WASHINGTON – The promise of spring is more promising than usual this year — if the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is to be believed.
NOAA said this week that the long-term forecast for the Mid-Atlantic calls for a spring that will likely be warmer than normal. There is an even chance that the season, which begins Sunday, will be wetter or drier than unusual.
“We see the season as a whole being on the warm side,” said Michael Halpert, a meteorologist with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Halpert said rainfall in the greater Maryland region “could go either way.”
Not all forecasters were as cautious.
Bill O’Toole, who does forecasts for the Hagers-Town Town & Country Almanack, is calling for snowfall on April 26 or 27.
O’Toole partly bases his predictions for Western Maryland on a chart of moon phase changes, which “seemed to be insisting that we’re going to get snow late in April.”
“I scratched my head,” said O’Toole, an associate professor at Mount St. Mary’s College. “Then I thought, well, I’ll stick my neck out” and go with the snow.
The New Hampshire-based Old Farmer’s Almanac puts its forecast for the Maryland region somewhere between O’Toole’s and the government’s.
“We’re actually seeing a little bit more of this cold weather for the end of March, and maybe some snow flurries, but after that it’s going to get really nice and warm,” said Mare-Anne Jarvela, senior editor for the Old Farmer’s Almanac. That forecast is based on everything from satellites to the almanac’s own secret, 200-year-old formula, she said.
A state agriculture official had not done his own forecasting, but was optimistic about this spring.
“Folks are pretty hopeful partly based on what a good year they had last year,” said Norman Bennett, director of the Maryland Agriculture Statistics Service. “Things seem pretty normal so far.”
Halpert said winter temperatures were indeed right around normal this year. NOAA had predicted a colder than usual winter, he said, but thanks to a few unusually warm days in January the average temperature in Maryland this winter — 35.6 degrees — wound up right around normal.
The region will probably see “some hot days and probably some cold days” this spring, Halpert said, but overall temperatures should hover just above average, which is about 53 degrees for the season at Baltimore/Washington International Airport.
Halpert said it is often harder to predict a given month than an entire season. One last-minute change — a dramatic dip in temperature, for example — can throw off a month’s outlook but not really dent a seasonal forecast.
“Things are more predictable on a longer time scale than on a shorter one,” Halpert said.
But Jarvela said her almanac could predict April’s weather just fine: Cold weather at the end of March in the coastal Atlantic region will give way to an almost “summer-like” April.
O’Toole agreed with Jarvela’s description of a general warming trend, but he said it would take longer to arrive. And be interrupted by that snowstorm.
“I think it’s eventually going to be warmer than normal, but it’s going to take a little while to get to that point,” he said.
And if he’s right about the snowstorm, O’Toole said, “That’ll be a coup.”
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