- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

Winter seasonal forecasts in Europe and the United States can be improved by paying attention to autumn snowfall amounts in Siberia, a study has found.

The five-year research led Judah Cohen of Atmospheric and Environmental Research of Lexington, Mass., to the conclusion that Siberian, and more largely Eurasian, snow cover exerts a major influence on winter conditions in the Northern Hemisphere.

“It is a powerful tool for predictions,” Mr. Cohen said Wednesday during the presentation of his new forecast model at the National Science Foundation, which funded the research.

Although most forecast models focus solely on ocean temperatures to back their seasonal predictions, especially the temperatures in the Pacific Ocean associated with the El Nino phenomenon, Mr. Cohen’s model relies on data from the land surface and the lower atmosphere.

El Nino refers to a massive warming of the coastal waters of Peru and Ecuador and has been associated with temperatures and precipitation trends across the globe to set up various comprehensive forecast models.

However, this climatic phenomenon usually occurs once in every four or five years, and its predictive power is less relevant when it is weak or absent.

Though Mr. Cohen says it is too soon to draw conclusions, his model has met some early successes, correctly predicting the past two winters, thereby showing its potential.

For the 2002-03 season, Mr. Cohen anticipated cold temperatures on the East Coast, while most government officials and private forecasters predicted warm conditions. As for the 2003-04 season, he anticipated a cold winter for the northeastern United States, while official forecast centers predicted either warm, cold or normal weather with an equal chance.

Asked about this winter’s conditions, Mr. Cohen said the snow cover in Siberia is above normal, which would mean a cold winter in the East and a warm one in the West.

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