ASK TOM: Winter 2013-14 outlook

Dear Tom,
What kind of winter do you think Chicago will have?

— Brendan Slota

Dear Brendan,

Seasonal forecasting is always a challenge, and the atmosphere has thus far provided no strong clues one way or the other.
Early indications derived from a synthesis of several supercomputer models of the atmosphere suggest Chicago’s upcoming winter could bring near-normal temperatures, but with considerable volatility. Transitions between bitter incursions of arctic air and milder Pacific interludes might end up averaging near normal, thereby masking some wide temperature swings.

An in-house study of 16 similar “neutral” autumns and winters since 1949 shows a modest bias toward above-normal snowfall, with nine of the 16 having more snow than the city’s 37-inch normal.

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