January 20, 2022

Winter predictions call for above-average temperatures

Kevin L. Smith/staff reporter

Larry Klotz of Homer tends his garden Friday. As a gardener, you might think he’s rely on the Old Farmer’s Almanac’s prediction for winter. But he’s a scientist, a retired biologist who taught climate change at SUNY Cortland. Either way, science and the almanac predict a good chance for a warmer, wetter winter.

One might think — watching Larry Klotz of Homer tend to his 40- by 60-foot garden filled with tomatoes, beets, lettuce, kale and more — that Klotz would have a sixth sense, folk tale or some other method to predicting the coming winter.

Nope. He’s a scientist; he’s going with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prediction: higher than normal temperatures.

That does, by the way, dovetail with the more folksy methodology of the Old Farmers’ Almanac, which predicts a warmer, snowier winter than normal in the greater Cortland area and upstate New York.

You might well see an average high temperature of 35 to 40 degrees, said almanac senior editor Sarah Perreault, with some cold periods mid- to late-December and most of January.

“More wet than white,” the almanac predicts, using a combination of 30-year statistical averages, climatology and sunspot activity to base its forecast.

“Less snow in the area isn’t a bad thing, as long as there is some sort of precipitation,” Perreault said. “It will be cold enough for frozen precipitation, but not cold enough for snow at times.”

Jessica Spaccio, climatologist at the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University, said there is a 33 to 40% probability of above-normal temperatures for most of the region, with slightly higher probability in other parts of New York.

However, Spaccio added there is a 55 to 60% probability of La Nina occurring this winter, an ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that brings lower temperatures and more precipitation to the Northeast.

Klotz, who taught climate change and conservation biology at SUNY Cortland for 36 years, said heat trapped by greenhouse gases could well offset the La Nina effect.

“Greenhouse gases are so high right now that it’s overpowering our national phenomenon,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of energy going into the atmosphere because of climate change.”

That’s likely to mean a very different start to Klotz’s garden next spring than he saw last spring. Last winter was cool, but dry, Spaccio said.

Klotz noted winter-like weather continued long past what’s normal — there was snow in May.

That gave him a late start to his garden although the grape tomatoes remain beautiful in September.

He’d like to see an earlier spring, and the almanac and the science suggests he just may see it.

“We’ll have to wait and see how the winter goes and what spring will bring us,” he said. “It remains to be seen.”