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Climate Prediction Center: Winter outlook’s on ice for now

If you’re looking for a straightforward sense of what forecasters see as likely winter conditions for Long Island, better check back around mid-November.

That’s as the Climate Prediction Center, which is under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, made winter temperature and precipitation calls on Thursday for an equal chance of above, below and right at normal for the Northeast.

That means that, at this point, there’s “not a strong enough climate signal” for the area “to favor one category over the other,” said Mike Halpert, the climate center’s deputy director, on a media teleconference.

The center’s outlook for winter, which for meteorologists runs from December through February, “is probabilistic in nature,” he said, indicating what’s most likely. In the Northeast’s case, nothing has emerged so far as likely or unlikely.

Asked, then, if this winter is not expected to be among the “more memorable” ones, Halpert said that often memorability is shaped not by overall seasonal conditions, but by “one or two extreme events,” such as major blizzards. And, “that’s not really what our outlook is about,” he said.

For meteorologists, winter runs from December through February.

How about any dips of frigid cold into the area?

“It’s going to be winter,” Halpert said, and he would “expect some bouts of below-average temperatures,” though he couldn’t say if that would be winter’s highlight overall.

“Regardless of the outlook, there is always some chance for extreme winter weather, so prepare now for what might come later this winter,” he said in a release.

For Long Island, the normal mean temperature for winter’s three-month period is 33 degrees, and precipitation — rain and melted snow — is 10.96 inches, based on records kept since 1984 at Long Island MacArthur Airport.

The prediction center’s update to its winter outlook is expected for Nov. 17. Beyond that, Halpert also suggested monitoring shorter-term outlooks, such as those done for the upcoming month. For those calls, forecasters have “potential to leverage information” that carry too much uncertainty to be useful for those longer seasonal outlooks, he said.

The climate center’s outlook also indicated that La Nina, a climate pattern starting in the Pacific, is expected to influence the winter season’s conditions.

Looking at the Northeast region, La Nina can result in more winter storms, but other factors play a role and can outweigh La Nina, especially a weak one, said Jessica Spaccio, climatologist with the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University. Such factors “are only predicted on a two-week time scale, so offer no help for a seasonal forecast now,” she said.


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