Handicapping 2014-2015 winter can lead to confident-sounding but wrong predictions.

By now, you’ve noticed that the weather in the past few years has become a series of conversation-starting, concern-causing, head-scratching, question-asking phenomena.  Last winter was—as they say down east— a “hoser”.  In the Northeast, we had the most persistent, bitterly cold winter in memory.  According to the National Weather Service, New England temperatures frequently and persistently ranged at or below normal low ranges from January to the end of March.  Even the Mid-Atlantic States had a cold and snowy season.  Early snow and a lot of it created deep powder conditions in the Alps, especially Italy.  Meanwhile, the Polar Vortex brought a cold and snowy season to the Northern Rockies and Midwest while California was unseasonably dry and warm.

What’s in store for 2014-15?  Joel Gratz of OpenSnow, an interesting online forecasting site we recommend to our readers, is

OpenSnow Compared US and International Models Credit: OpenSnow
OpenSnow Compared US and International Models
Credit: OpenSnow

not enthusiastic about long-range forecasts in general.  Nevertheless, he compared a number of US and European forecasts for the upcoming 2014-15 season and found some consensus:  Dry in the Northwest, Snowy in the Far West and uncertain from the Rockies eastward to New England.  Just to test the reliability of long-range predictions like this, he compared the accuracy of several forecast models from the prior 2013-14 season with actual results.  Those predictions were “far from perfect”.

So, he concludes, “Can we trust seasonal forecasts from these models? Based on last year (predictions), definitely not.”  He suggests we treat all of this as entertainment.  On the other hand, this year’s El Nino might actually “force the weather to behave in more predictable ways.” At the end of the day, who knows?

Besides, the Boston Globe reported this June that long-range climate is warming fastest in the Northeastern states, led by Maine and Vermont and in the South West.  Conclusion:  Ski when and where you can.

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