The outlook for average winter temperatures has become slightly more in focus, with a federal long-range climate update pointing to a slight tilt toward above normal for a stretch of the Northeast, including Long Island.
That’s for both December and meteorological winter, which runs from December through February, according to an updated outlook, issued Thursday by the Climate Prediction Center, which is under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
As for temperature, “there’s a very weak climate signal” for the region including Long Island, said Stephen Baxter, seasonal forecaster with the prediction center, on Thursday’s media teleconference.
Last month the call had been for an equal chance of above, below and right at normal for the Northeast — for both average temperature and precipitation. That meant 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 last month’s call.
In a month-by-month look, though, other forecasters are putting a little more meat on those bones, with Dave Samuhel, senior meteorologist with accuweather.com, saying December for the region is expected to come in a possible degree or two above the normal monthly average — which is 35.6 degrees at Long Island MacArthur Airport.
Still, it will certainly feel colder than last December, he said, when El Nino, a climate pattern starting in the tropical Pacific and affecting weather worldwide, was in play and led to a string of balmy days, with the month ending 12.8 degrees above the monthly average.
Also, though most air masses this December are expected to come cross-country from the Pacific, there’s no ruling out “some shots of cold out of Canada,” he said.
Look for “a pretty active storm track” for the month, he said, making for probable near or slightly above normal precipitation, with 4.06 inches of rain/melted snow the airport’s norm for the month.
The Climate Prediction Center’s call remains the same as last month’s for winter, precipitation-wise — with an equal chance of above, below or right at normal.
Fast-forwarding to January, Samuhel says to look for conditions to shift, leading to the likelihood of more air dipping down from Canada, and resulting in the month being a possible degree or two below normal — 30.6 degrees — and certainly “much colder than last January,” he said, which ended up 2.7 degrees above the norm.
Add to that possible above-normal precipitation and you have “the month most likely to have a nor’easter,” he said, though, certainly, shorter-range conditions could lead to such storms at any time during the winter. Average overall precipitation for January is 3.64 inches — with 6.7 inches the month’s average snowfall. Thanks to a nor’easter, last year’s snowfall beat out the average by 18.1 inches.
Further out, February is looking to bring “a rebound” to some warmer-than-normal temperatures — the monthly average is 32.8 degrees — as that colder air is expected to pour into areas further to the west, allowing for warmer air masses to move up from the south.
As for precipitation, this far out there was no strong signal as to above, below or right at average, Samhuel said. Average for the month is 3.26 inches of precipitation overall, make that 7.1 inches of snow.