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Does October Snow Signal A Wild Winter Ahead?

october 2011 snowstorm
Snowtober's wrath, seen from space. (Image credit: NOAA/NASA)

Between a second impending snowstorm in Denver and last weekend's 'Snowtober' storm in the Northeast, there's been a lot of early show across the United States. With so much snow so soon, it may seem like we're in for a long, snowy winter. But don't panic yet, weather forecasters say.

"There's no correlation or patterns that we're aware of that correlate October snow storms and how brutal a winter will be," said Carl Erickson, meteorologist with AccuWeather.

Erickson said this winter's forecast shows the main storm track focusing more to the west than last season. The big cities along the I-95 corridor should see a fairly typical winter, with a few big snow events, but nothing like two years ago where the East Coast had big snowstorms every few weeks. This year the Great Lakes region, including Chicago and much of Indiana will see the heavy snows.

Unfortunately, the Southwest and Southern Plains aren't likely to see any relief from the extreme drought conditions they have experienced this year, with warmer and drier than normal conditions expected to continue through the winter.

As a result of the Snowtober storm, more than 2 million people lost power and the storm has been blamed for at least 13 deaths. New York City set an October snow record with 2.9 inches (7.4 centimeters) accumulating, and towns in western Massachusetts piled up more than 30 inches (76 cm) of snow.

The historic nor'easter was the remnants of a storm that brought an October snow oddity to Denver earlier last week. The city went from a record daily high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) to several inches of snow in 24 hours.

For the Frontal Range, the October snow, as wild of a weather swing as it was, isn't all that unusual, said Matthew Kelsch, a hydrometeorologist at the University Corp. of Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colo.

And that wild weather swing that is repeating today.

"Now we're seeing much of the east quieting down and more activity firing up across the Rockies," Erickson told OurAmazingPlanet.

The latest storm is already moving through the region today (Nov. 1). Snow is starting to accumulate in Wyoming and a blizzard warning has been issued for the south side of Denver tonight. The temperature was 74 F (23 C) yesterday and now the region is expecting 10 inches (25 cm)of snow. [The Snowiest Places on Earth]

"That's the continental climate for you," Kelsch said.

You can follow OurAmazingPlanet staff writer Brett Israel on Twitter: @btisrael. Follow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter @OAPlanet and on Facebook.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.