Siding with the 2007 Farmers’ Almanac rather than forecasts released recently by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and EarthSat Energy Weather, Chief Long-Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi said Wednesday that he expects the 2006-2007 winter to be cooler than normal along the high-energy-demand East Coast and eastern Gulf Coast.

Bastardi said he believes that the current El Nino pattern will be one of the factors that determines the nature of the coming winter, but that the government’s weather service is overplaying its effects. Unlike the NOAA forecast, Bastardi does not see this winter being warmer than normal across the vast majority of the country. However, he is predicting a warmer than normal winter from the western Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest.

While the 2007 Farmers’ Almanac predicts a cold winter from coast to coast for the U.S. (see Daily GPI, Aug. 31), both NOAA and EarthSat Energy Weather expect the season to be colder than last year but warmer than normal (see Daily GPI, Oct. 11; Oct. 17).

“The eastern U.S. will experience a colder than normal winter overall,” he said. “The area from the eastern and central Great Lakes to the south-central and southwestern U.S. will experience near-normal winter temperatures. The region that stretches from the western Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest will likely see above-normal temperatures.”

Bastardi explained that an El Nino — a cyclical occurrence of warmer-than-normal Pacific waters — can have repercussions on worldwide weather patterns, particularly a strong El Nino, which features water temperatures that are significantly warmer over a broad expanse of tropical ocean. However, the meteorologist believes that the El Nino will remain at its current weak to moderate level, and may even weaken as the winter progresses. Because of this, a “typical” El Nino winter — such as the one predicted by the NOAA last week — that features warmer-than-normal temperatures across much of the U.S., is not as likely to occur, he said.

“We predict that the current El Nino will not be only determinant of this year’s winter weather,” said Bastardi. “This year’s winter will hinge on the timing and interaction of complex meteorological factors that would be overridden by a stronger El Nino that others seem to be expecting.”

One of those factors is the formation of a high pressure area over Greenland or northeastern Canada, which would force Arctic air down into the Northeast, he said. If this occurs as expected, the Northeast could experience severe, prolonged cold — ten days or more of temperatures averaging five to ten degrees below normal — during the middle to late winter, most likely during the month of January.

“Signs are pointing to the possibility of a rough conclusion to winter for the Northeast,” said Ken Reeves, director of Forecast Operations. “Examining past years where we see similar patterns to what we expect this winter bears this out. For example, the winter of 1992-1993 was moderate until early February, when it then became colder and snowier, and culminated with a harsh blizzard on March 13. Another of the winters we see a parallel to is 1957-1958, which again began more moderately, and concluded with significantly colder temperatures and major February and March snow storms.”

Bastardi also forecasts a wetter-than-average swath from southern and central California to the southern Plains and Southeast and up the East Coast, because an expected active subtropical jet stream will send storms on a track across the southern U.S. and likely ensure wet weather in the southern tier of the nation. He noted that how this moisture times itself with the arrival of colder air will determine how much snow the Northeast can expect, but winter is likely to be snowier than normal in the region — a mainstay of all winters since 2002.

The meteorologist added that major storms could be in store for the East. He said that very warm water relative to normal off all coasts provides ample moisture for any storm and, timed with cold air, would lend itself to heavy snowfall in the higher elevations of the Southwest and Southeast, and also the chance for some major coastal storms on the East Coast.

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