ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Snow. We shovel it, plow it and drive in it, but the toughest task might be predicting it.
Over the last 50 years, Rochester has averaged 100 inches of snow per year. That includes the 161 inches we got in 1978 and the 56 we got in 1995, but on average, 100.
Here’s where things get tricky: Based on that average, you should be wise to predict 100 inches of snow in Rochester every year. However, remember there was a 161 and measly 56 inch season in there to get to that 100 inch average. And on those years, and many others, you’d be very wrong.
So Winter forecasting is a game of playing the odds, betting red or black based on the data and information you have.
A good place to start is with something called teleconnections. These are climate anomalies that are connected over large distances. You’ve probably heard of El Nino and La Nina, a popular teleconnection. We’re coming out of a weak El Nino toward a neutral phase this Winter. Past Winters with similar conditions, like 1994 and 1978 ended up being snowy. In the absence of strong El Nino or La Nina conditions, this metric is difficult to connect to future predictions, but it offers at least some insight.
Another teleconnection, called the North Atlantic Oscillation, or NAO can be helpful. When it goes negative and starts creeping up, that tends to produce more snow. Models suggest that could happen by late December.
There’s a lot of snow on the ground in Siberia. While that might sound irrelevant to New York, it can factor into the caliber of cold we see later. And don’t forget about the polar vortex, of which recent disruptions suggest more cold toward the beginning of the new year.
While our Winter could run warm overall, make no mistake, there will be shots of arctic air in there. That poses an interesting scenario where Lake Ontario could run warmer than usual as those arctic shots arrive. It sets us up for what could be a slow start in December, but a cold and snowy January and February that would allow snow totals to catch up & really pile up.
Here’s how we would bet it. 30% of our chips go on red…less than 100” of snow this Winter. But we’d put most…70% of our chips on black…more than 100” of snow. Going all in on a forecast months in advance will have you going broke in no time. But the odds lean toward more snow than normal this Winter.