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JAN. 20, 2011 - Snow in the Tri-State
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This winter's long-range forecast: How bad will it be?

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CINCINNATI - As flurries start to fall, it's a question on more and more Tri-State residents' minds: How bad is it going to get this winter?

We concede that the the idea of a long-range forecast may be quite a dice roll, but we can tell you in a general sense what sort of winter is ahead for our region.

Someone who looks a this information is meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ken Haydu.

"We're going to be above average but we're not going to be an extreme level like we have been recently," Haydu said of this winter.

The biggest indicator of what kind of winter we're going to have is what's known as La Niña, a cooling trend of global waters with more moisture.

La Nina is the lesser-known sister of El Nino. Both weather events change the water temperature of the Tropical Pacific. While El Nino warms the ocean. La Nina cools the water. Both change the global weather patterns.

Here in the Tri-State, a strong La Nina gave us a record snowfall last December. But, an unusual block of cold air sat over us turning what would've been rain into snow. La Nina is more likely give us a mixed precipitation season which means more freezing rain.

Now, here's something to keep in mind. The record rains we've had in November will not have any impact on this winter according to Haydu. He says the rain will not give us any indication of what the weather will be like for the winter.

You see, our winter depends on the strength, or in weather terms, "the signal" of La Nina. Last year's signal was classified as moderate to strong. At this point, La Nina is classified as light to moderate. According to Haydu, this means we'll see above average precipitation but not as much as last year.

Of course, this is all built around averages and remember an average year is only the middle between all the extremes. And rarely does any one ever forecast when an extreme winter will take place. So, while we can use averages, with a phenomenon like La Nina, you can never really be 100 percent sure what you might get.

The biggest difference this year compared to last is going to be temperatures, where it's expected to be warmer.

And with that warmer air, we'll probably see more rain, but we also will see more freezing rain and icy conditions.

Watch the full report on what La Niña is and how it affects our region's weather in the video player above.

Copyright Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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