Can Syracuse Expect a Winter Wonderland This Year?


Syracuse has been buzzing the past few weeks about what this winter is going to look like in terms of weather. Answers have ranged from cold and snowy to warm with little snow, according to an article by Glenn Coin.

In his article, Coin interviewed five Central New York meteorologists for their expert opinions on what the 2015-2016 winter will look like. The majority of the meteorologists interviewed predict that this winter will certainly be warmer than normal, due to the El Niño that has been forming in the Pacific Ocean since spring of this year.

An El Niño is an “elongated area of unusually warm water” that forms near the equator and goes through three- to five-year cycles of warm water [El Niño] and cold water [La Niña], according to NewsChannel 9 meteorologist Dave Eichorn. The current El Niño has been expanding since spring and now spans “one half [to] two thirds of the Pacific Ocean.” It is considered the second or third strongest El Niño since these warm areas of water were first monitored about 65 years ago.

A weak El Niño typically wouldn’t have any major effects on the weather, as it would have to compete with several other “players” that also contribute to weather conditions. Teleconnections are one example of this— when a weather pattern forms over one area on the Earth, it can have an effect on another weather pattern across the globe. However, when an El Niño is strong, it is what has the most major effect on the weather. According to Eichorn, “This is the Alpha Dog.… All other players take second billing. That’s what’s going to make this winter more predictable.”

Since the El Niño will ultimately have the biggest effect on the weather this winter, all other factors do not necessarily need to be put into consideration.

An El Niño works by piling up weather systems in the West and causing storms. As winds start to “take on an oscillatory pattern,” high altitude winds linger over the Western United States and bring in cold and stormy weather. This movement of air pumps the warm Southern air to the East, giving the Eastern U.S. a warmer and milder winter.

Skiers, snowboarders and snow angel-makers, don’t fret just yet. There is still a good chance that snow will fall on Syracuse sometime this winter. Despite the average temperatures being warmer than usual, there is still the possibility that the new highs will still be low enough for snow to form. This same occurrence happened during the last strong El Niño, the winter of 1996 and 1997. The unpredictable possibility of this happening again is what has made it difficult for some meteorologists to determine what the snow situation will be like this winter. While El Niños typically guarantee warmer weather for the East, whether or not a decent amount of snow will fall is still in question.