Winter Weather Outlook 2013-2014

We've had some wild swings in our winter weather the past 3 seasons.

Three years ago we had a whopping 105 inches of snow, 36 in one lake-effect event. Triple digit snowfall has only happened 7 times in our history. Two years ago, it fell flat for the skiers, as just 51 inches of snow fell, less than half of the year before. Then last year was a tale of two winters. The first half mild with more rain than snow, but then we turned cold. The total snow was just under 60 inches.

I like to look at ocean patterns and computer models to forecast the winter. With the models flip flopping right now, I'm leaning on the oceans this year. The Atlantic can dominate at times, but it's also the most unreliable because it changes quickly, so I'm not taking this into account right now.

However, we're usually cold with the current setup. In the northern part of the Pacific, we're in the "cold" phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO, which swings between cold and warm every 20 to 30 years. That rules out "warm phase" years of the 80s and 90s.

Then there's the granddaddy of them all near the equator, El Nino or La Nina. At the moment we're in a neutral phase, or La Nada I suppose, with water temperatures near normal. And while computer models warm it up slightly, it's not expected to be an El Nino.

Then I took into account this past summer's cool weather. By combining similar summers with similar patterns in the Pacific, only 3 winters fit. Two of them had over 100 inches of snow, the other an extremely low 44 inches, with an average of 85 inches total. All three were colder than normal as well, by about two degrees.

I'm going to stay a bit conservative right now, so my preliminary winter outlook will call for 80 inches of snow, which is more than a foot above normal. I expect temperatures to be a degree and a half colder than normal. But judging from the volatility of past similar winters, a whopper of a winter is still on the table.

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