News On 6 WARN Team Sorts Through Data For Winter Forecast
TULSA, Oklahoma - Winter in Oklahoma can be beautiful or filled with ice storms and blizzards; and of course, we all want to know which it will be.
That's the most common question meteorologists get this time of year, and our News On 6 WARN Team poured through all kinds of data – from scientific models to woolly worms and persimmon seeds - in search of an answer.
Buffalo, New York has been walloped by record snowfall and here in Green Country, Old Man Winter has paid us an early visit that may have you wondering, or worrying, if it's a sign of what's to come.
Perhaps you've checked with one of the Farmer's Almanacs. We picked up the two widest known and while both predict a cold winter for Oklahoma, only one of them said it'll be wet and snowy.
One winter prognosticator from Mother Nature is the persimmon seed.
It's kind of a big deal for a lot of folks in Oklahoma, but around the world, it is used for different purposes; in China it was used as medicine and Native Americans used the fruit of the persimmon tree for actual food, especially in the late fall.
For Ozark folklore, however, it was something a little bit more. Some said the shape inside the seed can predict what the winter will bring.
Many of the seeds we opened were in the shape of a spoon or a shovel, which is said to indicate a snow season.
If we had seen a fork shape, the belief is that means it will be a mild winter; while a knife shape is said to indicate a dry, cold winter with a wind that cuts right through you.
Finally, there's one more weather predictor from Mother Nature, the woolly worm.
Vinnie Robinson with Oxley Nature Center said, “By the black and brown stripes on the worm; the broader the brown stripe in the middle, the milder the winter."
Robinson reports seeing a worm with a brown stripe about a third the length of its body, but before you conclude it'll be a milder winter, know that these worms start growing as soon as it warms up early in the spring.
"If it starts growing earlier, it's gonna have a wider stripe, that means it was a milder winter, but it means it was the winter before."
In the end, the woolly worm is more of a sign of a winter gone by than the one to come.
While there may be some truth to the folklore associated with persimmon seeds, woolly worms and the like, we want to dive a little bit deeper into the scientific methods associated with forecasting winter weather.
A couple times a decade, we fall into an El Nino pattern.
"If we do get a rather strong one, it typically means a little colder and a little wetter," News On 6 Meteorologist, Dick Faurot said.
That's because the subtropical jet stream is strengthened, pushing moisture-laden storm systems into our area with greater frequency.
“There are other factors that folks look at such as early season snow cover in Canada, and across the far northern Plains, also into Europe and Siberia, places like that," said Faurot.
More snow in the higher latitudes allows colder air to rush into Oklahoma without much warming along the way.
Snow coverage is expansive to our north, which might indicate a colder winter ahead.
This season, it appears the eastern three-quarters of the U.S. will experience another cold-than-normal winter. This is similar to last season when brutally cold temperatures hung tight from Oklahoma all the way up to the northeast part of the United States.
With El Nino considered, we may end up with a wetter-than-normal season as well in our region of the country.
This sets the upcoming winter apart from last season as we experienced a dry pattern with only a few wet or snowy spells.
Those two factors combined could lead to above-normal snowfall from a swath from the central Rockies across Oklahoma and to the Mid-Atlantic states.
While folklore seems to contradict itself a bit this year, the science behind the weather forecast gives us a good idea of what may lie ahead.
We're in for a colder season with a little more wintry precipitation than usual, and with last weekend's snowfall, it's off to an early start.