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NOAA, Salomon Predict Normal Winter

NOAA, Salomon Predict Normal Winter

The recent string of record warm winters may come to a close this winter, as normal (cold) weather is likely to return, according to predictions from top weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Salomon Smith Barney.

"We've probably forgotten over the last three years what a normal winter is like. [But] with La Nina and El Nino out of the way, normal winter weather has a chance to return to the U.S. this year," said NOAA Administrator D. James Baker at a press briefing last Thursday. If this proves true, demand for natural gas, heating oil and electricity will be much greater.

Jon Davis, meteorologist for Salomon Smith Barney in Chicago, came to the same conclusion. After three consecutive warm winters, "the weather variables that we have examined do not, in our opinion, tend to favor a fourth ultra-warm winter," he wrote in his "2000-2001 Winter Outlook," a report scheduled for release today.

Rather, Salomon Smith Barney foresees "much more of a historically normal type of winter for the nation as a whole," which is a "tremendous change" from the past couple of winters, he said. "Nationwide, we see a high likelihood of early cold weather (November) this winter...There is also a good chance of a great deal of variability in temperatures during the heart of the winter. Regionally, we foresee periodic surges of cold weather in the Northeast quadrant of the U.S."

In the Northeast, "a polar jet stream and tropical jet stream will duel for supremacy, and the polar jet stream will win," NOAA forecasters said. This will bring a greater chance of more snow along the Appalachians from New England to the Carolinas and points east, including Washington D.C., Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, they noted. Average temperatures in these cities could be 4 degrees Fahrenheit colder than the last three winters.

The agency's weather experts further anticipate normal winter conditions --- defined as those experienced between 1961-1990 --- to occur in the Plains states (North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa) and in the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana and Missouri).

"Cold air outbreaks will potentially lead to more days below zero and heavier lake-effect snow in the western portions of Pennsylvania and New York, northern Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and northeastern Minnesota," according to NOAA's Winter Outlook. Minnesota is expected to see average temperatures of 6 degrees below the last three winters, while Chicago could have average temperatures of 5 degrees lower, the NOAA report said.

In the Southeast, temperatures will likely be warmer than normal, but slightly cooler than the last three winters, with all of the Gulf Coast states (except Florida) favored to receive more precipitation than usual. NOAA forecasters believe there is an "enhanced likelihood" that Florida's weather this winter could be "punctuated by cold air outbreaks, or 'Florida Freezes.'"

The Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington) is likely to have near-normal precipitation for the winter season as a whole, weather experts said. Seattle could see average winter temperatures of 1 degree below the past three winters, they noted. Further to the North, Alaska is expected to experience normal temperatures and precipitation this winter.

The exception will be in the Southwest and West (California and Nevada), where warmer-than-normal temperatures are anticipated to prevail this upcoming winter, NOAA climate forecasters said.

The public "must be careful this winter and prepare for a little bit of everything," warned Jack Kelly, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "We expect considerable swings in temperature and precipitation."

Susan Parker

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