'Boro in for a snowy, cold winter

Category:  News
Wednesday, November 29th, 2017 at 5:57 PM
'Boro in for a snowy, cold winter by Macala Leigey
Graphic: Shelby Kirk

Welcomed with a longer than normal summer, and pleasantly warm fall temperatures, Erie County, along with the rest of the northwestern region of Pennsylvania, could be in for a much snowier and colder winter than normal.

In early October, AccuWeather reported that “a chilly winter is in store for the Northeast and mid-Atlantic (regions of the United States), particularly when compared to last year,” and this drop of temperature will “translate to an above-normal snow season.”

These regions included those prone to lake-effect snow: Erie, Pennsylvania; Cleveland, Ohio; and Buffalo, New York.

“I would not call it (the upcoming winter season) worse than normal,” Erie News Now First Warning Weather Director John Stehlin said.

“I would say above normal snowfall and below normal temperatures are expected during a La Niña type season. Erie County, especially the Edinboro area, is used to heavy snow and cold temperatures, but this year with the colder temperatures we can expect some heavier lake effect than normal.”

Edinboro University meteorology and climatology professor Dr. Kerry Moyer explained the natural phenomenon La Niña, and how it will impact this year’s winter conditions.

“The primary player affecting the upcoming winter season would appear to be a developing La Niña in the equatorial Pacific Ocean region. El Niños and La Niñas in the equatorial Pacific change the wind patterns in other areas of the world, including the U.S.,” Moyer said.

According to AccuWeather, La Niña is the opposite of El Niño, and “occurs when sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean drop to lower-than-normal-levels.”

“La Niñas favor cooler than normal temperatures and more precipitation across the northern U.S., and warmer than normal, drier conditions across the southern U.S.,” Moyer said.

He continued, “Climate forecasters look at how other large-scale oscillations around the globe are likely to set up during the winter as well, but El Niño [or] La Niña in the equatorial Pacific region tends to be a dominant player.”

Annually, Erie averages 102 inches of snow, according to the U.S. Climate Data’s website. The northwestern Pennsylvania city receives most of its snowfall in January —averaging 30 inches throughout the month — while just a few minutes south of the city, in the borough of Edinboro, 148 inches is typically expected annually.

However, with a “moderate” La Niña projected to create a colder and snowier climate, those averages are expected to spike.

“Our computer climate models indicate that a weak to moderate La Niña will develop and maintain itself this winter,” Moyer said. “If this indeed occurs, then the winter outlook forecasts issued by climatologists this fall are likely to be fairly accurate. If we have more frequent cold air outbreaks from Canada, as forecasted, then we are likely to have more lake effect snowfall than usual in our area.”

Stehlin also commented on the amount of snowfall Erie could potentially receive this winter, saying: “Typically, we see generally 110 inches of snow in the City of Erie. Of course, a bit more is always possible in the traditional snowbelt areas — 130 to 140 inches would not surprise me this season.”

However, he shared that, even with the additional snowfall, residents’ daily lives should not be dramatically impacted. “I would be surprised to see a few good lake effect events that close schools and cause headaches for motorists.”

Regarding winter weather safety, Stehlin suggested the following:

1. Stay off the roads

“When a snow event is happening, simply stay home, stay off the roads —don’t drive unless you absolutely have to drive.”

2. Be prepared

“Make sure you have plenty of food and always check on the elderly, [and] those who are sick and pets.”

3. Be smart

“Simply being smart is the best advice. Cover exposed skin, limit your time outside in the elements, take breaks while shoveling — [these] are a few things that will keep you safe.”

4. Stay updated

“Check local weather apps from local TV stations — First Warning Weather App — [as] they are updated by meteorologists who live in your town, unlike commercial apps that use general weather model data to make forecasts.”

“Winter weather is far different from the severe weather summer brings, but it can pack a punch, especially with cold temperatures and wind chills that can cause frostbite and hyporthermia,” Stehlin warned.

Macala Leigey is the Managing Print Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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