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Wintry mix: December, winter outlooks at odds

Long-range outlooks clouded, even more so than usual.

Although any repeat of December 2015 is beyond unlikely, in his update this week Weather Co. meteorologist Todd Crawford is calling for above-normal temperatures throughout the Northeast next month and through February.

But we would advise against warehousing the shovels, scrapers, and Thinsulate. Based on what we've seen so far, we aren't on slippery ground in stating that no one out there has a firm handle on what's coming down in December, or during the rest of the winter.

Last year the brewing of a powerful El Nino warming of surface waters in the tropical Pacific represented a potent clue, and the outlooks were on to December warmth.

Of course no one foresaw the historic warmth that would develop as December records were shattered here and throughout the Northeast. Philadelphia's average temperature for that month was close to November's, which was well above normal.

This time around, nature is being less generous to the long-rangers. The tropical Pacific has cooled, but how that might affect December and the balance of winter is quite uncertain.

That uncertainty is captured in the disparate forecasts.

The Commodity Weather Group, which also issued its updated monthly and seasonal forecasts this week, has Philadelphia temperatures near normal for December, and a shade below for the winter.

As we've noted in an earlier post, Eurasian snow-cover guru Judah Cohen, a scientist with Atmospheric and Environmental Research, has said that he sees a brisk start and "bullish signals" for a cold winter.

Weather Bell, where AccuWeather alum Joe Bastardi is doing the seasonal forecasting, also has voted for the cold-start scenario.

The latest extended day-to-day outlook by AccuWeather suggest a generally mild beginning for December, with a significant cool-down after the solstice. (Sorry, it has dropped the mention of Christmas snow.)

All things considered an unconsidered, we would say the government's Climate Prediction Center has issued the most-honest outlook for the region for December and the rest of the winter.

It says it doesn't know what's going to happen.