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Are we in for a brutal winter???

Johnny Punani2

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Written August 26, 2003

by Joe D'Aleo

Chief WSI/INTELLICAST Meteorologist

It has been a summer like those we experienced in the middle part of the last century. In fact the summers over the last 5 years have been very "1950's-like". In the last few years, winters have also been reminiscent of that same era.

In a number of stories during the last few years and most recently in “Is Global Cooling About to Kick In?”, we showed how changes in both the Pacific and Atlantic and on the sun were suggesting a return to the climate of half a century ago. The decades of the 1940s to 1960s were characterized by summer heat waves and droughts, more fall hurricanes making landfall in the eastern states and often harsh and snowy winters. During that time, global temperatures began a gradual decline.

The big oceanic changes began in the middle 1990s heralded by the snowiest winter on record for many cities in the eastern states (1995/96) and then a Super El Nino (1997/98). Summer heat and drought have been in the news each year since the 1997/98 El Nino, with the drought core meandering from Texas to the Mid-Atlantic and then back to the west. The period from the late 1990s to the early 2000 was similar to the persistent drought and heat of the early to mid 1950s. Both periods had long stretches of La Nada and La Nina years, a pattern that appears to favor persistent summer heat and drought.

It took an El Nino to break the drought string then and again this time. In the 1950s it was the El Nino 1957/58, which led to a cold and snowy winter in the east and then a wet summer. This time it was the El Nino of 2002/03 with the cold and snowy eastern winter and the wet summer.

The new regime could make this upcoming winter another winter to remember (or forget if you hate winter). The winter of 2000/01 featured the coldest November and December on record for the nation as a whole and last fall and winter was the coldest in parts of the east in 60 years. the late 1950s and 1960s were notorious for the cold and snow.

But near term, the big question is whether a hurricane will threaten the east coast states during the early fall this year. In the 1950s, the El Nino of 1957/58 put an end to the mini-stretch of devastating hurricanes of the summers of 1954/55 and 1955/56. The summer of 1958 was without a big hurricane landfall. Two years later during the La Nada summer of 1960, powerful Hurricane Donna, ranked #6 in intensity since 1900, produced damage from the Florida Keys to the Mid Atlantic and the Northeast. Ironically that 1960 summer, a Pacific Hurricane tracked up Baja California, very much like Ignacio is doing this week.

It appears the tropical upper level pattern is becoming very favorable for the Atlantic systems to develop over the next week or so. As always, the timing of these systems will be critical in determining whether they take a more westerly track into the Gulf or recurve to the north before they reach the mainland and if they begin to recurve, is it harmlessly out to sea, or on a track that leads to brush or landfall further north?

That will depend on whether when they make their approach, we have a stronger trough in the east as we saw last weekend or are seeing a reprise of the more risky summer pattern with a pumped up Bermuda high pressing back to the coast.

I love snow and all but I don't think I could take another winter like last year. It stressed me out having to drive down 95 @ 15mph for 40 miles to get home during that massive snowstorm.

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