Government, Private Forecasters Disagree About Winter 2018-19

Maybe Mild, Maybe Not; Majority Foresee Lots of Snow
By RICK MELLERUP | Dec 12, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Even the weather may become political this year. Not climate, the long-range average of weather conditions over the course of decades and centuries. That’s already plenty political, with most Democrats worrying climate change could lead to the end of the world as we know it, while many Republicans deny climate change, at least the man-made variety.

Not climate, but weather – the short-term variation of temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, visibility and wind – will become political this winter.

One of the biggest arguments in politics is whether government or the private sector is better equipped to solve immediate problems and build toward the future. Many Democrats, and especially Socialists, tend to think big government is the better option. Many members of the GOP and other conservatives think the private sector, and the laws of supply and demand, are preferable.

More and more Dems, for example, support Bernie Sanders’ idea of Medicare for all while many Republicans can’t even get behind the half-measure that is the Affordable Care Act – more commonly known as Obamacare – wanting America’s healthcare system to be left in private hands.

Well, the government, in the form of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and private forecasting companies have released different – in some cases, dramatically different – winter weather forecasts for the winter of 2018-19.

NOAA is saying most of the U.S will have warmer-than-average temperatures this winter (between Dec. 1 and Feb. 28). No part of the country, the NOAA forecast said, will likely have colder-than-normal temps this winter, although most of the South, including southern New Jersey (hey, Southern Ocean County is actually lower latitude than the Mason-Dixon Line), is in the “equal chances” of warmer or colder category.

NOAA is also predicting about a 40 percent chance that South Jersey will have a wetter than normal winter. Most private forecasting companies, however, have a much different outlook, especially for the mid-Atlantic.

Paul Pastelok, long-range forecaster for the weather giant AccuWeather, said, “New York City and Philadelphia may wind up four to eight degrees colder this February compared to last February.”

Of course, the AccuWeather forecast also said winter would start off milder in the Northeast before becoming colder in January and February. (And remember, the calendar says winter in the Northern Hemisphere runs Dec. 21 to March 20, but most forecasters define winter as Dec. 1 to Feb. 28.)

Sorry, AccuWeather, but December came in like a lion in Southern Ocean County.

So, AccuWeather’s record so far could mean its meteorologists don’t know what they’re talking about, and the rest of the winter could be mild. Just as likely, though, we’ve got a cold winter ahead of us and AccuWeather was just off in timing its beginning. And considering the winter is also supposed to be wet, AccuWeather is saying a few big snowstorms are likely for the mid-Atlantic states. (Forget the Mason-Dixon Line now; even South Jersey is generally considered to be in the mid-Atlantic region.) That makes sense, because adding cold and wet equals snow.

NOAA, on the other hand, refuses to make snowfall predictions.

Less-known private weather forecasting firms are, like AccuWeather, going against NOAA’s prediction of a warmer – or at least, a possibly warmer or possibly cooler – winter for the mid-Atlantic.

A company called Weather Concierge is also known as NY NJ PA Weather, so it obviously focuses on the weather in the tri-state area. If its forecast is correct, gas up your snowblowers and invest in winter tires. Weather Concierge, based in Freehold, isn’t betting on cold, saying temps will fluctuate wildly. But it is going all in on snow. The company is calling for up to 80 inches in North Jersey, 40 to 70 in Central Jersey and 24 to 36 inches in South Jersey. Hmm, Ocean County is the dividing line between central and south, so it is possible we could expect 36 to 50 inches in Southern Ocean County, much more than usual.

WeatherWorks, based in Hackettston, Warren County, says that a predicted weak El Niño gives it “a base to work with” of an active southern jet stream, colder conditions across the Deep South up into the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic, and generally mild conditions across the northern tier of the U.S. So WeatherWorks would suggest a colder than normal winter for Southern Ocean County. The company is monitoring other conditions including Atlantic water temps, a minimum of sunspots and the potential of “blocking” in the northern Atlantic, which the company says could produce “an increased risk for nor’easters with heavy snow in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.”

Finally, yet another private weather forecasting company, Virginia’s Perspecta Weather, which focuses on weather in the mid-Atlantic and the Southeast, is predicting “much of the eastern half of the nation should experience a colder-than-normal winter with more snow than normal.” Perspecta’s specific forecast for the mid-Atlantic region is even more dire, saying, “Overall temperatures in the mid-Atlantic region are likely to end up about 1.5-3.0 degrees (F) below-normal for the winter season”; that “coastal storms in the eastern U.S. will be much more of a threat as compared to last year when La Niña conditions dominated in the equatorial Pacific”; and “snowfall is likely to be at least 10 inches above the normal amounts in the mid-Atlantic region this winter season, which could result in 25+ inches in the DC metro region, 30+ inches in Philly and 35+ inches in New York City.”


Philly Weatherpeople

All In Agreement

Nobody focuses as much on Philadelphia and Jersey Shore weather as the meteorologists who appear on network TV stations in the City of Brotherly Love.

The CBS Philadelphia weather team sat down to predict snowfall this winter season, with Chief Meteorologist Kate Bilo leading the chat session. They pointed to the fact this will be an “El Niño” year, which “tends to bring more moisture to the Eastern Seaboard along with more-frequent storms.” So everyone on the Eye Witness 3 weather team predicted an “above-average” snowfall year and settled on 30 to 40 inches in Philadelphia.

That’s above the historical average of 22.7 inches, and even exceeds the average 29.6 inches since the turn of the century, a period, they noted, that has been quite snowy.

Bilo and Co. didn’t talk about snowfall totals at the Jersey Shore, where warm seawater can turn snow into rain. Still, they’re predicting a snowy year in the region, so who knows?

ABC’s Cecily Tynan said it was a very humid and wet year so far in Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore. If that pattern continues, and you toss in a weak El Niño, she said, you could expect an above-average snow year in these parts.

So she predicted an “active and wet pattern,” “some Arctic cold shots,” “nor’easters more likely” and the “threat of an ice storm.” That all adds up to 28 to 36 inches of snow in Philly and 22 to 30 inches at the Jersey Shore, with most of that snow falling in the second half of the season.

NBC’s Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz didn’t waste words when he issued his winter forecast.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” he said. “We’re in for a cold and snowy winter.”

Philadelphia, he said, will see 30 to 40 inches, with most of it, “by far,” coming in February. The normal there is 22.4 inches. Atlantic City, he said, should see 28 inches, where the average is 17.

Schwartz’ forecast was far more detailed than his competition’s. Although his Philadelphia rivals, and some of the private services, covered some of the factors that go into a winter forecast, Schwartz listed them all in clear and concise language, which could prove interesting and informative to his viewers and The SandPaper’s readers.

“El Niño. It’s not just about El Niño vs. La Niña anymore,” said Schwartz. “Where the El Niño is most concentrated is important, too. Most El Niños cover much of the Tropical Pacific. Less frequently, the Central Tropical Pacific has the most concentrated warmth. It’s called ‘a Modoki.’ While many El Niños lead to warmer winters, Modoki Niños tend to be colder and snowier, especially if it is in the weak or moderate category. This winter: Weak to moderate Modoki El Niño … favors colder and snowier than normal.”

Other factors discussed by Schwartz include the “North Pacific Blob,” which this year, he said, “favors more Arctic invasions”; Eurasian snow in October, which indicates more snow this season; the quasi-biennial oscillation, which also points toward more snow this winter in the Philly/Jersey Shore area; and reduced sunspot activity, which links with more cold and snow.

No wonder Schwartz was confident in his predictions.


Lock Horns

There are still thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of people who pay no attention to NOAA or TV weather people when they want a winter weather forecast. They go with the old guys on the block, the almanacs.

Farmers’ Almanac, which has been making winter forecasts since 1818, is calling for a “chilly, wintry mix” in the mid-Atlantic and “cold & white” in the Northeast, with its map putting New Jersey on the borderline of the two regions. More bad news: The publication warns, “Winter will hang on with stormy conditions up through the official start of spring (March 20), especially for the East Coast.”

The even more venerable The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which has been around since 1792, is falling in line with NOAA and making a prediction that is almost a total opposite of its prime competitor.

“This winter, we expect to see above-normal temperatures almost everywhere in the United States, except in the Southwest, where we’re predicting a colder-than-normal season. It’s still going to be wintry, of course, but it won’t be an especially frigid year. Our milder-than-normal forecast is due to the expected arrival of a weak El Niño, which will prevent cold air masses from lingering in the North. Despite a decrease in solar activity, we predict the other factors that contribute to winter weather will keep temperatures above normal.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac also predicted “more rain, less snow.”

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