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2017-2018 Winter Outlook

What can we expect this winter?

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC-TV) - The winter outlook is always one of the most popular, and also the most puzzling forecasts we put out. 

Sometimes it's difficult to forecast tomorrow in Western New York! But, there are some factors meteorologists can look at to help guide us in forecasting patterns several months down the road.

The first is whether or not we're in an El Nino, or La Nina phase. This has to do with the sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean off of South America. Slight variations in temperature from "normal" can cause variations in the jetstream, and global weather patterns. La Nina can sometimes be a good predictor of large scale patterns several months away. 

We are transitioning into a weak La Nina phase, which coincidentally, is what we had last winter. La Nina winters across the Northeast tend to be wetter than average, with warmer than average air locked to the south.

La Nina doesn't mean everything, though. We can have above average precipitation, but if temperatures are above average, and it is warm enough to rain, that will cut down on the snowfall amounts. 

So, another signal we look at is the North Atlantic Oscillation, or the NAO. This is another teleconnection using pressure differences between the subtropical high and the subpolar low. When the NAO value is positive, temperatures tend to be milder across the northeast. When they are negative, temperatures tend to be colder. 

While this signal is a fairly good indicator of temperature trends, it tends to more reliable several weeks out, as opposed to several months out. 

So, all this being said, we are entering into a La Nina phase, and a negative NAO, so we are forecasting a strong start to winter with a snowy December. We are also thinking we could see a classic January thaw, melting much of that snow and giving us a reprieve from winter. But, we're thinking winter may make a late season resurgence with snow and cold into February and March. Generally speaking, a classic western New York winter! We are thinking above average snowfall, perhaps even a bit more than last year, when we recorded 107"

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