Purdue News

November 22, 2005

Warmer winter in store for Indiana, precipitation uncertain

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Mother Nature may have a gift for Hoosiers worried about high heating bills this winter. A warmer-than-normal winter is in the forecast for Indiana, according to the National Weather Service in Indianapolis and the Indiana State Climate Office at Purdue University.

Less certain, however, is whether winter precipitation totals will be below normal, normal or above normal.

Warmer temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, which fueled this year's unusually active hurricane season, also will affect Indiana's winter weather, said Dev Niyogi, Indiana state climatologist.

"Surface temperatures in the Gulf are still about 2 degrees above normal along our southern U.S. coastline," he said. "This stored warmth and moisture will be transported northward toward Indiana by several winter storm systems. This will result in an Indiana winter that is warmer than normal."

Niyogi said the while the precipitation forecast is still uncertain, there is a possibility of above-normal precipitation, fueled by warmer local air clashing with cold polar air from the north.

"This can result in more frequent and more intense winter storms than usual," he said. "However, the overall warmer winter conditions should produce precipitation that is in the form of rain more often than in a usual Indiana winter."

Logan Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said, "While the overall temperature outlook for the three months of winter is expected to average out to be warmer than normal, it is important to know what this means. We are still anticipating that there will be several periods throughout the winter where Indiana experiences well below-normal temperatures. Residents should keep this in mind and not go into this winter expecting unusual warmth every day."

In a typical Indiana winter, which climatologists define as the three-month period from December through February, maximum daily temperatures average from 34 F in the north to 43 F in southern Indiana, according to Ken Scheeringa, associate state climatologist. Daily lows range from 18 F to 25 F across the state. Subzero temperatures normally occur on three days in far southern Indiana and 11 days in east-central Indiana.

Precipitation normally falls on 29 to 44 winter days, with a total accumulation of 6.3 inches to 9.6 inches of rain and melted snowfall. Daily snowfalls of at least 1 inch typically occur on three days in southern Indiana and up to nearly 16 days in the snowbelt region near Lake Michigan.

"Total December to February snowfall ranges from 11 inches at Evansville to 50 inches at South Bend," Scheeringa said.

Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-2722, forbes@purdue.edu

Sources: Dev Niyogi, (765)-494-6574

Logan Johnson, (317)-856-0368

Ken Scheeringa, (765)-494-8105

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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