Colder than normal? More snow than normal? Both are predicted this winter in the Northeast.
Coming off the third-warmest on record on Long Island -- with just 4.4 inches of snow recorded in Islip last year, rather than the average 19.2 inches -- winter is expected to return this season with a vengeance, with more snow and cold, at least in the northeastern United States, according to the 2013 Farmers' Almanac.
The almanac is even "red flagging" Feb. 12-15 and March 20-23 "for major coastal storms along the Atlantic seaboard."
Still, "colder than normal does not mean freezing all the time," said Peter Geiger, the almanac's editor. Expect some vacillation, he said. Is this a winter that "grabs you and doesn't let go?" he said. "I don't think so."
Of course, the amount of snow depends on timing, when cold air masses from the North collide with the increased storm systems expected to come up from the South, said Tom Kines, meteorologist at AccuWeather in State College, Pa. It's hard to pinpoint just where the snow line will be, he said, but there is the "potential for this winter to be much tougher than last."
Don't look to the National Weather Service to weigh in with certainty whether there will be heavy snowfalls. Its projection for December, January and February indicates there's an equal chance that precipitation will be above, below or the same as normal, said Joey Picca, meteorologist with the service in Upton.
As for temperature, however, the weather service takes a view contrary to that of the Farmers' Almanac, indicating a higher chance for temperatures to be above normal for the Northeast than to be average or below average, Picca said.
Both AccuWeather and the Farmers' Almanac admit to being off in last year's winter predictions. AccuWeather called for snowfall to be just "a bit below normal," but "not nearly to the extent that occurred," Kines said.
The Farmers' Almanac, which uses a formula involving factors such as sunspot activity and planetary position, had called for "a very active storm track," though much of the precipitation was expected to be rain.
In a news release, Geiger said, "We admit that last winter's forecasts weren't as dead-on as we would have liked, but as the old saying goes, 'The Almanac maker predicts the weather, but another Maker makes the weather.' "