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Slight chance of milder than normal winter temperatures for Long Island, NOAA says

The Ronkonkoma LIRR station parking lot on March

The Ronkonkoma LIRR station parking lot on March 7 during a string of nor'easters. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

With a bit of luck, Long Island could be in for a milder than normal winter.

The Island is in a stretch of the country showing just a slight tilt toward milder than normal temperatures to average out over December, January and February — which weather aficionados classify as winter — according to long-range forecasters. 

The normal average temperature for the three months is 33 degrees at Long Island MacArthur Airport, with normal liquid precipitation amounting to 10.96 inches. As for snow, that would be 19.2 inches, according to weather service data.

A weak El Nino climate pattern has a slight chance of influencing temperatures for the northeastern United States, making them less severe, according to the outlook issued Thursday by the Climate Prediction Center, which is under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

El Nino, which starts with periodic warming sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, is a climate pattern that can affect weather conditions worldwide. While El Ninos vary in strength and impacts, they can result in milder temperatures and above-average precipitation for the Northeast, said Jessica Spaccio, climatologist with the Northeast Regional Climate Center based at Cornell University. 

But residents shouldn't get their hopes too high for a balmy winter just yet. 

“It’s too soon to rule out a cold winter,” Spaccio said. “Even in warmer seasons, we can still have cold snaps and winter storms,” so, “be ready for winter regardless.”

Meanwhile, the amount of precipitation this winter is a toss-up at this point. The Island is in an area with equal chances of above, below or right around normal precipitation, the Climate Prediction Center said. 

Long-range forecasters had a bit more confidence in the outlook for other areas of the country. This year’s outlook indicates a much stronger probability for areas of the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains to come in warmer than normal and a stretch along the southern tier of the county to be wetter. 

The outlook is “probabilistic in nature,” meaning “other outcomes are always possible, just less likely,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of the prediction center, said Thursday. In addition, a weaker El Nino can mean “a fair amount of variability,” he said.

Nonetheless, winter is winter. 

"I would expect there to be cold weather and snow in areas that typically get snow,” he added.

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