The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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September 14, 2013

Cold winter predicted

JOHNSTOWN — “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” may be more than just a worn-out old song if The Old Farmer’s Almanac is accurate in its predictions for the winter of 2013-14.

Hot off the presses and available at retail stores everywhere, this “bible” of weather prognostication, vegetable planting and harvesting charts and what it boasts as “new, useful and entertaining matter,” the almanac is warning all to bundle up.

“You’re in central, west-central Pennsylvania and there will be a swath of cold, with below- average temperatures and below-average precipitation,” Janice Stillman, editor of the almanac, told The Tribune-Democrat in a telephone interview from her Dublin, N.H., office.

Those colder temperatures will switch to warmer-than-normal temperatures through much of 2014, followed by a cooler-than-normal fall, according to the almanac, now in its 221st year of continual publication.

The almanac has been making weather predictions since the days when George Washington was president and claims to have an 80 percent accuracy rating.

The term “normal” or “average” is drawn from a 30-year period and the predictions draw largely from solar science, Stillman said.

This monitors action on the sun, the sunspots and magnetic storms that occur on the surface of the sun.

These observations are over hundreds of years observed by almanac meteorologists and others, she said.

Also playing a role in the predictions is climatology and meteorology, illustrating a move toward an increased use of technology, Stillman said.

Those relying solely on technology, including meteorologists with the National Weather Service, anticipate the weather to be a little warmer for what are traditionally the coldest months of winter.

“We’re predicting above-normal temperatures for that period and it will be not too far from normal for precipitation,” said Craig Evanego in an interview from his State College office.

The winter outlook from the Climate Prediction Center of The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration is for above-normal temperatures with not a strong trend toward precipitation.

But back to the almanac, which calls itself “useful with a pleasant degree of humor.”

There likely will be snow flurries for Thanksgiving with temperatures dipping lower than normal, said Stillman. Christmas promises snowfall, at least flurries in this region, with temperatures Stillman described as bitter cold.

Also, look for snowstorms later in February.

The colder temperatures are  driven by the sun and as of late the solar activity has been diminishing, all part of the weather cycle.

“When it’s not so active, the temperatures are cold and frigid,” Stillman said.

The Cambria-Somerset region, which falls into the Almanac’s Region 3 forecast for the Appalachian Mountains, predicts snow or flurries could hit as early as Nov. 6 to 8.

The coldest periods of the winter likely will be in late December through early January, then again in early February.

March will be mostly cold with some rain and little sun, while April will bring more sun and typical spring temperatures and showers.

Look for precipitation to be a little below normal in May with temperatures above average, and much of June will be warmer than normal with rainfall average.

The middle of July will be hot but a little cooler toward the end of the month, while August will be warm and sunny with heavy thunderstorms.

September and October will be rainy at first, then broken up with rain and cooling and warming trends, the Almanac tells us.

Kathy Mellott covers environmental issues for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

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