The Stormtracker 2 winter weather outlook is calling for less snow and less cold than average this winter. Here is the official forecast:
Snowfall for Utica: 70-90" (Average 95")
Average December-February Temperature: 27° (Average 24°)
How do we come up with this forecast?
Before improvements in computer model forecasts, seasonal forecasts used to be based on similar past years. This is called analog forecasting. In 2020, computer models are getting much, much better at seasonal projections (though we still have a long way to go). We're taking a blend of these different ideas to give you our best guess at the upcoming winter. Yes, we said guess, because what we do here is very, very different than the forecasts we do on a daily basis. We're not going to be able to pick out things you might want to know - will it be a White Christmas? How many snowstorms will we have this year? When will "the big one" arrive? We can't accurately predict specific events weeks and months into the future. Instead, we focus on trends and the "big picture".
La Nina drives Winter 2020-2021
La Nina is expected to continue in the Pacific Ocean throughout the winter. This ocean pattern is moderate enough to influence our weather in the Northeast. The strength of La Nina is expected to alter the course of the jet stream and force it farther west and north than usual this winter. This would lead to more western runners, or storm systems that tend to bring more ice and rain than snow. These storms do tend to produce lake effect snow in their wake, though, so we do think there will be plenty of snow in active weather patterns. It's harder to keep snow around with consecutive western runners, especially in the lower elevations, even in the middle of winter.
With the jet stream leaning west, that also means there will probably be less nor'easters than usual this season. The bigger question is how many will actually hit Central New York, and unfortunately we don't have an answer to that.
Polar vortex - the wildcard of the winter
The polar vortex is a slowly spinning pool of arctic air that usually sits over the north pole. It's not new! The going theory this year is the polar vortex will probably stay near the poles for most of the season. On the few occasions where it does dislodge and drop south, you can expect some of the coldest temperatures of the winter. There's a better chance of this happening later in the winter season than earlier.
Most similar previous winters
Here's a look at four winters of the past that we think best fit the upcoming winter pattern. First, temperature:
One last important note
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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