Winter Trends

Despite a near term forecast for a brief period of milder temperatures, signs of winter are here, statistically and otherwise.

Last Friday, the first snow of the season was recorded at BWI-Marshall Airport. Observers noted that a trace of snow fell between 10:34 and 10:44 am. If you blinked you probably missed it. Tom Tasselmyer dug into the record books and found that Friday’s report of flakes stand as the area’s earliest in at least 13 years. The same weather disturbance produced several inches of wet snow in northern New Jersey and northeast Pennsylvania.

Other wintery signs in the record books indicate that on this date (November 11) in 1987, a record 6 inches of snow fell at BWI-Marshall and on November 12, 1968, the record snowfall is 3.3 inches. The record low temperature for November 12 is 18 degrees, set back in 1957.

With these wintery signs in mind, the question is, just what will the coming winter be like? Long term forecasting can only point toward broad trends in temperature and precipitation. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center has generated the following outlooks for December, January and February.

It appears that the weather pattern is not conducive to large scale or long term invasions of arctic air during the main winter months. As far as precipitation is concerned, Maryland falls in the “equal chances” category for rain or snow in the period. This means that there are no compelling “signals” either way in the weather pattern for a stormy or quiet winter in this area. A moderate La Nina is underway in the Pacific and is expected to go into the new year with a weakening trend. The outlook for below average precipitation conditions in the southern U.S. as noted on the map is typical of La Nina.

Of course this is only an “outlook”, not a prediction. Extreme weather is always a possibility, regardless of the long term pattern. As they say, stay tuned.

John Collins

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