Snow prospects

The long-term forecasts called for a January warm-up to follow a cold December. We're still waiting, and it looks as though the wait will continue for awhile.

Accu-Weather Inc.'s Joe Bastardi now is saying that the cold could continue into the third week in January -- giving Philadelphia back-to-back below normal months -- and that across the country this could be the coldest January in 25 years.

As for the snow threats, the National Weather Service is now listing a 50-50 chance of snow on Friday. Right now, it is not looking like a big deal, perhaps a few inches, but the computer models continue to bicker.

Bastardi is more impressed with the threat looming for the middle of next week, and temperatures are forecast to remain below normal.

"I do think a more substantial snow is coming at us next week," he said, adding that it's "going to be one heckuva week across the United States."

While the European computer model sees a warm-up kicking in on the 19th, Bastardi believes it might be cutting off the cold too soon.

Nevertheless, he believes warmer days are coming to the region as a strong La Nina, the anomalous cooling of surface waters over millions of square miles of the equatorial Pacific, persists.

The winters coinciding with strong La Ninas since 1950 haven't been particularly cold or snowy. But so far this season, higher pressures over the polar region -- the negative phase of the so-called Arctic Oscillation -- have helped push cold air into the United States. 

In its most recent two-week outlook issued this afternoon, the government's Climate Prediction Center calls for the negative phase to continue, along with below-normal temperatures here.

Before winter's end, a general warming is all but inevitable, Bastardi believes, but once the La Nina fades, look for March and April to be cool and nasty.