WASHINGTON – Meteorologists, weather forecasters and prognosticators all see Maryland’s upcoming winter a little differently in a season that’s proving hard to predict.
“We really don’t know” what the winter might look like, said Ed O’Lenic, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center.
NOAA on Wednesday released its predictions for December through February, but the forecast is pretty cloudy.
The statistics and weather models used to make seasonal outlooks this year do not clearly indicate what Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic states could experience, O’Lenic said.
“We truly are not settled on what’s the most likely thing to happen in either precipitation or temperature,” he said.
The chief meteorologist for television station WRC-NBC4, Bob Ryan, agreed.
“There’s no indication one way or the other that it would be colder or warmer or average,” he said.
A more identifiable pattern might emerge by late October or early November, Ryan added.
The greatest impact on Maryland’s winter, especially along the coast, is likely to be a weather pattern known as the North Atlantic Oscillation, but it’s also the weather feature that makes predictions so challenging. Characterized by unpredictable shifts in low- and high-pressure systems, the NAO contributes to nor’easters, strong storms that produce winds from the northeast.
But because the NAO “wobbles back and forth” from week to week, O’Lenic said, forecasters can do little to predict the pattern too far in advance.
“We’re overdue for some nor’easters” and Maryland will likely see some this year, said Bill O’Toole, a math and computer science professor at Mount St. Mary’s University who forecasts the weather for the “Hagers-town Town and Country Almanack.”
O’Toole had to predict this winter back before July, when the Almanack was published. It’s his view that winter likely will start early, around November, and end early, around February. The snowiest month will be January.
During winter 2004, Maryland’s average temperature was 32.6 degrees, the 35th coldest since 1895, the first year recorded by the National Weather Service. Precipitation was 9.87 inches last year, 64th since it was first measured.
Overall, temperatures may be slightly warmer than usual, although there will be a few snowstorms which will bring the majority of the snowfall to the state, O’Toole said.
“I don’t expect that it’s going to be a real severe winter — kind of average,” he said.
Unlike its Maryland counterpart, the “2006 Old Farmer’s Almanac” predicts temperatures along the Atlantic Corridor “will be 1 degree below normal, on average, with above-normal precipitation in most of the region.”
According to that almanac, the biggest snowfalls will occur in early December and mid-January, and temperatures will be colder than normal during those months. Warmer-than-average temperatures in the Atlantic, key to this year’s active hurricane and tropical storm season, could affect the weather this winter, O’Lenic said, but, so far, they have not been considered in predicting winter weather forecasts.