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Despite unusually warm December, new year could bring snow in January

Brittany Heyn and Matt Evans walk along Md 97 in Westminster on a foggy Wednesday morning.
Brittany Heyn and Matt Evans walk along Md 97 in Westminster on a foggy Wednesday morning. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

The unusually warm December and dense fog, like what blanketed Carroll on Wednesday morning, might have left some people longing for more traditional winter weather, but meteorologists predict that the start of the new year will bring colder temperatures, with the possibility of some snow.

December was the warmest on record in Carroll County and for the rest of the Baltimore region since 1988, according to Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Sterling, Virginia. The average high this month, as of Wednesday, was 59 degrees and the average low was 39 degrees, whereas typically the average high is 42 degrees and the average low is 25 degrees.

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Jackson said he attributes the unusually high temperatures to El Niño, a phenomenon characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, which in turn influences winter weather throughout the U.S.

"We have basically the strongest El Niño on record," Jackson said. "There are typically two jet streams, which enables more storms to pass; we have had more of a ridge of high pressure over the east."

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According to a National Weather Service climate summary of weather in the Baltimore area, November was the warmest on record since 1994, or the 12th-warmest ever recorded in the region.

But that doesn't mean January will follow the same pattern, Jackson said.

"January is typically colder; on average the temperatures would be 36 degrees for any part of the day," Jackson said of overall weather in Carroll County.

Because the National Weather Service only predicts weather one week in advance, Jackson said, he could only predict the weather seven days from Wednesday — mostly normal temperatures for January with sunny skies.

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AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Walker predicts temperatures will become more typical of average temperatures in the first week of January.

"It will be near or slightly below normal in January temperature-wise — closer to what they should be," Walker said, adding that as of Wednesday he couldn't predict that January will bring any snow or snowstorms. "I can't put my finger on any in the near future."

Last year, January brought 5.9 inches of snowfall to the Baltimore region, based on a National Weather Service Baltimore climate report, a snowfall total slightly below normal.

Keith Krichinsky, executive director of Foot's Forecast and a Hampstead resident, said he is expecting two snowfall events in January. Sometime between Jan. 12 and 15, Krichinsky said, the Baltimore-area forecasting service predicts about 4 inches of snow to fall in Carroll.

"We're looking at a more major type of event, more than 4 inches, sometime in the 20th or 25th — somewhere around that area, give or take a few days," Krichinsky said.

Krichinsky said Foot's Forecast uses a number of indicators, including the snowpack in Siberia, current readings from El Niño and La Niña, snow cover in Pennsylvania and New York, and Arctic ice flows in Alaska and Canada, to make their predictions.

"Some people use one model and they're usually wrong," he said.

Jackson said he expects fewer snowstorms this year than last, but he does see a possibility of one or two snowstorms on the horizon.

While Krichinsky said he hopes this winter will be more mild than the previous one, he can't predict at this point if it will be.

"I would not be surprised if there were a few significant snow events in February," he said.

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