Is September too early to begin talking about winter? Maybe so, but that didn't stop the Farmers' Almanac from issuing its annual predictions for the fast approaching winter season last week.
According to the Almanac, two thirds of the country, including Ohio, will be in for a colder than average winter with precipitation levels above normal for a large portion of the country.
"A large area of below-normal temperatures will predominate from roughly east of the Continental Divide to the Appalachians, north and east through New England," says Caleb Weatherbee, the pseudonym of the Almanac's forecaster.
The Farmers' Almanac predicts a snowier winter for our region, citing colder temperatures as a factor, which could create conditions ripe for significant snowfall. A colder, snowier winter may come as somewhat of shock to some Ohioians after last year's uncharacteristically mild winter season, which saw well above normal temperatures and little snowfall.
Perhaps Ohioians should not panic just yet, considering that even the nearly 200-year Almanac does not having predicting Ohio's erratic weather patterns down to a science. The Almanac bases it predictions on a formula consisting of tidal conditions, the position of the planets, lunar cycles and the behavior of the sun, according to their website.
Meteorologist Lee Hendricks of the National Weather Service (NWS) in Pittsburgh says his organization gets its winter weather predictions from the Climate Prediction Center but notes that the NWS does use some of the same methods as the Almanac.
"They look at sea surface temperatures, climatology and things of that nature, which are some of the things we look at as well," said Hendricks.
He explained the NWS looks at weather on a larger scale, monitoring global weather patterns such as El Nino and La Nina. El Nino translates to "little boy" and is a weather pattern of unusually warm temperatures, while La Nina translates to "little girl" and is a pattern of unusually cold temperatures.
"There are weather patterns that develop if its a El Nino or La Nina year," said Hendricks.
Hendricks said the Climate Prediction Center anticipates a 33 percent chance of above normal temperatures and precipitation to be roughly average throughout the winter. Hendricks said that in the past Ohio's bad winters have been caused by "upper level troughs of low pressure over the east coast." He explained that this creates a sort of conveyor system bringing a continuous series of storms into the area from Canada.
Whether the Almanac or the NWS is correct in their predictions only time will tell, in the meantime, it's a safe bet to predict Ohio's winter weather will be much like last year's - unpredictable.