December 24, 2013 —
This month saw a couple of storms with accumulating snowfalls, and there is a foot on the ground in most areas of the region, give or take a few inches. This is good news for skiers and the area ski resorts, but if you are shoveling your driveway or have to get to work in bad weather, maybe this is not so good news.
Cold temperatures during the first part of December have kept the snow around. Ice has covered many sections of rivers, and eagles have been spotted congregating along the upper Delaware in the usual open spots as they look for food.
So what will this winter hold for us? Will we get a big thaw, or will we have arctic blasts and hip-high snow by February? The Farmer's Almanac winter forecast map for 2013/2014 indicates a cold and dry winter. It is interesting that they cite low solar activity (sunspot numbers) in many of their forecasts. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center, the current solar cycle is near its peak, but it is shaping up to be much lower than the last solar peak that occurred during 2000 by about a third.
Meanwhile, here at home, NOAA predicts near normal temperatures and precipitation for the region this winter. (although "normal" may be somewhat colder than the past few milder winters experienced in our region). Although long range forecasts may predict a general trend, we should keep our weather eye peeled. In issuing this winter's forecast, Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, summed this winter forecast up this way: “Without this strong seasonal influence (El Niño/La Niña), winter weather is often affected by short-term climate patterns, such as the Arctic Oscillation, that are not predictable beyond a week or two, so it’s important to pay attention to your local daily weather forecast throughout the winter.”