How is the Rim country's upcoming winter shaping up, weather-wise?
As it turns out, that's a multiple-choice question.
And at this early point in the season, you'd be hard pressed to find a weather-forecasting professional who'd bet a plug nickel on the answer.
"We haven't come up with any official long-range winter forecasts yet," said Rich Kreitner, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, "With LaNione, we really don't have much to go by."
The best Kreitner will offer is that "a few people in the office have been making speculations, and they've been going to both ends of the spectrum. Some have been saying we're going to have a normal winter, meaning we'll go back to a regular year as far as snowfall goes. Some other people are not so sure. But those are just unofficial guesses."
Anna Mae Deming, Payson's very own National Weather Service observer, is also reluctant to go out on a limb, snow-covered or otherwise.
"We've had such a crazy year, from the first of January to this past week," Deming said. "Our Indian Summer is not even normal; we're way above average in heat. So if anything, I think we can simply expect more of the unusual."
Asked if she had any nonscientific gut feelings of what Old Man Winter may have in store, Deming was quick with her answer:
"No. I'm not a forecaster. Trying to predict the weather is one of the hardest things under the sun. I just don't know, that's all there is to it," she said.
There is, on the other hand, the Internet site www.weatherplanner.com., which claims an 83-percent accuracy record for its "own proprietary system" of predicting weather for the coming year.
According to a week-by-week search of the site, Payson will not be getting any snow at all this winter. At worst, we'll see "showers," "chance of showers," "mixed precipitation" and "rain likely" off and on throughout the winter months, with predicted temperatures never dropping below the low 40s.
"All of that sounds very hard to believe," Kreitner concluded when told of the search results.
Over on the Weather Channel's Web site, www.weather.com, there is a news story which forecasts a "harder winter ... than we've had for the last three years" for much of the nation, due to the departure of La Ni
Predictions for the West call for warmer temperatures and normal precipitation which may mean good news for any Western state, such as Arizona, that's been grappling with a tough drought for the past few years.
That forecast, however, did not arrive unaccompanied by some doubt from Paul Kocin, the winter weather expert at The Weather Channel.
"I'm surprised to see it warmer out West and surprised to see where the patterns are setting up," said Kocin.
"My interpretation of their forecast is that there's still no place around the country that's going to be really cold. I think (the forecasters) are being a little gun shy."