After the mild winter of 2011-2012, Ted Lane, owner of Lane's Farm Market in Warren Township, isn't looking forward to another season of above-normal temperatures. But that's what forecasters expect.
"The winter needs to be cold and the ground frozen," Lane said. "After last year's mild winter we had an irregular spring with several warm days, then temperatures dropping into the 20s."
That's especially not good for Lane's apple trees that produced buds and blossoms too early in the season.
"We lost about a quarter of our crop, and we also lost some trees," he said. "There's not much you can do. It was a struggle, but we didn't have it as bad as some other growers."
Tapping into information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Center, meteorologist Joe Merchant with the National Weather Service in Charleston, W.Va., said there's a 40 percent chance that temperatures during the coming winter months will be above the 30-year average in Southeast Ohio.
The current 30-year average temperature is determined from weather data recorded between 1981 and 2010.
For more information about El Nino and La Nina impacts on winter weather patterns across the U.S., visit http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ElNino/ or www.elnino.noaa.gov/
"It will be a slightly warmer than normal winter, but the precipitation should be about normal," he said. "That doesn't mean we won't get some cold spells in the next several months, but I wouldn't expect this winter to be much different than last year."
Merchant added that the extremely warm temperatures the local area periodically experienced during the first three months of 2012 are not likely to be repeated in 2013.
"That was not something we would normally expect to occur during those months," he said. "It was more of an anomaly."
Water temperatures in the southeastern Pacific Ocean help determine local weather patterns each year. Abnormal warming of those waters result in what scientists call the El Nino effect that generally translates to warmer than normal winter months in the eastern U.S.
The opposite of El Nino is the La Nina cooling effect on the Pacific waters that can produce colder temperatures in the east.
"Right now we're in a neutral phase, somewhere between El Nino and La Nina," Merchant explained. "And the long-range climate forecast essentially shows this neutral weather pattern continuing with a slight leaning toward El Nino. But that's only looking at a temperature of about one-half a degree Celsius warmer than the 30-year average."
He said the odds of a strong El Nino pattern developing this winter are not good.
While last winter's warmth played havoc with local orchards, the mild temperatures in early 2012 meant good business for the Green Valley Co-op farm supply store in Marietta.
"Last winter was very positive for us. Everyone was planting two to four weeks ahead of normal this spring," said Jeff Stone, controller for Green Valley Co-op.
But he added the warm spring was followed by a drought that has plagued local farmers during the summer months.
Merchant said it's possible the same pattern could be repeated next summer. But it's far too early to make an accurate projection at this time, he said.