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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Winter could be mild in Midwest

Monday, November 21, 2005

COLUMBIA -- Winter heating bills might not be so bad after all. A National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center forecast released Thursday predicts another mild Missouri winter.

Ten of the last 15 Missouri winters have been warmer than normal, based on temperature normals calculated during the 30-year period 1971-2000, said Patrick Guinan, University of Missouri Extension climatologist. He said the weather service uses several factors in determining three-month weather forecasts, including Pacific Ocean temperatures around the equator, and recent winter trends. Since nothing abnormal

happened in the equatorial Pacific, Guinan said Thursday's National Weather Service prediction for December to February relies heavily on recent years' trends.

"Here in Missouri we have been spoiled over the last 15 years," Guinan said. "Ten winters have been warmer than normal."

Four of the last eight winters have ranked in the top 10 warmest winters since 1895, he said.

"People ask, 'where is all the snow?' Mild winters and snow, they don't make good company," Guinan said.

He said regardless of precipitation amounts - the weather service didn't make a prediction on precipitation - warmer temperatures mean much of it would fall as liquid rain, not snow.

In 2004, there were 14.5 inches of snow recorded at Columbia Regional Airport. The average for mid-Missouri is from 20 to 22 inches, Guinan said. The lowest recorded snowfall year in Columbia was just 4 inches in 1982

-1983 and the highest was 54 inches in winter of 1977-1978.

If history is a guide, parched soil in southern areas of Missouri could get recharged with water, making up for summer and fall drought conditions. Northern areas, traditionally drier in the December to February timeframe, probably won't be recharged. Central Missouri made up its rain shortfalls in August, though that came too late to help most farmers in the 2005 growing season.

Guinan said it's impossible to predict when the first major snow fall will occur. Normally most of Missouri's snow comes in January and February.

"Our biggest snow event last year was around Thanksgiving, so it's really hard to pinpoint those snow events," Guinan said.

Tony Lupo, an MU professor of atmospheric science, has a slightly different take than the National Weather Service report. He also looks at Pacific Ocean temperatures, but said based on what's happening in the air over the Gulf of Alaska and over land areas of Alaska and northern Canada, this winter is likely to be normal, meaning cooler than 2004, or even colder than normal.

"I don't think it is going to be as mild as they're predicting," Lupo said.

Lupo said there is no doubt that overall the Earth is warming and the trend is showing up in the winter months. "The colder seasons and polar regions are where you're seeing the stronger warming trends, in other words, less severe cold," Lupo said.

He said scientists disagree whether global warming patterns are human-

caused or within the bounds of natural patterns. He said he leans toward the opinion that the warming is within natural fluctuations.

"It's definitely warming," Lupo said. "But what we're seeing is still not out of bounds of what the planet has seen before."