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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP â€“ Area residents are beginning to wonder and fear what type of winter Mother Nature has planned for us, while the bitter images of Hurricane Sandy's devastation and an early season snowstorm remain fresh in our thoughts.
Will the arrival of a hurricane and a snowstorm in back-to-back weeks mean a violent and turbulent winter remains on our horizon?
Will this year's snowfall be similar to the winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, when Mother Nature blasted South Jersey with five of its top-10 worst snowstorms? Those years, everyone wished they owned snow blowers.
Or will this winter be like the winter of 2011-2012, when no snow fell in eastern Atlantic County? Last year, all of those people who bought snow blowers wished they hadn't.
All last winter, golfers golfed, joggers ran, motorcyclists rode and everybody looked toward the heavens and wondered, "What happened to winter?"
Nobody seemed to mind, however.
So, what's up in the air for this year? More importantly, what's going to fall, rain or snow?
Time, as they say, will tell.
However, many people who depend on knowing the weather for their livelihood, their hobbies or just to budget their heating bills, can't stop from trying to get a sneak peek at Mother Nature's intentions.
So, let's take a look at those who dare to question Mother Nature by placing their names on early season forecasts.
The answer you get, however, depends on who you talk to.
An early season consensus of regional forecasters hints that the fluffy white stuff we love to hate may be loving us back this season following a winter's absence in 2011-â€™12.
Cicely Tynan, the Channel 6-ABC chief meteorologist since 1995, predicted an above-average snowfall for the winter of 2012-â€™13. By the time next year's version of the Philadelphia Phillies head south for spring training, Tynan estimates that between 22 and 32 inches of snow will have fallen in the Philadelphia area.
According to the National Weather Service's National Climate Data Center, Philadelphia averages about 20 inches of snowfall annually, so Tynan's forecast isn't too unusual.
Atlantic City averages about 15.9 inches of snow a year, so a slightly above average winter's worth of snowfall doesn't sound too bad.
CBS-3 Chief Meteorologist Kathy Orr, who grew up near the snow capital of Syracuse, N.Y., said an early season mix of violent weather doesn't normally point to a winter full of nor'easter blizzards. Orr predicted average temperatures through January, with slightly below average temperatures in February.
According to Orr, above-average snow cover in Siberia will lead to greater chances of a negative North Atlantic oscillation. A negative NAO produces a greater likelihood of coastal nor'easters because it causes a blocking high pressure system over Greenland. This pattern forces the jet stream south and allows it to carry norâ€™easters along the I-95 corridor and up the coast.
A negative NAO condition turned Hurricane Sandy toward the Middle Atlantic States and helped form the snowy nor'easter a week later.
Orr calls for February to be unusually snowy, with 9 to 13 inches of snow falling over the tri-state area, including New Jersey. Atlantic City normally averages 5.6 inches of snow in February, according to the NCDC.
Overall, Orr predicts snowfall totals to range between 22-28 inches this year and slightly less in South Jersey.
AccuWeather seems to agree with Orr. The weather forecaster believes that conditions that lead to Hurricane Sandy and a follow-up norâ€™easter will persist through the winter. As a result, Mother Natureâ€™s storm track will create a snow track over the I-95 corridor.
Sounds like a snowier-than-normal winter, right?
Well, National Weather Service forecasters aren't quite so sure. The service's Climate Prediction Center called for equal chances of warmer- or cooler-than-normal weather through January. The Weather Service provides long-term forecasts on the third Thursday of each month.
After January, temperatures are expected to be warmer than normal throughout the rest of the year, according to the National Weather Service.
National Weather Service forecasters also toss a coin in the air for precipitation.
The forecasters call for equal chances of wetter- or drier-than-normal forecasts through winter.
Remember, the average daily high temperature in South Jersey is 41 degrees in January, and itâ€™s rare for snow to fall when the temperature is 10 degrees above freezing.
Other forecasters, such as www.theweathercentre.blogspot.com, suggest an unusually stormy 2012-â€™13 winter that reminds everyone of the 2009-â€™10 when nearly 50 inches of snow fell in South Jersey and more than 80 inches fell in Philadelphia.
The Weather Centre blog picked up on Hurricane Sandyâ€™s assault on the coast about two weeks ahead of the storm's arrival.
Odds for a white Christmas
Although many people agree itâ€™s hard to predict tomorrowâ€™s weather, they still want to know what the odds are for a white Christmas.
According to the NCDC, Atlantic City residents have a 14 percent chance â€“ or 1 in 7 â€“ of at least a snowy dusting to greet Santa Claus. There is a 3 percent chance of a 5-inch snowfall on Christmas Day and virtually no chances of a 10-inch snowfall.
By comparison, residents in Sault St. Marie, Mich., have a nearly 100 percent chance of experiencing a white Christmas each year.