HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued its 2016-2017 winter outlook.
Before winter last year, the second strongest El Nino was recorded in the Pacific Ocean near the equator off the coast of South America. This meant some of the warmest water ever measured in that area was recorded leading up to last winter.
El Nino represents the warm phase of that part of the Pacific Ocean, and that warm ocean water can have a large impact on the weather across the United States.
The forecast for this December, January, and February is based on the idea that the same waters in the Pacific are cooling, ending the El Nino event and transitioning to a La Nina. Forecasters have predicted a weak La Nina, so NOAA does say this winter forecast has lower confidence or lower predictability because of the weaker La Nina.
Due to the problems in understanding how the transition from El Nino to La Nina will go, NOAA does not see much standing out in the forecast for Central Pennsylvania. (See the images below) Pennsylvania has been placed in the “equal chance” category for both the temperature and precipitation forecast. This means we have equal chances of a warmer than average winter and a colder than average winter, or in terms of precipitation, snow and/or rain, we have equal chances of greater than average precipitation or lower than average precipitation.
La Nina wintertime patterns in general favor more precipitation along the northern United States and drier than normal conditions along the South and Mid-Atlantic states. To figure out how many individual snow storms could occur this winter is impossible, but a more active jet stream just to the north of Pennsylvania may bring some cold and snowy periods along with periods of mild weather arriving from the south.
This winter in the Midstate, therefore, may bring a wide variety of weather throughout the coldest three months of the year. The northern United States may be the place to be for larger snow storms given NOAA’s greater than average precipitation forecast and the colder than normal outlook there.
Be sure to watch for the abc27 StormTrack Center Team’s Winter Outlook that will be released in early November!