NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) map shows the three-month precipitation forecasts for the U.S.

Even though it is only sweater weather here on the east coast, I’m already seeing and hearing weather stories about the coming winter. In Paradelle, we worry about hurricanes and storms shooting up from the Caribbean and Nor’easters. We don’t normally get very concerned about conditions on the Pacific side of the country. But warmer sea temperatures there, might affect our winter this year.  Does that mean more or less snow and precipitation in general?

I have written a number of times here about the coming winter and predictions of how it will be. There are those folkloric and quasi-scientific predictions that come from signs in nature, predictions about winter based on that summer, looking at creatures (like the wooly bear caterpillar) and just observing this month of October as a predictor of things to come.

There certainly is a lot of effort, money and media time spent on weather forecasting in a serious, scientific manner.

Paradelle and much of the Northeast is supposed to get above-average winter temperatures because of a very strong El Niño weather pattern in the Pacific. El Niño is an unusually warm flow of water in the Pacific Ocean toward South America, which generates strong winds that move east to the Atlantic. They can shear off hurricanes and we did have a quiet hurricane season. (Other than Hurricane Joachim which hit the Bahamas the same day I was supposed to land there. Thanks, Niño.)

The map shown here shows that there should be fewer dips of the jet stream down into the central part of the country. Those dips in 2013 and 2014 sent frigid arctic air into the northeast for extended periods and of weather people talking about the “polar vortex.”

I read today that New Jersey is supposed to be warmer this winter, although that oddly doesn’t mean less snow. Other strong El Niño winters produced average snowfall, and in 1957-58 (when I was a pre-schooler and still loved snowstorms), it was another of the top five El Niño winters and 61.5 inches of snow fell on my north Jersey neighborhood.

Still, weather forecasting always seems to be 50% science, 25% luck and 25% hype. The media loves a good weather event.

What is “normal weather” in these days of climate change? Every winter in New Jersey since 1950 that has had an El Niño effect (weak or strong) has been “consistent” in one way: it has either been very wet weather or very dry. No in-between.

Maybe I should just look at the folklore:
Much rain in October, means much wind in December. It has been a very dry summer, September and October so far. Don’t expect wind.
A warm October, means a cold February. Maybe too early to call. October was warm, but here at mid-month it’s getting a lot cooler.
A Full Moon in October without any frost, means a warmer month ahead. Too early to say – the Full Moon arrives late – October 27th – so I’ll have to get back to you about that one.

But the leaves are hanging on so far and that is supposed to mean a severe winter, although I’d say it’s because we haven’t had storms to knock them down. And the local squirrels have been crazily gathering acorns from my yard – but then they are always crazily gathering acorns. Their tails seem normal size. (Bushy tails are supposed to mean a tough winter to come.)

I am officially predicting that winter will come to Paradelle, as it always does.

Like George Carlin’s hippie-dippy weatherman character, Al Sleet, who would predict on the evening news “Continuing dark overnight with light in the morning,” I’m predicting a winter here in Paradelle that will be colder than October with some very cold days and nights and some snow, but also some lovely, blue-sky and warmer days. On this, I am never wrong.