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Forecasters: Too soon to make winter call for Long Island

Even as October continues delivering warmer than normal temperatures, long-range forecasters have their eyes on the prospects for winter.

When it comes to Long Island, they have no strong calls as to temperatures or precipitation.

At this point, there is a slight tilt toward temperatures averaging above normal for the winter season, which for meteorologists runs from December through February.

Still, near normal and below would both also be in the running, according to an outlook issued Thursday by the Climate Prediction Center, which is under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As for precipitation, the Island is in an area that’s seeing equal chances for above, below or near normal.

“There’s not a strong enough climate signal to shift the odds” toward one of those directions, said Mike Halpert, the Climate Prediction Center’s deputy director.

The average winter temperature at Long Island MacArthur Airport is 33.1 degrees, with an average of 10.96 inches of precipitation, which includes melted snow, according to Jessica Spaccio, climatologist with the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.

Overall, prediction center forecasters are calling for a 55 percent to 65 percent chance for the development before winter of La Niña, which is a climate pattern that starts with cooler waters in the tropical Pacific.

With that in mind, some sections of the northern United States could be wetter than normal, with a smaller area also cooler. A stretch of the southern United States is expected to be drier and warmer, according to Thursday’s outlook.

“If La Niña conditions develop, we predict it will be weak and potentially short-lived, but it could still shape the character of the upcoming winter,” Halpert said.

With an eye to Long Island, La Niña has typically led to a shift in storm track, with systems more likely to impact areas farther inland and not as likely to travel up the coast.

For the Northeast overall, La Niña “can cause a stormier winter” but that doesn’t necessarily mean more snow, Spaccio said.

Much depends, she said, on when La Niña forms and its strength — along with other factors that can have an impact on “the orientation of the jet stream, which plays a major role in our winter weather and temperatures.”

Halpert said forecasters may have a better sense as to what’s in store this winter in the Climate Prediction Center’s update on Nov. 16.

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