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'Godzilla' El Nino Could Make For Mild Winter in New York City. For Now.

By Ethan Harfenist | November 4, 2015 3:25pm
 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's US winter outlook for December through February.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's US winter outlook for December through February.
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Courtesy of NOAA

NEW YORK CITY — Winter is likely to get off to a mild start this year thanks to this year's "Godzilla" El Niño — but the city could be hit with at least one big storm near the end of the season, forecasters say.

El Niño — an irregular weather pattern characterized by warmer ocean temperatures in the Pacific near the equator — typically affects North America during the winter and results in warmer- and wetter-than-average temperatures in the Northeastern United States.

But this year's El Niño, one of the strongest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is not alone in shaping this year's temperatures. Other factors, such as snowfall in Siberia, a historical indicator of how much snow hits the Eastern US, will ultimately help determine what kind of winter to expect in the city.

"The problem is not just Godzilla — we also have King Kong to worry about," said Bill Goodman, a forecaster for the National Weather Service New York, referring to snowfall in Siberia. "We watch how much snow piles up in Siberia during the month of October, and if it's greater than normal, it does feed back [into Eastern U.S. weather patterns]."

Goodman added that it was "rather snowy" in Siberia, though not as much as it was last year. And while current predictions show the New York area as having a greater than 33 percent chance of above-average precipitation and temperature for December through February, the confluence of different weather factors make predictions, especially for snowfall, tough.

"It makes for a complicated forecast. A stormy El Niño by itself without too many other factors would make for a milder winter with below-average snowfall," Goodman said, adding that he thinks December and early January may be milder than usual.

"After that, we could enter a phase with pretty big swings in temperature. The one thing that will be a constant will be a lot of storms."

Goodman said there's a "good chance" of a big snowstorm hitting New York in February, typically the area's snowiest month. However, when asked if another "Snowmageddon" was on tap, he said, "it's too early to tell."