Over the years, we have learned to use analogues from previous winter in formulating our winter weather forecast. Recently, most of this data was made accessible on the internet for anyone to play with. Want to compare El Nino with temperatures in February for instance? Its right there. How about the arctic cold in December with January snowfall? Not to worry. its readily available to any backyard weather fan to analyze. Without going into great detail, the indices we are looking at for this winter parallel several winters in the past especially the early 1950s--not completely but pretty close.
One of the factors that doesn't completely match up is the Atlantic tropical sea surface temperatures. Many meteorologists.climatologists believe the role the Atlantic Ocean plays in our winter temperatures can be significant. Why would we pay any attention to this when its obviously so far away from North America? The same question we could ask about El Nino since it occurs in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Yet we know that changes in the Pacific Ocean play a direct role in the weather across the US.
First, look at the sea surface temps from January of 1950 and 1951. Notice the colder than normal water in the middle of the Atlantic