The weather wizards at Accuweather have peered deep into their computer models and databases and returned with a forecast for the 2013-2014 winter. Overall verdict: Winter is coming, but only somewhat reluctantly for much of the U.S.
Accuweather long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok says the East Coast’s Indian summer isn’t going to last, but the Atlantic isn't going to experience a full-tilt winter right away.
“It’s a slow start to the winter season to the East,” Pastelok said in a phone interview. “It’s gonna feel like fall going into next week and into late October. We’re not really getting into the deep cold yet.”
The first half of winter will probably be light on snow, with a possible cold snap and snowstorm in late November. Starting in January, temperatures will drop and there should be more snow, though totals will probably remain below last winter’s.
What do we have to thank for the reprieve? The high-pressure systems developing over Western Canada, it turns out.
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“This time of year, we forecasters like to look at what is happening at the source of these highs: Is it cold, or only moderately cold?” Pastelok says. “If you don’t have that snowpack in western and northwestern Canada, those air masses can fizzle out.” And at the moment, he says, there isn’t that much snow below those highs.
In the Southeast, Pastelok and Accuweather are predicting warm, wet weather, with the possibility of record-breaking average highs in the Tennessee Valley. Flooding might be a threat in December and February.
The brunt of winter’s wrath will likely fall on the Midwest and the Rockies, where residents should probably start breaking out the snow shovels. The Northwest will probably also be dealing with some wild temperature contrasts, with coastal areas having a warmer than average winter, and inland states like Montana and Wyoming slated for a colder season than normal.
In the West, Pastelok and colleagues expect heavy rain to hit California from December to January. That should come as a relief to the Golden State, which has been undergoing moderate to extreme drought conditions for more than two years.
It has also been a relatively weak year for tropical storms in the Atlantic; this season has seen just two named storms that reached hurricane status. Hurricanes Humberto and Ingrid brought some heavy rain and squalls to Cape Verde and Mexico, respectively, but did not cause major damage. Pastelok attributes the relatively weak hurricane season thus far to some lingering dry air south of the Azores in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. The dry air isn’t conducive to long-lasting tropical storm systems, he says.
Weather forecasters are at the mercy of even crueler, more capricious gods than atmospheric forces: the federal government. Pastelok notes that many resources that meteorologists rely upon, like databases of historical weather data, are inaccessible or not updating during the government shutdown.
“I know a lot of forecasters are frustrated by this whole deal,” he says. There’s also those federally employed meteorologists at the National Weather Service that are still required to report to work. “A lot of these people are working for free.”