Will it be a mild or harsh fall and winter?
That’s a very difficult question to answer but there are some signs about the general climate picture for the rest of 2015 that point to heat.
“We had a very wet spring and all of a sudden we’re having a very dry period. The dry period has actually already started the trees to stop growth,” said Grant Thompson,chief naturalist for the Lorain County Metro Parks.
That could mean an early color change for leaves, especially among maples.
Many trees are already dropping nuts, a sign that they are shedding moisture to keep chlorophyll production going for another short period before turning red and gold.
The change is triggered more by the waning length of days than by temperature, Thompson said, but big variances in hot and cool air can affect the process.
The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center has posted models calling for warmer-than-usual weather for the next month.
What is much more unusual is how extended and experimental forecasts show above-average temps stretching over the next three months as warm air embraces Ohio and much of the Midwest and Pacific states.
The warm-up is expected to last not just into October, but as late as February.
NWS forecaster Jon Gottschalck said in late August that sea surface temperatures are more than two degrees Celsius above normal along the equator in the Pacific Ocean. Warmer seas stretch north extensively along the western coast of the U.S.
Combined with atmospheric data, that signals a strong El Nino event expected to last through the winter and even into the spring.
Its impact will be felt as far east as the Ohio Valley due to rainfall patterns, Gottschalck said.
Some areas — Seattle and Portland in the northwest and Florida and Geogia in the southeast — will get blasted with much hotter winter days this year.
This is an example of science pitted against tradition: The Farmers’ Almanac is calling for an icy-cold winter that will bring snowier-than-normal conditions.
The book, published now for 199 years, uses secret methods to arrive at its conclusions. Sunspots, moon phases, and the tides are all part of its predictions.
The Almanac’s predictions are spotty at best with any number of analyses saying they have the same accuracy as a coin toss. The book also called for a sweltering summer that didn’t quite ever arrive.
Thompson said he agrees with the NWS models but doesn’t know the degree to which Ohio will be affected.
Warm spikes through the coming months could have huge effects on Lorain County wildlife, though.
For instance, deer — once extinct in Ohio — now number 750,000. Their herds could be even further boosted by a mild winter.
“I’m seeing deer everywhere,” said Thompson, who lives in Amherst. “They’re in my backyard all the time.”
A warmer winter could mean fewer deer dying of exposure. They would also have access to more food with less snow on the ground. Healthier deer in the spring could mean a population boom.
That’s already happened with turkeys this season.
Thompson said the birds — also once gone from Ohio until reintroduced in 1988 — are numerous and can often be found congregating on the edges of wooded areas.
In the meantime, unusually wet conditions earlier in 2015 have taken a toll on some fall crops.
Don’t expect a bumper year for pumpkins, for instance, Thompson said. The Lorain County yield was stunted by excessive rains that rotted many seeds. Beans are also taking a hit.
Corn, on the other hand, is nice and tall this year.
The long-term forecast could be a boon or challenge for fields and orchards here.
An extremely cold Winter 2014-2015 greatly hurt peach growth but a milder 2015-2016 could replenish those trees. But late winter temperature spikes can also be harmful if trees bud early and are then hit by another deep freeze, Thompson said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Civitas Media Temperatures may be a little less harsh this year than in 2014. This photo shows downtown Oberlin in the midst of a storm.