by Pete Mazzaccaro
If you have been thinking about moving south – either temporarily or permanently – now might be a good time.
Everyone remembers last winter pretty well. In Philadelphia, we set records for snowfall, with a five-season average of 40 inches, the most ever recorded. Temperatures were an average of 33 degrees, making it only the 46th coldest winter in the last 100 years, but on 15 days – nearly twice the average – those temperatures dipped below 15 degrees.
This winter has some prognosticators predicting more of the same. Anyone watching football played in the upper Midwest could see the signs already, as snow fell on frozen fields, and spectators looked on from under mountains of coats and blankets.
All was part of what scientist Michio Kaku called a “bombogenesis” in a nearly viral news show appearance. This new term – add it to “polar vortex” – accounted for the weekend cold snap that we’re still dealing with this week, with morning temperatures well below freezing. The physics professor told the news crew he spoke to that such extremes should be expected now that climate change is with us.
A less heady prediction was also made by the Farmers Almanac. Editor Janice Stillman had this to say: “Winter will bring a frosty bite, and next summer will be its mirror opposite, so get ready for a one-two punch.”
Be prepared – there’s plenty in the forecast to cause all sorts of mayhem: blizzards, droughts, and hurricanes!”
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? The Almanac believes the Midwest will see record cold, and the Northeast, record snowfall. Being in between the two, we might be justified in fearing a little of both. Lucky us.
Now it would be foolish to bet cold hard cash on another record winter based on the predictions of the Farmers Almanac or a physics professor. But this week’s quick temperature dip has me worried for more of the same. It’s not far off from the poor characters of “Game of Thrones,” who are waiting for a winter measured in years, not months, to descend from the north.
Outside of the more hysterical predictions, regular science doesn’t have much to offer us. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that nothing about current climate models suggest we’ll get anything other than an average winter. Meaning it’s basically impossible to predict. It could be colder or it could be warmer.
The NOAA does believe there’s a 33 percent chance we’ll have more precipitation this winter. That band, as in recent seasons, stretches across the southern coast up to New England, with snowstorms having an odd pattern of dropping more snow in the South than in the Northeast. Recent snowstorms in Atlanta and Florida’s panhandle caught many residents there by surprise last year.
What does it all mean? Not much. It could be colder. Or it might not be. The best thing I can think of is to make good on a threat I made last winter, but on which I have yet to follow through: to buy a snow blower. If I do, you can be sure it won’t snow in Philadelphia for another five years.