CADILLAC — Long-term forecasters are somewhat at odds about this year’s winter, with some saying it will be warmer than normal and others saying the opposite.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced their prediction for this season — warmer than average for most of the country and wetter in the north.
NOAA reports that while the El Nino Southern Oscillation climate pattern often influences the winter, neutral conditions are in place this year and expected to persist into the spring.
“Without either El Nino or La Nina conditions, short-term climate patterns like the Arctic Oscillation will drive winter weather and could result in large swings in temperature and precipitation,‘ said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
The Cadillac News recently reported that Accuweather’s longterm forecast predicts colder-than-normal temperatures and abundant snowfall in Northern Michigan.
While not completely identical, the NOAA and Accuweather predictions aren’t mutually exclusive: Whereas most of the country is predicted to see above-average temps, in this part of Michigan, NOAA predicts an equal chance that it could be below or above average.
NOAA Meteorologist Brad Pugh said the level of confidence in their predictions for “equal chances‘ areas like Northern Michigan are lower this year due to the absence of El Nino or La Nina.
“There is a larger uncertainty with the prediction,‘ Pugh said.
The NOAA prediction of increased precipitation, however, is very similar to the Accuweather forecast, although how much of that precipitation will fall as snow or rain is hard to say at this point.
In a previous interview with the Cadillac News, Accuweather Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said the weather experienced in January and February this past winter will likely be coming back again. He said unlike last winter, where snowy, colder weather didn’t start until after the first of the new year, this winter will likely start early in November or sometime in December.
Last January the polar vortex unleashed a record cold snap across much of the U.S., but at least for the first part of winter, the polar vortex isn’t expected to make a debut, according to Pastelok. While Pastelok cautioned that predicting exactly how the polar vortex will behave several months out is difficult to do, he stated that it could still be a key player in part of the winter.
“The polar vortex is particularly strong this year, and that means that frigid air is likely to remain locked up over the polar region early in winter,‘ Pastelok said.
Instead, he said cold air that could reach the Midwest at times early in the season is likely to originate from a Siberian connection, rather than straight from the North Pole, and that has implications on just how cold it will get. However, conditions may change and allow the polar vortex and accompanying Arctic air to bust loose later during the winter, he said.
In the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, it is predicted cold air will encourage several lake-effect snow events. He also said the expectation for temperatures from December-February will be 2 degrees colder than average.
Residents will want to stock up on shovels, as an above-normal season for snowfall is in the offing, he said. He said there also is potential that the polar vortex could slide south in the late winter, which could ruin the early part of spring in the region.
Cadillac News reporter Rick Charmoli contributed to this story.