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Chicago Winter Forecast Could Be Wild In 2014-15

By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Meteorologists don't take much stock in predictions from the Old Farmer's Almanac, which is calling for a frigid winter season, but there are more scientific signs that Chicago would see a wild one in 2014-15.

The 2013-14 winter went down as one of the worst in Chicago's history, both in terms of the amount of snow and wicked cold.

The Farmer's Almanac says Chicago is in store for a colder than normal and snowier than normal winter.

On average, Chicago gets around 37 inches of snow--last year, 82 inches fell. Generally, the average temperatures between December and February range from highs in the mid-30s and lows in the mid/lower-20s. Last year the average overall temperature was only 22.

Winter conditions around here are mostly affected by the strength of El Nino--a band of warm water in the Pacific Ocean. A strong El Nino (warmer sea water) means that Chicago usually gets more precipitation and warmer temperatures.

The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center has the Chicago area on the border of below normal precipitation for this winter. As for temperature, there is an equal chance the it could be normal, above normal or below normal.

Last year, warmer water around Alaska caused that state to be under a warm ridge of air. The jet stream went up and around it, allowing colder Arctic air to plunge toward Chicago. It also helped the Polar Vortex spin arctic temps down into Chicago. That caused Chicago to experience much colder than normal temperatures.

Some meteorologists are predicting a moderate/weak El Nino this year, although it is still too early to know for sure.

If that happens, we can expect average overall snowfall and temperatures, but with large variations. One week could be warmer, while the next week could be much colder and snowy.

The summer was generally cooler. To be sure, the past few days feel more like late October than mid September.

Today, in fact, is well below normal for temperature. Thursday set a record low maximum temperature in Chicago as temps remained in the 50s.

The previous coldest maximum temp was 61 set back in 1940.

The record low max temperature for Sept. 12 is 53 degrees set in 1902. As of 10 a.m., O'Hare was reporting a temperature of 52.

As the Boy Scouts say, it's always good to Be Prepared--and plan a warm weather vacation if you can, just in case.

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