HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Midstate has endured relatively harsh winters the last two years. Prolonged cold spells, frequent light to moderate snow, and some icing stick in our minds. But new factors may change our winter outlook this year.
Brett Thackara is closely following a weather phenomenon thousands of miles away.
“One of the things we have been hearing about and that our viewers probably have been hearing about is El Nino. It’s back. It’s big. It might be the biggest one since ’97. But what does that mean? That’s the real question,” Thackara said. “With an El Nino what we typically see is more mild stretches and I think that we will see that this winter. I think we will have cold, but I think there will be mild periods in between.”
Last year featured many smaller storms, but can this year bring bigger coastal systems?
“When a storm hits it may be a coastal storm, something we have not seen a lot of in the past few years,” Ryan Coyle said. “I think we could be in for some blockbuster storms this year, but at the same time it may all melt a week later. And then we get it again two or three weeks later, and back and forth we go between snow on the ground and grass, unlike the tundra we saw the last couple of years.”
In total, near normal precipitation is expected this winter, meaning around 30 inches of snow for the season.
“Near-normal precipitation doesn’t necessarily mean near-normal snowfall,” Coyle said. “With these coastal storms where there is that rain-snow line and somebody gets whacked, somebody gets rain, it depends on what side of that line you end up on.”
This fall has featured some milder weather. Could this be a positive or negative for the winter? Dan Tomaso is monitoring the current trends.
“I think last year is a good example of how a pattern can flip and then stay that way,” he said. “Last December we started above normal temperature-wise, but then we started to nose dive, especially into February. February was the coldest month for February standards in Harrisburg history. So, while we want to say the fall is a good precursor, it doesn’t always work out that way.”
Each storm, each cold spell will be different and present their own forecast challenges. Oftentimes the amount of snow is focused on the most, but Eric Finkenbinder said there are more things to consider with regard to winter weather.
“Of course, the eye-catching graphic for any snow storm is how much snow we are going to see, but we also believe it’s just as important to show the timing and the impacts of a given snow storm. Is it a weekend or a weekday? Will we have early dismissals? Or will it be impacting the evening commute?” he said.
Putting it all together, our ABC 27 winter outlook states the following: above normal temperatures, near normal precipitation of snow, sleet, and freezing rain, snow getting a later start than the previous two years, and a few nagging cold spells again before mid-March.