PITTSBURGH - An early freeze and below normal temperatures are signaling a colder winter ahead.
While heating bills and snowblowers got a break last year, Channel 11's chief meteorologist Stephen Cropper said that this year’s snow totals will be near normal or slightly above.
El Nino is forecast to play a role this winter, Cropper said, with a split storm track setting up a more active weather pattern.
Big temperature swings will mean more rain and wintry mix events early in the season, with a shift to more snow as colder air locks in.
Alberta Clipper systems will move through the area leaving a quick 1 to 3 inches to shovel, while the lake effect will dust the area with "broom" snows until early next year.
Snow totals will pick up in January and February with one or two 5 inch snowstorms in the books before winter ends.
Cropper forecasts this winter to be colder with 44.1 inches of snow, slightly above the average snowfall of 41.9 inches.
In November, school delays will be possible as we'll see more than double the average snow with 4.3 inches falling while temperatures will be cooler than normal at 40 degrees.
Get the shovels ready in December as a near normal 8 inches of snow is forecast along with a colder 31.5 degrees.
It's sledding and snowblowing in January as an above average 12.5 inches of snow falls. This will also be the coldest month of the season with temperatures struggling at an average of 27 degrees.
You'll still need to clear the sidewalks in February with an above average snowfall of 11 inches in the forecast. Temperatures will jump slightly above normal to an average of 31.5 degrees.
We'll turn the corner towards spring by March but the forecast is still for a near normal 7 inches of snow with temperatures slightly below average at 37 degrees.
By April, only short blasts of winter will be left-with a below average 1 inch of snow and temperatures climbing above normal at 52 degrees.
While a trace or more of snow on the ground for Christmas will be more likely this year, an official white Christmas with 1 inch or more of new snow on Christmas Day is still too early to call.