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Patrick Springer, Published October 10 2013

It's too early to predict what to expect this winter

FARGO – Those wondering what kind of weather to expect this winter will have to keep waiting for guidance.

It’s too early to make a prediction about the outlook for winter, North Dakota state climatologist Adnan Akyuz said Thursday.

One key weather pattern used in climate predictions, the Pacific Ocean currents that swing between El Niño and La Niña, remain stuck in a neutral phase.

That means it’s of no help right now as a predictor, Akyuz said.

Other indicators, including the Arctic Oscillation, are subject to change and don’t provide an accurate prediction beyond two weeks or a month.

Soil moisture content is another predictor. Wet soils tend to produce cooler weather, since part of the sun’s energy is absorbed in evaporation.

Recent wet conditions in an area that extends south of a diagonal line from southwest North Dakota to northeast North Dakota suggests cooler temperatures will persist this fall, Akyuz said.

“This is a tough time to be a climatologist,” he said, referring to the lack of clarity in climate signals.

An early prediction of the upcoming winter by Accuweather predicts that the northern Plains and Upper Midwest should expect “several strong systems” “to unleash above-normal snow totals.”

The Climate Prediction Center is due to update its seasonal outlooks on Oct. 17. Its last predictions, issued Sept. 19, for December, January and February, call for an equal chance of above normal or below normal temperatures and precipitation.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522