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Weather Service: 3rd straight mild winter on way

The Washington Post

October 19. 2017 11:31PM
A New Hampshire Department of Transportation truck spreads brine on Interstate 93 during a storm last year. (COURTESY NHDOT)

If you’re itching for outbreaks of the polar vortex and waist-deep snow, the upcoming winter may not be your cup of tea. And, thanks to climate change, the odds of brutally cold winters are decaying.

For the third time in as many years, the nation — on balance — should expect warmer-than-normal temperatures, according to the National Weather Service, which released its winter outlook Thursday.

The Weather Service favors warmer-than-normal conditions for the southern two-thirds of the Lower 48, including the Mid-Atlantic. Only a sliver of the Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest is expected to experience colder-than-normal temperatures.

The mild forecast follows back-to-back lackluster winters across the nation.

Last winter was practically the winter without a winter. Spring arrived weeks ahead of time and Chicago basked in record 70-degree warmth in February. It ranked as the sixth warmest winter on record.

The winter before, with the exception of the blockbuster January snowstorm along the East Coast, the winter was also quite tame, ranking as the warmest on record. Temperatures surged through the 70s to the Canadian border on the East Coast’s warmest ever Christmas Eve.

Climate warming from rising concentrations of carbon dioxide is exerting an effect on winter temperatures, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center. “It does undoubtedly play a role,” he said in a call with the press. “The increase in CO2 factors into our model forecast.”

While predicting generally warmer-than-normal conditions, Halpert stopped short of forecasting a third straight exceptionally warm winter like the last two. “The odds of seeing three top 10 [warmest winters in a row] is reduced, not eliminated,” he said. “We’re not anticipating the kind of record warmth we’ve seen the last two winters.”


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