FARGO-It appears people will be getting reacquainted with their down parkas this winter.
After a string of mild and often dry winters in recent years, the Red River Valley appears headed for a winter that will be colder than normal, with normal snowfall, according to an outlook from a veteran forecaster.
Mark Ewen, a meteorologist with 32 years of experience with the National Weather Service in Fargo and Grand Forks, released his winter outlook on Friday, Sept. 30, based on an analysis of weather trends.
The good news: The fall is likely to continue to be mild through October and November before pivoting to a more frigid pattern that is more typical for Red River Valley winters.
"That's kind of what I'm expecting, something of a classic winter," said Ewen, now a consultant with Home on the Prairie Weather in Grand Forks.
As often happens, the abrupt change in the weather likely will happen around Thanksgiving or in early December, what Ewen called the "post-Thanksgiving flip."
Winter temperatures are apt to be 2 to 3 degrees below the median. That might not sound like a lot, but people will feel it, Ewen said.
"That's relatively substantial," he said. "That would be a pretty chilly winter."
The return to a more "classic winter" will feel worse than it is because of the recent run of mild winters, he said.
"The colder than normal is going to really feel nasty," Ewen added. "It's all relative."
Similarly, a return to normal snowfall will be an abrupt change for a region that has experienced relatively dry winters in recent years, he said.
Normal snowfall in the Red River Valley ranges from 45 inches to 55 inches; Fargo's normal is 50.1 inches.
"We've really had a prolonged stretch of mild weather," Ewen said.
That long mild spell, in fact, has Adnan Akyuz, the state climatologist for North Dakota, predicting that the winter is likely to be a bit warmer than normal, with precipitation that is near normal, possibly slightly above normal.
"I have more reason to believe this winter may be another warmer-than-normal winter," Akyuz said.
The soils are moist from late-summer and fall rains, and that moisture will be available to generate more precipitation from the sun's warmth, he said.
Akyuz acknowledged that his predictions are at odds with Ewen's and said, "This is what makes it interesting."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center outlook for the core winter months, December, January and February, predicts a greater probability for colder than normal temperatures in eastern North Dakota and all of Minnesota. The outlook has an equal chance of above or below normal precipitation.