Early Snow—Cold Winter?

July 20, 2017
Weak El Nino
NOAA

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Chicago, the windy—errr, snowycity, was hit by snow during the first week of October. That’s the earliest snowfall since World War II!

For those of us who still shiver when we hear the words “Polar Vortex”, the early cold makes us worry that there will be a repeat of the frigid misery of last winter. Is there another Arctic blast waiting to freeze us again this winter.


 

Brrrr! Is this the future?

(As faithful readers of The Old Farmer’s Almanac know, their staff has answered “yes.” In the words of Editor Janice Stillman, “Think of it as a refriger-nation.”)

The problem is that the Arctic is unusually cold. Fortunately, it is not as cold as last year, which had the coldest winter ever recorded, but still very chilly. It has been so cold that, by the end of August, there was 1.5 million square kilometers more sea ice than there was back in 2012. (It sounds so impressive in metrics!) That’s 579,000 sq. miles to Americans. This is less ice than we saw in the 1970s, when satellite measurements began, but it is impressive regrowth.

There is 1.5 million sq. km more sea ice in the Arctic than back in 2012. Source ‒ National Snow and Ice Data Center

Some scientists point out that there is a strong possibility of an El Niño this winter. That normally creates warm winter weather. Unfortunately, even if the event occurs, most scientists expect a weak to moderate event. When that happens, the warm Pacific waters warm the West and cold Arctic air plunges deep into the Midwest and East. Remember last winter, when the US weather had a split personality. An El Niño would repeat that weather split.

A weak El Niño would allow cold Arctic temperatures to drop into the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states as well as Eastern Canada. Source: NOAA

So, regard these early autumn snows as a warning. It’s time to get out the coats and mittens.

To get winter predictions for your area, pick up your copy of the 2015 Almanac!

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.