Here comes the winter forecast ...

We may be in the heat of the dog days of a punishing summer, but Accu-Weather Inc. has just released a winter outlook.

The private giant of State College is saying that while it isn't quite sure precisely what the winter will bring to Philadelphia, it is certain that it won't be a repeat of the record snowy winter of 2009-10.

Joe Bastardi, Accu-Weather's long-range forecaster expects La Nina, a mass cooling of the tropical Pacific, to dominate the winter. That would be a reversal from the El Nino warming dominance of last winter.

Bastardi says he's banking on the big-snow region shifting westward, targeting areas from Cleveland to the Pacific Northwest.

The South should have a gentle winter, he says, and the Florida snowbirds will be perching in ideal conditions.

Philadelphia and the rest of the Northeast will be in a "battle zone," with wildly variable conditions probably resulting in near-normal snowfall. In Philly, that's about 20 inches, compared with last winter's 78.7.

The key is the future of the burgeoning La Nina. In its weekly outlook yesterday, the government's Climate Prediction Center said sea-surface temperatures in the indicator region of the Pacific were running 2 degrees below normal.

The goverment plans to release another update on Thursday.