Two-fisted approach

Sept. 2, 2015

U.S. could get socked in different ways this winter

For the first time in its publishing history, the Farmer’s Almanac made a disclaimer in the 2014-15 winter forecast notifying readers that El Niño could effect cold predictions. And yet the meteorological instigator never really did announce his presence.

So this year the famous prognosticator is not paying any attention to what some are predicting will be a powerful El Niño, and instead is going with a business-as-usual tone for the 2015-16 chill campaign. It will be a repeat of last year, with unseasonably cold temperatures expected for the New England area and eastern seaboard, the Great Lakes and even as far south as Tennessee and the Mississippi Valley. The southwest will be mild again, while the Great Plains area is in for a typical winter.

As far as precipitation goes, the Farmer’s Almanac is not ruling out more backbreaking snowfall totals for the Boston area, while the northern and central Great Plains, the Great Lakes, New England and parts of the Ohio Valley should expect more accumulation than normal. It will be wet for the Southeast and Southwest regions.

“El Niño could have thrown a curve ball into some of our [2014-15] forecasts,” Sandi Duncan, managing editor for the Farmer’s Almanac, told Roads & Bridges. “This year we did not forsee that an El Niño would be a factor; however, now a lot of people are talking about it. But we stand by our forecast and it will be interesting . . . to see how forceful El Niño is going to be.”

Some are saying it will hit with great force, with one news outlet naming it the “Bruce Lee” El Niño. The weather phenomena could be the worst since 1997-98, when southern California experienced some of the wettest conditions on record. If El Niño does come with more muscle, most of the regions that are bracing for a bad winter might get a break in 2015-16, at least early on. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration is calling for conditions in the late fall/early winter to be warmer than average in the Pacific Northwest, northern Great Plains, Great Lakes region, the Ohio Valley and the New England Region, while it is expected to be cooler than normal in Texas and the Southwest region. Michigan, the state of Washington and the Ohio Valley could be drier than normal, with more rainfall sweeping through the southern portion of the U.S. and the mid-Atlantic coast. 

For the most part, Roads & Bridges readers are siding with the Farmer’s Almanac this winter. When public works officials were asked to predict the amount of snow accumulation for 2015-16, over 67% said it would be average in their region, while 20% said it would be above average. WM

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