The region has had its first flirt with winter weather this week, and now meteorologists are handicapping whether the upcoming season could be the snowiest since 2009-2010, or another dud.
In general, Baltimore's snowiest winters occur when high-pressure systems park over Greenland, blocking Arctic air and moisture and sending it further south across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic U.S. This is most common when the climate phenomenon El Nino is in place.
U.S. climate forecasters aren't expecting El Nino this winter. The pattern stems from warmer-than-average waters in the Pacific Ocean, affecting conditions around the globe. But even without those conditions in place, a snowy pattern can set up.
Local meteorologist Eric the Red notes that recent history shows a "feast or famine" when it comes to snow in Baltimore. Ten of the 15 least snowy winters on record have occurred since 1990, including the past two winters, both of which rank among the top 10. But the three snowiest winters on record have all occurred since 2002, including the record-shattering 77-inch snowfall of winter 2009-2010.
"Anyhow, it appears that we have settled into a regime where the odds of getting hosed during winter have gone up, but so have the odds of the occasional blockbuster," Eric writes in his blog. "I can only hope we're due."
WMAR-TV meteorologist Mike Masco released a season outlook this week that suggests we may indeed be due. A slow hurricane season means warmer than normal temperatures in the Atlantic, which could translate to stronger storms as well as help encourage the snowy blocking pattern, he explained.
Masco is calling for 17-20 inches of snow for Baltimore, about normal or slightly above-average.
Last month, AccuWeather.com's winter outlook meanwhile accurately predicted this month's chill and flurries, and is calling for snow likely not until January. AccuWeather is forecasting more snow than last season for Philadelphia and points south in the mid-Atlantic, but less snow in New England.
The Farmer's Almanac is calling for a chance for either a lot of snow or a lot of rain in the mid-Atlantic, with a concern for snow in the first 10 days of February, including the Feb. 2 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey's Meadowlands.