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October 14, 2009 Cold, snowy winter ahead

If'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 Blizzard of 2003 in Baltimoreseason'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)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:00 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Winter weather


When hasn't AccuWx gone with 'snowiest coldest' winter forecast?

And, of course, this is all due to "global warming"............ right??
FR: No. It's weather, not climate.


It might just be that I walk to work so I remember only the coldest days, but last winter seemed like a very cold winter. Little precipitation, but still cold.

Does the statistics back me up? Or am I wrong...I remember a lot of 20's in the mornings...Not looking forward to that again.

FR: January was a little cold, but December and February were both above the averages. We ended up about 2 degrees above normal for the winter. Mornings in the 20s are the average throughout December, January and February in Baltimore.

Joe Bastardi probably doesn't even know what he's having for dinner tonight, but he knows we'll be getting 25" of snow in the next four months, huh?

FR: It's an educated guess, a bet, like the football pool, only with more variables to compute. It's what he does for a living. So let's sit back, chill, and see how he does.

Sorry, the Sun website HTML lacks a handy "sarcasm" tag........ Nonetheless, I'm waiting for some scientist to tell us how such superlative cold and/or snow is still, indeed, "due to global climate warming trends".......

Climatic changes are measured by yearly temperatures, right? I read somewhere that last few years have been cooler than average. As for the snowy prediction, I hate to say it, but we're definitely due because we got off light the last few years.

FR: They are. But (assuming Bastardi is correct about this winter), this is one winter in one tiny part of the globe. Global climate change encompasses global averages over long periods of time. We tend to think the weather we are experiencing is representative of weather everywhere. GW theory allows for different rates of warming, even cooling, in different parts of the globe. A cold winter in Baltimore doesn't say anything about long-term global trends, which (while you can argue about causes) are not in serious dispute.

Interesting. The story in the Carroll County Times this morning notes that NOAA predicts - "that the lower 48 states are forecast to be 1 percent milder this winter compared with last winter and 1 percent milder than the 30-year average from 1971 to 2000, according to the EIA."

FR: NOAA's official predictions come out Thursday morning. We'll see what they say. But again, the broad forecast for the lower 48 does not necessarily equate to the forecast for the mid-Atlantic states, which is what Bastardi was predicting.

Agree with Rob - Last winter seemed really cold to me, and was the first time I was even able to go skiing over Thanksgiving in PA (not great skiing but still) Much colder than previous winters anyway. I find it surprising that it was 2 degrees above norm.

FR: The middle and latter part of November 2008 were very cold, but they were balanced out by a warm first few weeks. The month ended almost precisely on the 30-year norm. It's all about averages. And besides, the meteorological winter doesn't start until December.

So the author of this article first off seemed to forget the snow storm we had 3 years ago just before Valentines day LOL. It was about 20" of snow in the Roland Park area.

As for this prediction, i think its the first time Joe Bastardi has had something that slightly agrees with the Farmers almanacs which call for an avg winter (this is based off almost 200 years of information). So keep that in mind all, the weather can do what it wants when it wants lol.

FR: The airport (the official station for Baltimore) recorded 13.1 inches of snow during that storm on Feb. 11-12, 2006. The season's total came to 19.6. That's the winter referenced in the post that topped the average by less than 1.5 inches.

If you ask me, it looks and feels like snow today. I'm just not ready for this yet.

If Joe had made that forecast for Chicago and not the east coast last year, he would've been dead on. He at least recognized something unique enough to go out on a limb. That is not a bad forecast at all considering he was only off by a few hundred miles. I highly doubt NOAA will ever predict "one of the coldest winters in a long time" ever again for anywhere in the US due to their models constantly spitting out AGW feedback. There is more to climate forecasting then the "consensus" of global warming. I guess we will see Thursday if NOAA understands that like Joe does.

Last winter was abnormally cold.

FR: Where? When? In Baltimore, January was colder than the average, but December and February were warmer. The winter averaged out warmer than the average.

Hagerstown averages between 25 and 30 inches of snow a season and the last two winters we have had a grand total of 9 inches for both winters combined so we have a lot to make up for. Lets get started.

A "fading" El Nino, and a shift to a warm phase of the "Pacific Decadal Oscillation" will combine with "other factors," Joe Bastardi said, ...

Actually, the above paragraph should say "a shift to a COOL PHASE of the "Pacific Decadal Oscillation" ..


What ?..The weather people can't even get a 5 day forecast right..and there saying its going to be colder and more snow ?..LOLOLOL..

As a college senior, this is the last year where I have something to really gain from a blizzard. Bring it on, I say.

Er, as an addendum to that previous post, I'm also the circulation manager of the campus paper here, so maybe I should fear the worst. I don't know what to think.

They were wrong the last 2 or 3 years about the number of hurricanes. They are always wrong about something. All of this predicting is more about getting in their name in the headlines than of anything of substance. These people need to face it and realize they just don't know. Its ok not to know. Stick to the 5 day. Your odds are better.

Any predictions for Western Maryland (and by that I mean Garrett and Allegany counties. Westminster and Frederick are NOT Western Maryland, and Hagerstown is barely...)?? Seriously, it's hard to get a good forecast out here. and's forecasts usually differ by 10-15 degrees for the same zip code. We can never get good predictions here in no-man's land.

FR: NWS is just out with a winter forecast that calls for a cooler-than-average winter here, with equal chances of being wetter or drier than average. Whether the stuff falls as snow or rain is "hit or miss," depending on how cold it happens to be. There will be more storminess across the South - storms which may or may not turn and come up the coast. For the far western counties, I'd guess that means more of whatever precip we get will fall as snow. Good news for the resorts.
Maryland forecasts are badly fragmented. Garrett, of course, falls under the NWS's Pittsburgh forecast office. Central Maryland is handled from Sterling, Va. The upper Eastern Shore belongs to Mt. Holly, NJ forecasters, while the lower Shore is handled by the Wakefield, Va. office. Four forecast offices for Maryland, and none of them actually IN Maryland. Go figure.

Year after year I find the best forecaster to be FR himself. As we get into winter watch for forcasts of snow from NWS and Accu and FR's blog brimming with anticipation at the prospect of a good snow. More times than not the snow event doesn't quite develop...and this is critical. As soon as FR starts to dismiss a snow event, or his interest has waned, that's when I bring in a few extra logs and stock up on supplies. As soon as FR turns his back then Old Man Winter lets loose a snowball.

FR: Actually, the best indicator is when I write, in the print editions, about any weather trend, such as a snow drought, or mild winter weather. THAT's when you better stock up. I am the trend-killer.

The NWS forcast for us has MD in the greater than 33 pct chance of colder than normal temps but not in the greater than 40 pct. So does that mean we have a greater than 60 pct chance of normal or higher than normal temps?

FR: No. They break the probabilities into three equal parts: near normal, below normal and above normal. If you just rolled the dice, there would be a 33 percent chance of any of those outcomes occurring. A greater-than-33-percent chance simply means there is a slightly higher chance of colder than normal conditions here. A greater than 40 percent chance is a little stronger, but still only 7 percentage points beyond random chance.

haven't we had a snow drought? Really, you know one of those blizzards that stop EVERYTHING.

FR: Wouldn't a blizzard be a snow "flood?"

Accuweather's Joe Bastardi has to leave out one of the most important factors affecting Maryland winter weather. It is the wild card because it can only be predicted with any skill out to about7- 10 days. It is called the North Atlantic Oscillation (or NAO) and it plays a major role in determining whether the souped up southern jet caused by an El Nino event brings us rain or snow.

In the negative phase of the NAO a strong "blocking" high near Greenland causes the northern jet stream to buckle south as it encounters the clockwise circulation associated with the high pressure hence the name "blocking high".

When the jet becomes strongly "amplified" or oriented in a more south to north instead of west to east alignment, it allows the cold air pooling over Canada to spill south, while concurrently allowing the moist southern jet to ride up the east coast. This of course is the classic nor'easter scenario where we can end up with 2 ft plus of snow.

Until our skill improves regarding the prediction of NAO, we will always have a hard time telling how much snow the Mid-Atlandtic and the Northeast will receive in a given year.

We do seem to be overdue for a cold and snowy winter...

FR: Bastardi didn't leave it out. I did. Thanks for chiming in.

Oh yeah. School teachers love snow!!!!

Averages lie. Or in statistical terms, they lose lots of information (variation) to come up with a neat number. If it's 20 degrees on Tuesday morning you're cold, even if later in the month it's 40, so the "average" comes out "normal." So the "average" can come out normal or slightly above normal, but we can still have some very rough and cold patches.

FR: True. We have to live with the variation. But averages are the best way of tracking long-term trends, free of the "noise" of short-term variation. That's the difference between "weather" and "climate."

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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