WASHINGTON – National Weather Service meteorologist Ed O’Lenic knows what kind of fall weather Maryland is facing.
Just don’t ask him to make a prediction for a specific day.
The National Weather Service said that this autumn, which began Friday, is likely the start of a period that will be much less predictable than recent seasons because of the absence of a dominating weather system like El Nino or La Nina.
“There is more of a chance for extreme temperature and precipitation,” said O’Lenic, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Climate Prediction Center.
But within those extremes, government forecasters are relatively confident that the state faces a fall and winter that are likely to be fairly normal in terms of precipitation and temperature.
Not so, says the forecaster for the 203-year-old Hagers-Town Town & Country Almanack.
The Almanack’s Bill O’Toole said he thinks the next three months will see generally lower temperatures and more precipitation for Maryland.
“It’s going to be cooler and wetter than average” this fall, said O’Toole, who has been predicting the weather for the Almanack since 1969. He is calling for 3.5 inches of rain per month, compared to a normal 2 to 3 inches, and temperatures 2 to 3 degrees lower than normal.
Because of that, said O’Toole, winter could come and leave early, possibly squeezed between Thanksgiving and Groundhog Day. He said the area could see snow as early as Thanksgiving.
After the colder and wetter autumn, O’Toole said, “Don’t be surprised if we get a traditional winter” complete with lengthy cold spells and plenty of snow. He expects the state to get about 10 inches more snow than normal this winter.
While O’Lenic relies on climate and computer records for his predictions and O’Toole consults the more traditional charts and sunspots, both men agree that there could be increased storm activity at the start of October.
O’Lenic said it would be the last, and late, gasp of a hurricane and tropical storm season that usually winds down in the last weeks of September. O’Toole predicted stormy weather for October because that’s what the records point to. But he went one step further, warning of possible tornadoes on Oct. 8, 9 and 10.
The two also agree that El Nino and its counterpart, La Nina, are gone for a while, although O’Toole does not put as much stock in the effects of those weather patterns as government forecasters do.
El Nino occurs when surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean are warmer than usual, causing atmospheric changes that lead to predictable weather patterns around the globe.
In the United States, that typically means mild winters over the northern United States and wetter winters in the Southern states. La Nina is the reverse: Cooler temperatures in the equatorial Pacific that cause dry and warm Southern winters.