PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – If you’re familiar with social media, you may have heard of Throwback Thursday.

If you’re unfamiliar, it’s where people share pictures of days gone by. Given that it’s Thursday, it got KDKA-TV Chief Meteorologist Jeff Verszyla thinking that last winter was very much a throwback to the brutal winters of the late 70s.

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There was bone-chilling cold in addition to lots of snow with lakes and rivers turned into frozen tundras.

So, will this winter be another trip back in time?

The foundation of any good forecast begins with thorough research.

Verszyla’s effort to determine the mood of Old Man Winter this year started with a scientific summit to discuss some of global patterns, which will influence the type of season ahead.

The first topic was the ever-present Polar Vortex.

“What happened last year is that the Polar Vortex was persistently sinking southward toward Hudson Bay and sitting there. Usually, what ends up happening, is it comes down for a couple of days and then, it lifts right back up again and we get back to near normal temperatures,” Accuweather’s Paul Pastelok said.

But, is the Polar Vortex something new? As it turns out, the answer is no.

“The Polar Vortex is always there. It’s just a matter of the shift and how long it stays south to how cold we stay,” Pastelok said. “This year, we think there is going to be warming but it may not quite get up that far and that often. So, that shift may come down, but it may not stick around for a long time,”

The other main player in any given winter is the status of the water temperature in the Pacific Ocean. Is it a La Nina pattern or El Nino?

“We are going right now towards more of a weak El Nino. So, there could be more variances that take place,” Pastelok said. “You don’t know what every system is going to do; the track, exactly from now all the way through March and April and that can really have a big variance on your amounts. But, you have to look at the pattern and get a good idea of the area that’s going to be higher risk for above normal snowfall.”

“This year, what’s a little different is I think we’re getting a little bit later, we’re seeing the fall hasn’t been too bad yet. We’re going to have a later turnaround so it won’t be as extremely cold, but as we get into January and February, I think January and February will live up to what it’s supposed to be around here.”

WEB EXTRAS! Jeff’s Q&A Session With Paul Pastelok:

But that was just about the Snow & Ice Forecast, click on any of the links below for more:

Speaking of February, Verszyla felt compelled to seek inspiration in the sentimental epicenter of winter.

So, he went to the weather capital of the world, Punxsutawney. After all, it’s where you’ll find the educational wonder of the Weather Discovery Center and the shaded knoll known as Gobbler’s Knob.

Of course, it’s also the stomping ground of the world famous forecaster Punxsutawney Phil.

But, the trip didn’t prove to be fortuitous as planned because Verszyla isn’t well-versed in Groundhogese.

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WEB EXTRAS! Jeff Interviews Phil:

Check out a Photo Gallery of Jeff’s visit with Phil here!

So, despite any input from Phil, using science and history as his guide, here is Verszyla’s outlook for the upcoming winter.

Winter Temperature Forecast

Average Monthly High

  • November 52 degrees, near normal
  • December 39 degrees, near normal
  • January 33 degrees, below normal
  • February 35 degrees, below normal
  • March 51 degrees, near normal

The season will start pretty normal with temperatures in both November and December not straying too far from average. The invasions of much colder air will increase in January and February with more frequent cold snaps. This will bring both months well below average.

March should bring us back on par with average temperatures and there’s a good chance spring will arrive early.

In the end, January will be the coldest month, followed closely by February. The extent of the cold in the heart of winter will override the normal start and finish, and the season will end about a degree or two below average.

Winter Snowfall Forecast

Monthly Snowfall Totals

  • November – 3.0 inches
  • December – 8.5 inches
  • January – 20.5 inches
  • February – 16.0 inches
  • March – 5.0 inches

The snowfall season will start a little slow. November and December will bring sporadic snowfall, which should not amount to much more than average by the end of the year.

On the other hand, the new year will bring a more active pattern. More frequent storms with greater accumulation potential will highlight January’s 20-inch outlook.

February should bring bigger lulls in storm activity and lesser snow totals. However, it will still end up being a formidable month.

In March, totals will quickly dip below average and an early spring looks possible.

So, over the next five months, Verszyla expects a total of 53 inches of snow, which is 13 inches more than climatology, but less than the 63 inches we saw last winter.

Need To Know Winter Highlights

  • Slightly Colder Than Average Season, Not As Extreme As Last Year
  • Above Normal Snowfall, January The Snowiest/Coldest
  • Good Chance For One Or Two Storms Over 6 Inches
  • Early Spring In March

To recap, overall the winter will be slightly colder than average, but the winter chill will not be as extreme or prolonged as last season.

Snowfall will be above average with January having the greatest potential for bigger storms and higher accumulation.

The silver lining is a quick turnaround in March to a well-deserved early spring.

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