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La Niña could bring warm, wet winter

Alex Milan/Getty Images Country road through the agricultural field and snowy ravine
NO SNOW? It’s been a warm early fall thus far, and long-range forecasts are calling for a warmer winter, but it could be wet, too.
Q&A: Jessica Spaccio, a regional climatologist, breaks down the factors that will shape this winter’s weather.

No matter where you live in the Northeast, it’s been a warmer-than-usual fall thus far. In fact, September was one of the warmest on record for many spots in the Northeast.

According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, 33 major climate sites across the region experienced above-normal temperatures, with 21 of those ranking September among the 20 warmest on record.

September was also wet, which likely slowed down silage chopping and other field activities. Last month was among the 20 wettest on record for 17 major climate sites, according to the climate center. It was the fifth-all-time-wettest month on record in Harrisburg, Pa., and Scranton, Pa., and the 10th-wettest month on record in Newark, N.J.

But some places were drier, such as portions of southern West Virginia, northwestern Pennsylvania, northern and central New York, and much of Vermont.  

What are trends showing for later this fall and winter? Jessica Spaccio, regional climatologist at the Northeast Regional Climate Center, recently gave her take:

How much warmer than usual is it? Has any place in the Northeast experience a first frost as of yet? A lot of places have been running 10 degrees above normal. A lot of places have stayed more September temperatures than October. A lot of places would have seen a first frost by now.

I don’t have data on first frost, but most places have not gotten it except for northern places. There were times in September where they likely hit frost, but most regions have remained frost-free past the usual frost date because of abnormally high temperatures.

How long will the warmth last? All the outlooks are calling for above-normal temperatures and into the winter as above normal. I don’t see a cold November in the forecast. Everything is looking right now to at least some trend of above normal through fall and early winter.

What are biggest factors that are driving current forecast models for the coming winter? Currently, it is ENSO neutral, but there will be a La Niña this winter, a 70% to 80% chance. Not sure on strength. La Niña is the cooling of the ocean in the Pacific. That means above-normal temps across the South and up the Eastern Seaboard, and drier conditions across the South.

Winter is showing above-normal precipitation for the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes, and parts of the East. That also follows La Niña pattern where you can see more storminess in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes, and possibly the Northeast.

Again, this is a seasonal outlook. … It doesn't mean there can't be some cold weeks in there. And if a storm happens to come and there are cold temperatures, we could still get some decent snowstorms in there. It doesn't mean we're out of the woods for winter weather.

seasonal temperature outlook map

seasonal precipitation outlook map

The North Atlantic Oscillation also plays a factor in winter. Unfortunately, it's only forecast at a two-week time scale, so closer to winter, we'll get a better chance of seeing it and predicting it. The oscillation right now, it’s in a negative phase, meaning a cooler winter for us. Positive would be warmer and drier, but that changes constantly.

Harvest has gotten going. What’s your forecast for the next couple of weeks? It's been a great month for harvest, and it's looking to continue. Above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation, that's what the forecast is showing,

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