Winter weather outlook - WNEM TV 5

First Warn 5

Winter weather outlook

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Brian McMahan's business depends on a cold, snowy, Mid-Michigan winter.

"Everybody knows last year was a very poor year for snowmobilers. There wasn't cold weather. There wasn't snow,” McMahan said.

As a result, sales at Rider's Powersports dropped twenty percent.

"I think early indications say it will be a little bit better for those who rely on the snow industry this winter. Now for what that exactly means we'll break this down here for you,” TV5 Meteorologist Bryan Bachman said.

Before we move forward, we have to look at where we've been. A strong El Nino kept a firm grip in our neighborhood last winter.

"That tends to here in the Great Lakes region give us above average temperatures and abnormally dry conditions. We certainly saw that come to pass with the second warmest winter on record in places like Flint and Saginaw,” Bachman said.

The El Nino pattern has ended, though.

"So what we're transitioning into now is what's called a neutral phase where the climate pattern isn't leaning one way or another,” Bachman said.

So what does a neutral phase mean for us?

"Leads us to believe we're looking at a pretty average winter across Mid-Michigan,” Bachman said.

Of course it's been awhile since average winter. So what does an average winter look like?

"First snowfall for Saginaw is usually on November 15th. The first snowfall in Flint is around the same time, November 16th. The latest it's ever been is December 20th for both cities,” TV5 Meteorologist Claire Cameron said. “The first half of winter - November, December - those two months looks like it might be right around the average in temperatures and precipitation. But going towards the later half, sometime between about January all the way to March, it looks like we could see above normal precipitation and slightly cooler temperatures.”

Even though the climate appears to be stuck in neutral, that doesn't mean there won't be a few surprises along the way.

We could be affected by what is called NAO, or North Atlantic Oscillation, and the PNA, which is Pacific North American. These patterns enter certain phases and it could mean some bone-chilling temperatures for us this season.

“The winds that sort of separate the more arctic air from our air weaken and they shift,” TV5 Meteorologist Michael Behrens said. “When that pattern happens, that colder air falls in from the north and we get those real arctic air blasts in the winter. And we're talking about sub-zero temperatures potentially with some of those."

In keeping with the average theme, Behrens believes these frigid patterns will be short lived at best.

If we get a lot of that cold air, it could mean lots of snow for us. The water is nowhere close to being frozen but TV5 Meteorologist Chris Easlick said that means lots of fuel for piles of the white stuff.

“The main ingredients we look for in the major Lake Effect Snow events are warm water and cold air flowing above that warm water. And if we have the cold air sooner that could mean a longer Lake Effect Snow season. We could have a winter where we're seeing lots of Lake Effect Snow which is going to make a vehicle like this much more useful near the lakeshore,” Easlick said.

So, if you're a big fan of winter our first warn five weather team has good news for you.

"With a relative lack of a real clear signal from climate, considering a few x factors, talking about the Lake Effect Snow and the normals around Mid-Michigan, well we think this is going to be a pretty normal Michigan winter. Pretty average snowfall, average cold temperatures, and of course we'll be here to get you through it all the way,” Bachman said.

That forecast could have a positive effect for McMahan's customers and his bottom line.

"If we have a normal winter all of those people will be happy as well. And if their happy they'll be riding. I'll be happy,” McMahan said. 

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