do­ing is spelling out any spe­cific time frame or storm ex­pec­ta­tions.

“NOAA’s sea­sonal out­looks pro­vide the like­li­hood that tem­per­a­tures and to­tal pre­cip­i­ta­tion amounts will be above, near or be­low av­er­age, and how drought con­di­tions are fa­vored to change,” the re­lease said. “The outlook does not project sea­sonal snow­fall ac­cu­mu­la­tions; snow fore­casts are gen­er­ally not pre­dictable more than a week in ad­vance.”

This graphic from the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion shows the Win­ter 2020 pre­cip­i­ta­tion outlook.

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