StormTracker 2 Winter Outlook for 2018-2019: Cold and Snowy

Our weather team thinks we're in for another long winter.

Posted: Nov 21, 2018 8:15 PM

The StormTracker 2 weather team is calling for a colder and snowier than average winter. Here's our official forecast:

Snowfall for Utica: 110-130" (Average 95")
Average December-February Temperature: 21° (average 24°)

The early start to winter looks like a sign of things to come. We think the winter will be one of consistent cold, with occasional sharp, short warm ups. The idea behind our forecast is called analog forecasting. We look at previous years and find similar conditions with sea surface temperatures.

What we found was that our weather will be influenced by a weak El Nino in the Pacific. One of the big factors in determining what type of winter central New York will have is the sea surface temperature, specifically off the western coast of South America. This year's sea surface temperature off the coast of South America looks to be warmer than normal. Which means, an El Nino type winter will be present.

An El nino winter plays a big role in the jet stream over the United States. A big ridge builds over the west coast while a trough pushes southward for the east coast. With the jet stream to the south, colder air moves in from Canada and keeps out weather active.

This year's El Nino looks to be weaker than the winter of 2015-2016, so we compared similar weak El Nino winters to see what the snowfall and temperatures were like:

Great Lakes Temperatures

Another factor we use to put our forecasts together is the temperature of the Great Lakes. A warmer than average lake favors more lake effect snow and a longer lake effect snow season. This is because lake effect is driven by the temperature difference between the cold air and (relatively) warm water. This year, a hot summer and hot start to fall has produced an unusually warm lake. However, the recent cold spells have significantly cooled off the lakes, to the point where they are near normal for this point in the season.

Polar Vortex - the Wildcard

The polar vortex become a buzz word a few years ago during some record breaking winter cold.  The polar vortex is a slowly spinning pool of arctic air that usually sits over the north pole.  It's not new!  Occasionally, a piece of this pool breaks off and drifts south.  This creates some of the coldest conditions experienced throughout the entire year. There's a new emerging idea in the scientific community that the polar vortex becomes easier to move as the climate continues to warm.  This favors more opportunities for bitterly cold air to drop southward and bring misery to the northeast.  

Before you go

Forecasting the weather for an entire season is still a very new science and we don't encourage anyone to make serious decisions on this prediction.  The truth is it's very difficult to know how the winter will truly play out.  We're making some educated guesses on where the prevailing jet stream will set up.  We are picking out the most likely scenario based on past years.  They don't all play out the same way.

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