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Forecasters: NY may have warmer winter with fewer big storms

Juan Saenz, of Brentwood, shovels a walkway in

Juan Saenz, of Brentwood, shovels a walkway in Babylon Village as snow falls across Long Island Jan. 18. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The winter ahead might not be a particularly memorable one for New York, scientists say, although it may be warmer than usual with fewer powerful storms.

There are equal chances of above, normal or less than average precipitation, U.S. Climate Prediction Center scientists said on Thursday.

What the scientists instead call "the big story" nationally is the likelihood that the severe drought now afflicting much of the southern and Western states — and amplifying wildfires — will only intensify and, at a minimum, imperil spring crops and livestock.

But the same weather pattern, La Nina, expected to deliver a drier and warmer winter than usual to the South, should help spare Eastern Seaboard states from powerful storms, forecasters say.

"La Nina is not associated with big, historic snowstorms " along the East Coast, Mike Halpert, deputy director, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, told reporters on a conference call.

La Nina, Spanish for "little girl," occurs when the surface temperature of the east-central equatorial Pacific Ocean cools. That leads to warmer winters in the Southeast and chillier ones in the Northwest. Its opposite weather pattern, El Nino, translated as "little boy"develops when those same waters are warmer than usual, bringing a milder winter to the northern and Western states and more rain to the Gulf Coast.

The College Park, Maryland climate prediction scientists see the greatest odds for unusual warmth this winter in the southwest, along the Gulf and in the southeast.

"More modest probabilities for warmer temperatures are forecast in the southern parts of the West Coast, and from the mid-Atlantic into the Northeast," the statement said. The odds for that outcome in New York — once winter starts on Dec. 21 — are 40% to 50%, their map shows.

Historically, mean temperatures for Islip in October are 54.3; 45.1 in November; 35.6 in December; and 30.6 in January, according to the National Weather Service’s records that go back to 1963.

While it may be a wetter than the usual winter in the Pacific Northwest through the Northern Plains and the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley, the computers offer little guidance for New York.

The remainder of the United States, including the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, falls into the category of equal chances for below, near, or above average precipitation, the forecasters said.

Records show the mean amounts of rain in Islip are 3.79 inches in October and zero snow; 3.67 inches of rain in November and 0.5 inch of snow; 4.06 inches of rain in December and 5.4 inches of snow; and 3.64 inches of rain in January with 6.7 inches of snow.

This year is nearly sure to set a dismal record for global warmth; there is a 65% chance it will be the hottest ever recorded — and a 95% chance it will be the second hottest, according to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

The January to August period this year was 1.84 degrees above the average for the 20th century, which was 57.5, the agency said. "This was the second highest January-August period on record, only 0.04°C (0.07°F) shy of tying the record set in 2016."

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