A mild but wet winter is a fairly good bet for Long Island and New York City, but don't write off the chance of a deep freeze, a NOAA forecaster said Thursday.
Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center, said in a media teleconference that chances are tilting toward warmer temperatures and above-normal precipitation. But he said other weather patterns "are always possible, just less likely."
A key driver for the predictions from December through February, known as meteorological winter: El Niño, the Pacific climate pattern that influences weather around the world.
While the long-range outlook refers to precipitation rather than snowfall specifically, Halpert said even a warmer-than-normal winter can include some big snowstorms, especially in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region.
Past winters associated with El Niño, which leads to more storm systems moving up the coast, have, on average, tended to be snowier in the Northeast, said Arthur T. DeGaetano, director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center.
Long-range forecasters at AccuWeather Inc. anticipate near-normal snowfall this season for the region including Long Island, senior meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
Still, "all it takes is one storm that can dump a season's worth of snow," he said.
His team also anticipates a wetter-than-normal winter season, pointing to likelihood for "an active storm track coming up from the Gulf of Mexico area and running up along the Eastern Seaboard."
Conditions indicate a likelihood for those systems to deliver rain earlier in the winter, but switch more to snow from mid-January on, he said.
Normal snowfall at Long Island MacArthur Airport is 19.2 inches for the winter, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, with December averaging 5.4 inches; January, 6.7; and February, 7.1.
Monthly temperature averages at the airport are, respectively, 35.6 degrees, 30.6 and 32.8, with 33 for the season as a whole.