AccuWeather.com: Cold, snowy winter ahead
If AccuWeather.com's chief meteorologist is right, Maryland is in for the coldest, snowiest winter we've seen since the memorable - and snow-choked - winter of 2002-2003.
A "fading" El Nino, and a shift to a warm phase of the "Pacific Decadal Oscillation" will combine with "other factors," Joe Bastardi said, to shift the worst of this winter's weather from the Midwest, where it was concentrated last winter, to the mid-Atlantic states.
(Others, including meteorologist Joe D'Aleo, former director of meteorology at The Weather Channel, note that this "shift" in the PDO is a temporary "spike" that will quickly reverse, and the PDO will resume its much longer "cool phase.")
Bastardi did not hestitate to predict Baltimore's winter for us. "Twenty-five inches at BWI, and 2.7 degrees below normal," he said, placing his bets on the season's total snowfall at the airport and the average temperature for the winter at BWI.
Bastardi's early winter forecast, out this morning, is among the first of the season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its first winter forecast on Thursday morning.
The average snowfall for Baltimore for the 30-year period from 1971 to 2000 was 18.2 inches, and we've only topped that once since the big snows of 2002-03, and even then it was by less than an inch-and-a-half.
And Bastardi isn't predicting anything like the 58 inches the airport recorded that year. But, a snow total of 25 inches this winter would seem like a lot of snow after six winters in a row with less. The last two winters combined produced less than 18 inches of snow.
On the other hand, he said, "It has the potential to get there [55 inches]; don't get me wrong."
Among the "other factors" he takes into account, in addition to El Nino and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, are the prevailing weather conditions and how they compare with past winters - winter analogs. Looking at those, he sees similarities between this year's patterns and those that prevailed during the winters of 1976-77, which was very cold, and 1977-78, which saw 34 inches of snow at BWI.
He also saw a resemblance to the winter of 1957-58, which brought 43 inches of snow to Baltimore and very wintry weather in February and March. Another "analog" he includes in his "package" is the winter of 1965-66, with 32 inches of snow.
"There are some very heavy hitters coming to the plate," Bastardi said.
His seasonal forecast predicts that cities such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia will get above-normal snowfall, with 75 percent of it coming in two or three big storms. Snowfall in parts of the Appalachians could total 50 to 100 inches. Areas from Atlanta to Charlotte could also see snow this year as the storm track brings wintry weather across the South and up the Eastern Seaboard, with nor'easters from Hatteras to New Jersey.
As for when the bad weather will hit Maryland, Bastardi thinks it will get off to a late start. "I would say that we will remember more what happens in January and February than in December." He predicts a "threat of 30 to 45 days of outstanding winter weather, with two or three snowstorms and temperatures averaging more than five degrees below normal for two or three weeks in the heart of winter."
He noted that this year's early October snowfall in central Pennsylvania is a reminder of similar early snows in October 2002, and in other winters in his analog "package."
"All those winters have the same characteristics," he said.
So what was Bastardi's October forecast for last winter?
"One of the coldest winters in several years across much of the East," he said through Ken Reeves, a co-author on that forecast a year ago this month. And snowfall? "Probably somewhere in the mid- to upper-teens. Maybe around 20 inches," he said, with an early "rude slap" coming in December.
We ended the winter with 9.1 inches of snow for the season, and temperatures 2 degrees above normal. December, too, was almost 2 degrees warmer than normal, with just 0.6 inch of snow. No "rude slap."
(SUN PHOTO/Karl Merton Ferron/February 2003)