Climate expert shares first thoughts on trends for the upcoming spring

    Bill Marino, a lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, breaks down the data he has compiled to make his seasonal predictions. (WWMT/Will Haenni)

    Paging through his nearly 130 years of temperature and precipitation trends, Bill Marino shared his thoughts on the coming spring.

    Marino, the lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, had become the office climate guru in his nearly 30 years of forecasting for Michigan.

    He said when we look at the upcoming meteorological spring as a whole, defined as March, April and May, the most likely scenario was near normal temperatures. Precipitation trends lack any clear marker one way or the other for the upcoming spring, but he did dive into further detail.

    "Spring is going to start out cool. It'll probably get warmer, I mean relative to normal, once you get into April and May. We should see a change in the pattern from what we've had." Marino said. "I would also expect the storminess to continue into the spring, but it should subside as we get into the summer."

    Marino said temperature anomalies for an upcoming season are easier to predict than precipitation.

    But the question of when it would start to feel like spring still remains on many minds.

    Seasonal prediction is much more time consuming, and arguably much more complex than day to day weather forecasts.

    Things like sea surface temperatures, snow cover, the sun cycle, and climate trends, are a few variables that come into play.

    Using yearly and monthly temperature and precipitation anomalies, Marino compared those trends with certain oceanic temperature indices. Ocean temperatures, particularly in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, can have big influence on the jet stream in North America.

    Considering the weak El Niño in place now in the Pacific Ocean, he was able to find other years with a similar pattern and make determinations on what this spring might look like.

    "Typically, El Niño has its greatest impact in the winter time, and it's not nearly as big of a player in the spring," Marino said.

    The National Weather Service plans to release more of Marino's forecast in the coming weeks.

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