Predictions vary widely about this winter

By John Weiss

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

There’s trouble brewing this winter — the experts don’t agree on what it will be like.

The National Weather Service, Accu-Weather and Old Farmers Almanac give different views of the expected severity of the coming winter. It’s enough to make you want to consult wooly bear caterpillars or the pods of goldenrod. But even the wooly bears don’t seem as numerous as usual, though the height of squirrels’ nests and galls of goldenrod indicate hard times — unless you enjoy cold and snow.

So here’s what the experts, as it were, have to say:


  • The National Weather Service predicts a 33 percent chance that it will be warmer than normal in some parts of the region, and a 40 percent better chance in the extreme southeastern tip of the region. Chances for snow are equal chances of above-average, average or below-average. Take your pick.

What it comes down to is a so-so winter. While past winters have been affected by El Nino and La Nina in the Pacific Ocean, this winter will be a "La Nada" winter, meaning nothing — a real boring season.

  • Accu-Weather, however, says that snow should be close to normal — about 48 inches in the Rochester area for the entire winter — and temperatures will be colder. But cold will be variable, with a book-end effect, said meteorologist Jon Pacheco. The toughest cold will hit soon and continue into December, let off in January and February, and return later in the season. The prediction is based on finding past falls similar to this fall, and looking at the winter that followed.
  • The Old Farmer’s 2009 Almanac predicts that it will be colder than usual in December and March, but positively balmy in January and February.
  • Finally, nature is saying look out. Kevin Crilly, director of Oxbow Park near Byron, said wooly bear caterpillars, a prime natural prognosticator, are oddly scarce. But he has seen squirrels’ nests, and they are higher up in trees, indicating it will be colder.

The height of galls of goldenrod, created when an insect burrows into them, indicate how high snow will be. "There are some awful tall goldenrod around here this year," he said.
So there you have it. Take your pick. You just might have to buy an extra shovel, put up extra wood, and wait to see what happens.

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