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First forecasts

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- Posted: October 26, 2018
By Ken Elliott and Jim Sullivan

After dealing with everything in the winter of 2017-18, from a December storm that brought snow from New Mexico through Maine (including rare double-digit snowfalls to parts of the Deep South) to an unforgiving March/early April in much of the East, early indications are that the snow and ice industry is in for another challenging winter.

As we continue to watch a weak to perhaps moderate El Niño develop through the fall, odds are increasing that we’ll see something of a counterintuitive temperature departure this season. Overall, mild conditions (or more accurately for those of us that work and live in it - not as cold as normal) are favored across a good portion of the northern United States, with cooler than usual temperatures from the southern Plains into the Southeast. In between, temperatures will tend to average out near normal, but will likely fluctuate (and perhaps wildly), especially in the Plains, Great Lakes and eastward into the northern mid-Atlantic. Along the Atlantic seaboard, these temperature shifts can result in increased storminess.

In patterns like these, snowfall tends to find itself close to average for many parts of the United States and Canada. Besides perennially snowy New England, the areas to watch this year with the highest chance to exceed normal snowfall are the central and southern Appalachians and the mountains of the southwest United States. With favorable timing of storminess and cooler intervals, the interior Northwest/British Columbia and the I-95 corridor in the mid-Atlantic could see high snowfall. 

On the other hand, except for favored Lake Effect areas, it will probably take a lucky storm or two for snowfall to go above average in the upper Plains and Midwest (which has happened in past winters that compare favorably to this season). Although these areas should have frequent snow threats to keep everyone busy, a good number figure to be salting events since the jet stream does not seem like it will bring storms with moderate to high levels of moisture with any regularity. 

We’ll continue to watch the weather patterns evolve through the fall. We will have an updated winter outlook in the December issue. By then, we expect to have a better feel for favored storm tracks and more localized threats, including risks for mixed precipitation and coastal storms. 
Season Totals graph
Early 2018-2019 forecast themes
  • Pattern likely dominated by a weak-to-moderate El Niño
  • Stormy but potentially mild West Coast
  • Subtropical jet stream favored to bring active weather to Gulf and perhaps East Coast
  • Average to above normal Lake Effect expected, especially very late November and December
  • Seasonably cold Central Plains to the mid-Atlantic
Ken Elliott is senior meteorologist and director of information technology and Jim Sullivan is a meteorologist for WeatherWorks. Contact them at kenelliott@weatherworksinc.com or jsullivan@weatherworksinc.com. 
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