The Stormtracker Weather Team decided to try our hand at a winter forecast. We found that we may be in for a more "normal" winter than what we've seen in the last couple of years. Snowfall is expected to be above average, and we think we’ll see 85-100 inches of snow. Temperatures will be colder than average, and we’re going 3 degrees below the winter average of 24.2 degrees. Here's a month by month breakdown.
We're forecasting that December will be colder than average, with average precipitation, and above average snowfall. The average snowfall for December is 17 inches. January should be fairly average in terms of temperatures, snowfall, and overall precipitation. January average snowfall is 21 inches. By February, it appears that we may see a decent shift in the weather patterns. This will provide us with above average temperatures, above average precipitation, and slightly above average snowfall. Average snowfall is nearly 16 inches.
A number of factors have gone into putting the pieces of this forecast puzzle together. Below you will find the factors, with more detailed information.
Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO)
This describes the temperature changes of the water in the North Atlantic Ocean over a long period of time. There are cool phases and warm phases, which may last 20-40 years. We know this oscillation to have occurred for at least the last 1,000 years. Currently we are in the warm phase of the AMO, and have been since 1995. While forecasting a switch between phases isn’t possible at this time, we have noticed patterns in the weather that are different between the warm and cold phases. There is an increase in the number of Atlantic hurricanes, but for us it means that we see more snowfall.
On average we see 90 inches of snow during a positive phase of the AMO, while during a negative phase, we see around 80 inches. Average snowfall for the Binghamton Airport is 80 inches.
I did some additional calculations and found that 76% of the years in the positive (warm) AMO phase had snowfall that was 75 inches or greater, while only 56% of the years in the negative (cold) AMO phase had 75 inches or greater. During negative (cold) phases of the AMO, 72% of the years had 85 inches or less, while the positive (warm) phases of the AMO 48% of the years had 85 inches or less. I performed these calculations because quite a few years fell just below or just above the average.
The AMO can also cause a primarily negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. This would result in a colder and snowier environment for the northeast. The North Atlantic Oscillation is simply the changes in strength of subtropical highs (Central Atlantic) and polar lows (North Atlantic) in the Atlantic. A stronger subtropical high, and a stronger than normal low gives us a positive phase. In the positive phase, we usually see warmer and wetter winters. A weaker subtropical high and a weak polar low gives us the negative phase. In the negative phase, we usually see colder and snowier winters.
So overall, this gave some weight to a colder and snowier winter.
We also looked at one of the climate models available on the web, the CFS model and variations of that model. We concluded that December was likely to be colder than average, January would be about average, and February would be above average. So, overall we’re expecting a fairly average winter in terms of temperature. As for snow, the model indicated average to slightly above average snowfall for the year. You can see the CFS model on the web here.