HOMER — Hundreds of faces peeked out Monday as Matt Pooler bent over his task: from the shelf behind him, from the one next to him; in the corner by the cash register; and from between the tomatoes and jams.
Pumpkin faces — on a dry, crisp early fall day that promised many more just like it. Pooler was getting Dave’s Veggies in Homer ready for this weekend’s Great Cortland Pumpkinfest. “I can deal with a fall just like this,” Pooler said as he painted eyes on a pumpkin.
And you can expect more days just like Monday, according to the 90-day forecast from the National Weather Service. There’s a better than average chance of warmer weather through December. And, more or less, expect something between typical precipitation to dry weather.
“We’re looking at above-normal temps,” said meteorologist Ray Brady of the Weather Service’s Binghamton office.
The same weather pattern responsible for a warm fall is what caused the drought this summer, Brady said. And the potential for continued dryness raises questions for the seasonal future of the aquifer that supplies water to 30,000 Cortland County residents.
“The aquifer is lower than expected to be, maybe a couple of feet,” said Amanda Barber, director of the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District.
That’s not enough to cause any problems in public water supplies, she said, and because the season is so late, plants are taking up less water than during the summer, she said.
However, the aquifer — and other water sources — recharge in the fall and winter, and to do that, they need precipitation. So far this year, 24.2 inches of precipitation has fallen, down from a normal of 29.3. This month, barely 0.7 inches has fallen, compared with a normal 3.1 inches.
In fact, drought, declared in July, persists in most of Western New York, the Finger Lakes and the North Country, the Weather Service reports.
A persistent ridge of high pressure in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington and Oregon causes a trough in the West and Midwest. That, in turn, is followed by a similar ridge over the Northeast.
That’s dry for water users, but just fine for Helen Roscoe of Glen Rock, New Jersey. She had stopped at Dave’s Veggies to pick up some tomatoes on a trip from one home in Jordan-Elbridge to another in New Jersey.
“That’s so nice,” she said as she placed veggies on the counter. “What’s the winter going to be like?”
Harder to predict that far out, but combining with the high pressure ridge is a fluctuation in the North Atlantic Oscillation, Brady said.
The El Nino-La Nina effect of the Southern Oscillation is expected to be neutral, so the negative North Atlantic Oscillation invites colder arctic air into the eastern United States, predict meteorologists around the nation. The result? A winter colder than last year’s painfully warm, virtually snow-free excuse for a Yuletide.
That, by the way, is a different forecast than provided by the Old Farmer’s Almanac. The New Hampshire-based publication, using a 225-year-old method involving sunspots and who-knows-what-else, called for a warm November, a cold December and then warmer and wetter for the winter after that.
But that’s months away. For now, the Weather Service predicts showers from Wednesday evening through Saturday, with highs in the mid-60s and lows near 50. It might be a bit damp for the pumpkin festival’s first day on Saturday, but Sunday should be partly sunny.
That’s good news for Pooler. He’s got hundreds more pumpkins to paint, and they’re just sitting there, staring at him waiting to get it done.