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TMCNet:  Winter weather's forecast uncertain

[November 02, 2012]

Winter weather's forecast uncertain

Nov 02, 2012 (Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- As the East Coast continues to suffer from the devastating impact of Superstorm Sandy -- which lived up to its predictions -- Kentuckians are beginning to ponder what the winter here might look like.
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Ponder and look at all the weather models available, but the picture might not get any more clear.

"There are equal chances" of either being above, below or normal in both precipitation and temperature for the winter, according to the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center.

Stu Foster, director of Western Kentucky University's Climate Center, said weather forecasting models are generally getting better each year, as was demonstrated with Sandy.

"There was critical warning in advance," he said.

And while this area of the state didn't experience precipitation from the storm, gusty winds felt here for several days were a result of it, Foster said.

Even Lake Michigan had coastal flooding because of the winds, he said.

But sometimes the hints aren't there to know what to expect.

The La Nina and El Nino patterns are expected to be in a neutral position this winter, forcing the equal chances statement, Foster said.

Glenn Conner, the former state climate center director, said folklore weather indicators really don't tell us much, either.

There was nothing remarkable about the last freeze of last winter or the first of this winter. And he hasn't even seen any woolly worms.

"The width of the color bands is supposedly an indicator of the severity of winter," Conner said. "Another folklore says that if you count the fogs in August, that's the number of snows in the coming winter. But fog is in the eye of the beholder. And the things that's wrong with the folklore there is that we only have 31 days in August, meaning we can only have 31 days of snow. And we've had more than that before. It doesn't mathematically compute." Even for just November, the NWS has no clear indicators for precipitation and temperature, Foster said.

At least we know that in the near term (six to 10 days) temperatures are expected to be near normal, -- for November, that means average highs of 59 and lows of 37, he said.

"What's normal, and what we've experienced the last two winters, have both been dominated by La Nina circulations and yet produced very different types of winter," Foster said.

Last winter produced just 1.4 inches of snow. The previous winter notched 21.2 inches.

If this winter is harsh -- and there's no indication that might be the case -- there is good news as far as the cost of natural gas is concerned.

This week the Public Service Commission said prices are projected to be the lowest they've been in 10 years.

The average bill for a customer consuming 10,000 cubic feet of gas is expected to be $85.55, a decline of 43 percent since 2008, the PSC said.

"Natural gas prices have remained relatively stable since late 2009, in contrast to the very large fluctuations in prior years," PSC Chairman David Armstrong said in a news release. "Increasing gas supplies are projected to provide price stability in the coming years as well." ___ (c)2012 the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.) Visit the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.) at www.bgdailynews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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