Cooler summer temps: the sign of a cold winter?

WASHINGTON — Cool temperatures went to the extreme last week in some parts of the country.

The Black Hills and Rapid City areas of South Dakota saw several inches of snow and temperatures in the 20s — a rare occurrence for the late-summer days of September.

Is this a sign that winter will come early and hit hard?

Not so fast, says Chris Strong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Strong says assumptions can’t be made based on an uncommon snow, especially when the areas affected by the snow will see temperatures back up in the 80s this week.

When forecasting what winter will have in store, Strong says meteorologists look to see what’s happening in the Pacific Ocean around the equator. He says the patterns there usually go back and forth between long cycles of warmer-than-normal or colder-than-normal temperatures.

“Right now, it’s kind of right in the middle, in what we call the neutral zone, but that might be getting toward El Ni

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