Graphic summarizing AccuWeather’s 2015-16 winter outlook (AccuWeather.com)

After back-to-back brutally cold winters in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, 2015-2016 may offer a reprieve says AccuWeather, which released its winter outlook earlier this week.

“[T]he Northeast and mid-Atlantic can expect fewer days of subzero temperatures than last year,” AccuWeather writes.  “February of 2015 went down in the record books as the second-coldest February on record for both the region and for eight states individually, including Pennsylvania, New York and all six New England states.”

Although AccuWeather expects tamer temperatures, it would not rule out some cold and snowy weather, especially towards the tail of winter. “We just don’t know exactly yet whether or not we’re going to see the pattern turn cold and snowy,” AccuWeather forecaster Paul Pastelok said. “…There is an opportunity that [the weather] could change on us as we get into February and early March.”

AccuWeather’s equivocation on snow in the Mid-Atlantic, in particular, is understandable.  As we discussed in August, winters coinciding with a strong El Nino event like the present have produced wildly varying snowfall totals in the D.C. area.

[History shows a strong El Niño may mean huge snow for D.C. this winter or almost none]

Its forecast for somewhat milder temperatures also makes sense, as El Nino events tend to cause the polar jet stream, which can deliver frigid air, to retreat some to the north.

[Meteorologists smartly rip Old Farmer’s Almanac forecast for cold winter in the East]

Not all forecasters concur with AccuWeather’s call for a tamer winter, especially in the Mid-Atlantic. The outlook issued by WeatherBell Analytics, prepared by Joe Bastardi who was formerly responsible for long-range outlooks at AccuWeather, calls for the Mid-Atlantic to get hammered by cold and snow.

“Our blend of analogs, even with warm winters factored in, gives a major cold and snowy winter over the South and into the East,” WeatherBell’s outlook states.


Winter weather index predicts D.C. area is in for “bad winter” (Joe Bastardi, WeatherBell.com)

AccuWeather’s outlook for the rest of the country more or less reflects the tendencies of strong El Nino events and seems reasonable.

El Ninos tend to increase the strength of the southern jet stream, frequently the source of storminess from Southern California to the Southeast U.S. In these areas, AccuWeather projects stormy and rainy conditions.

To the north, AccuWeather is forecasting dry and milder than normal conditions from the Pacific Northwest towards the Northern Plains, which is another hallmark of El Nino.

Capital Weather Gang’s winter outlook, focused on the D.C. area, will be released between Halloween and Veterans Day.