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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published September 19 2012

Weather Talk: No solid indicators of what winter will be like this year

The winter outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (a cousin to the National Weather Service) has been consistently predicting a high probability of a mild winter. This outlook is based on the premise that another El Nino is building in the Pacific Ocean.

During the 1980s and 1990s, El Nino was virtually synonymous with mild and open winters here in the Red River Valley. But in the winter of 2009-10, an El Nino winter ended up cold and snowy. This change may be partially due to a change from the warm phase to the cold phase of another Pacific Basin pattern called the Pacific decadal oscillation. Not only that, but this autumn’s El Nino appears to be rapidly turning into a dud.

There are two points here. One is this: If we have a mild, open winter, it will be for very different reasons than last winter. Two, any outlook for the winter is based on weak, conflicting indicators. All of this means no one has a good sense of what sort of winter is coming.


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