Preliminary Winter Outlook
Hello and welcome to the CONWEATHER preliminary Winter Forecast for the winter of 2015-2016. The official winter forecast will go out on Thanksgiving. This Forecast will consist of two parts, the maps and the analysis. For people who just want to know whats going to happen the analysis portion isn’t for you. But if you want to know the “why” of the forecast be sure to read the analysis.
Without further ado lets jump right in!
Above are the current sea surface temperature anomalies. There are a few areas of interest that could give us some clues as to what to expect this upcoming winter.
1. A moderate to strong el nino has formed. This el nino should continue to strengthen until it reaches it’s peak in October. By that time it should be a strong el nino. Normally with a strong el nino the coast gets quite a bit of moisture but as you move farther inland precipitation is usually around average. Also with a strong el nino, the Northeast usually ends up warmer than normal.
Without a doubt this Fall will feature a strong El Nino. But when we get into Winter things get a little more hazy. Like I said the el nino will probably peak in October. The question is how fast does it drop off. Right now I think that the el nino will remain strong during December but should start to drop off in January. This is why I think that the Northeast will end up with a snowy winter. During Late January, February and early March, the combination of a merging jet stream, el nino moisture and a strongly negative PDO could favor heavy snowfall. It is during this time that I think we will see 1-3 big Northeast blizzards.
I do not see this el nino turning into “Godzilla”. I have absolutely no clue who started that ridiculous name. What is fueling these crazy el nino predictions are the models. The models blow this el nino way out of proportion turning it into the strongest event in history. I don’t know how else to say it but this el nino will not be the strongest in history. It won’t even be up there with the top 3 or so.
It’s very important to remember that El Nino isn’t the only ingredient that goes into making a winter forecast. Without a doubt el nino is crucial to making forecasts but it is still just one ingredient.
2. The waters off the west coast of North America are unusually warm. This “blob” of warm water, is the main reason that California and the rest of the west has been in such a bad drought and we have been stuck in a cold and snowy pattern for winter. The warm waters cause a high pressure ridge to form over the western US and a trough over the eastern US. If the warm blob stays around for the upcoming winter, chances dramatically increase for cold and snowy in the east and warm and dry in the west. Some models are predicting that the warm blob cools off a bit, but judging from its stubbornness, I am reluctant to give up on it.
3. The waters around Greenland may be warming. Right now the waters in Greenland are both warm and cold. This is the way they have been for the last two winters and they haven’t really played a big role in how the winter played out. But in the past month the waters have warmed a bit and if this trend continues we could end up with a negative NAO. Negative NAOs are usually game changers for winter and can completely change a mild east to a cold east.
An example of this is the 2009-2010 winter. The el nino was strong which favors warm and wet but the strongly negative NAO kept things cold. This ended up being the perfect setup for some huge east coast storms.
4. There are currently some very warm waters off the east coast. This could help for the development of strong nor’easters. But without cold air to the north, strong nor’easters can have trouble forming.
Besides ocean waters, there are a few other things that could give us clues as to what will happen this winter.
The weather models : I don’t use the models too much when forecasting a season because they can barely forecast out 4 days. This year was no difference with two of the three seasonal models predicting some very unusual patterns. The one model that I think is handling things well is the Japanese. It predicts colder than average temperatures for the Mid-Atlantic with warmer than average temperatures for New England. The precipitation forecast shows more moisture into the Mid-Atlantic and less into New England. I think that New England will at least get average precipitation but maybe it’s the Mid-Atlantic’s time to shine this winter.
Snow in the Arctic: It may be in the 90s here but in the arctic a lot of snow could start falling soon. For there to be a cold winter anywhere there is has to be cold air to tap into. When places like Greenland, Alaska and Siberia get lots of snow in the Fall that usually means that somebody is going to get a cold winter.
AO: Even if the cold air develops in the Arctic there is a potential that it stays there. The AO is currently neutral but it could go positive which could block any arctic air from escaping the Polar Vortex. Also, the el nino’s strong jet stream could prevent any cold air from entering North America.
I had to leave out a couple of ingredients just because it’s too early to start talking about them.
For more information and updates on my winter thoughts go to conweather.com