2012-2013 winter outlook: Above average temperatures, near normal snowfall

CLEVELAND - Well here we are. The start of October. With cold air moving in for the upcoming weekend and some of us seeing our first few flakes, we turn our attention to the upcoming winter

How cold will it get? How much snow will we see?

This far out, it's hard to pinpoint exactly our monthly temperatures and monthly snowfall totals, but we can give an educated early look into what our winter might look like.

When forecasting for the long term, there are a few things that are important to look at.

First is, will we experience a La Nina or an El Nino, and what will the strength be?

It's still too early to tell completely, but it's looking like we will be under the influence of a weak El Nino pattern through the winter and into spring. Usually with a weak to moderate El Nino, we see near normal snows here. Yes, some big snowstorms, but nothing that would bring in historic seasonal snowfalls. So if you by into this, we'd have a much snowier year than last year.

Secondly, we look at the NAO, or the North Atlantic Oscillation.

If the NAO is positive, like it was last year, we can expect milder and sometimes wetter winters. But, this winter it looks like the NAO could lean negative, which would mean more snow storms, especially across the east coast and Appalachians.

Another pattern we look at is called the AO, or the Arctic Oscillation.

If the AO is positive, like last year, we see little snow and cold. This year, again, that should change and the AO should trend more negative. So, again, that means more snow and cold.

There are several other global patterns you can look at for winter weather forecasting, but these are the key players for us.

So, having said that, let's take a look at my early winter weather forecast:

I expect above normal temperatures for the upper Midwest, Ohio Valley and for northern Ohio. It may be cooler than normal across the southeast and on the West Coast.

For snowfall, I expect near normal snowfall for the Great Lakes and northern Ohio with above average snows for the east coast, the Appalachians and the Rockies. 

So, our upcoming 2012-2013 winter is looking like it will be worse than last year. But that shouldn't be a surprise, since last year we only received 38 inches of snowfall, about half our average.

Remember, this is an early forecast and we will continue to tweak it as winter nears.

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