What's the winter forecast?
It all depends on who you ask.
Last winter was the fourth warmest winter for the contiguous 48 states since record keeping began in 1895, with 24 states experiencing below-normal precipitation.
At left, Jamestown Public Works crews work outdoors during a largely snowless February. At right, Jamestown residents on Clyde Avenue are pictured digging out from a 2007 snowstorm. The Farmers’ Almanac and National Weather Service have differing ideas on how much snow to expect this winter.
California's winter was particularly extreme, as it experienced its second driest winter ever. Only ten states experienced above average precipitation last winter, and New York was not one of them.
The hot, arid summer months worked in concert with the mild winter to ensure that agriculture was significantly stymied this year. Drought flourished through the Great Plains, and despite experiencing problems this summer, New York was one of the states that fared well agriculturally, comparatively.
However, many area farmers are worried that big problems could be waiting on the horizon if winter does not make a comeback this year. According to the 2013 Farmers' Almanac, the coming winter should be more consistent with the norm in Western New York.
"For the coming season, we're predicting that winter will return to some but not all - areas," said Caleb Weatherbee, a forecaster for the Farmers' Almanac. "We think it will be a 'winter of contraries,' as if Old Man Winter were cutting the country in half. The eastern half of the country will see plenty of cold and snow."
The western half will experience relatively warm and dry conditions. In other words, as in the political arena, the climate this winter will render us a nation divided.
"We predict that real winter weather will return to areas from the Great Lakes into the Northeast," continued Weatherbee. "Most eastern states - as far south as the Gulf Coast - will see snowier than normal conditions and cooler temperatures."
However, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, predicting what winter is going to bring to the northeast will prove to be difficult.
"This is one of the most challenging outlooks we've produced in recent years because El Nino decided not to show up as expected," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "In fact, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in the tropical Pacific."
According to NOAA, other climate factors can influence winter weather across the country, as well. Some of these factors, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, a prominent climate pattern, are difficult to predict more than one to two weeks in advance. The North Atlantic Oscillation adds uncertainty to the winter outlook in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic portions of the country.
Currently, Western New York is being labeled as an "equal chance" category for the NOAA, meaning the area has an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation.
However, Hurricane Sandy is currently headed up the East Coast and is making no pretense about bringing inclement weather all the way over to Chautauqua County.
Currently, The Weather Channel is predicting that destructive winds, heavy rain and even a potential foot of snow could come to Chautauqua County courtesy of Hurricane Sandy.