The recent string of record warm winters may come to a closethis winter, as normal (cold) weather is likely to return,according to predictions from top weather experts at the NationalOceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Salomon SmithBarney.

“We’ve probably forgotten over the last three years what anormal winter is like. [But] with La Nina and El Nino out of theway, normal winter weather has a chance to return to the U.S. thisyear,” said NOAA Administrator D. James Baker at a press briefinglast Thursday. If this proves true, demand for natural gas, heatingoil 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 ouropinion, 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 ahistorically normal type of winter for the nation as a whole,”which is a “tremendous change” from the past couple of winters, hesaid. “Nationwide, we see a high likelihood of early cold weather(November) this winter…There is also a good chance of a greatdeal of variability in temperatures during the heart of the winter.Regionally, we foresee periodic surges of cold weather in theNortheast quadrant of the U.S.”

In the Northeast, “a polar jet stream and tropical jet streamwill duel for supremacy, and the polar jet stream will win,” NOAAforecasters said. This will bring a greater chance of more snowalong the Appalachians from New England to the Carolinas and pointseast, including Washington D.C., Boston, New York, andPhiladelphia, they noted. Average temperatures in these citiescould be 4 degrees Fahrenheit colder than the last three winters.

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

“Cold air outbreaks will potentially lead to more days belowzero and heavier lake-effect snow in the western portions ofPennsylvania and New York, northern Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin andnortheastern Minnesota,” according to NOAA’s Winter Outlook.Minnesota is expected to see average temperatures of 6 degreesbelow the last three winters, while Chicago could have averagetemperatures of 5 degrees lower, the NOAA report said.

In the Southeast, temperatures will likely be warmer thannormal, but slightly cooler than the last three winters, with allof the Gulf Coast states (except Florida) favored to receive moreprecipitation 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 havenear-normal precipitation for the winter season as a whole, weatherexperts said. Seattle could see average winter temperatures of 1degree below the past three winters, they noted. Further to theNorth, Alaska is expected to experience normal temperatures andprecipitation this winter.

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

The public “must be careful this winter and prepare for a littlebit of everything,” warned Jack Kelly, director of NOAA’s NationalWeather Service. “We expect considerable swings in temperature andprecipitation.”

Susan Parker

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