PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Predictions are very difficult, especially about the future. So, constructing a long range outlook, like a winter forecast, is much more complex than our daily 5-day.

There are several factors and influences to consider, which go well beyond the borders of western Pennsylvania.

Understanding the big picture is vital to accurately assess the potential impact on the local landscape.

KDKA-TV Chief Meteorologist Jeff Verszyla recently visited one of the finest long-range forecasters in the business at Accuweather to talk winter weather and the global influences, which will ultimately determine the winter pattern across the United States.

Their first topic was the Pacific Ocean warming trend known as El Nino.

“The strange thing about this El Nino is it’s kind of acting abnormally. Usually, you see a peak in the El Nino in the November-December time period. Well, it looks like we’ve actually seen our peak already in September and October,” Paul Pastelok from Accuweather said.

In the past, weak and fading El Ninos have produced stormy weather along the east coast and later, lots of snowfall.

As the saying goes, “One of the best predictors of the future is the past.”

So, another factor to consider is that long, hot summer we just had.

Will all that high heat across most of the country have an impact?

The short answer is: Yes.

“It takes a little time to get it going, getting that cold air sinking southward out of Canada. And I think all those factors from this very warm summer that we saw and the placement of air masses right now will have an impact on the start of this winter season,” Pastelok said.

A similar pattern with many of the same factors played out a few years ago and the overall result was a fairly formidable winter in Pittsburgh.

So how does Verszyla see this winter shaping up?

He expects November will start the season slow and easy with slightly above normal temperatures by a degree or two and a total monthly snowfall of one inch.

November Forecast

  • Forecast High – 52 degrees, Average High – 51 degrees
  • Forecast Low – 36 degrees, Average Low – 35 degrees
  • Forecast Snow – 1″, Average Snow – 2″

December will be sluggish out of the gate, but winter will gain some momentum late in the month. Overall, temperatures for the month will be very close to normal with a snow accumulation of 8.5 inches, which is also absolutely average heading toward the new year.

December Forecast

  • Forecast High – 40 degrees, Average High – 39 degrees
  • Forecast Low – 26 degrees, Average Low – 25 degrees
  • Forecast Snow – 8.5″, Average Snow – 8.3″

January will shift the season into four-wheel drive.

Monthly temperatures will dip below average by a few degrees and school delays will likely become more common as the flakes start to fly with great frequency.

Verszyla expects snow to accumulate 14.6 inches, which is three inches more than the 30-year average of 11.8.

January Forecast

  • Forecast High – 33 degrees, Average High – 36 degrees
  • Forecast Low – 20 degrees, Average Low – 21 degrees
  • Forecast Snow – 14.6″, Average Snow – 11.8″

This year, Punxsutawney Phil might be better off staying in his stump because February looks to bring the worst this winter has to offer.

“I think the second half, yes. That will be the big news stories as we get into the second half of winter,” Pastelok said.

An active storm track will likely bring more regular and more substantial snowfalls with greater potential for bigger storms. Verszyla anticipates a healthy 21.2 inches of snow, which is double the average.

To add insult to injury, temperatures will be well below average, which will make this the longest 28 days of the season.

February Forecast

  • Forecast High – 32 degrees, Average High – 39 degrees
  • Forecast Low – 18 degrees, Average Low – 23 degrees
  • Forecast Snow – 21.2, Average Snow – 10.6″

March will bring fast and vast improvement and when all is said and done, temperatures will be a few degrees above normal for the month and snowfall will take a dip below average with a forecast of 4.7 inches, which is almost 50 percent less than the usual 7.6.

March Forecast

  • Forecast High – 53 degrees, Average High – 49 degrees
  • Forecast Low – 32 degrees, Average Low – 30 degrees
  • Forecast Snow – 4.7″, Average Snow – 7.6″

So, here is a quick recap:

Overall, winter will end with temperatures near average for the five-month period. Verszyla expects a seasonal snowfall of 50 inches, which is 20 percent more than an average winter snowfall of 40.7.

February will be the coldest and snowiest month with the best chance for a big storm. So, a word of caution – don’t get lulled into false sense of a mild winter when things start slow.

Winter Forecast Summary

  • Temperatures near normal
  • Snow Total – 50 inches, Average is 40.7 inches.
  • February – Coldest and snowiest with best chance for big storm