Predictions for 2017 winter

Life for some in 2017: Wondering whether there will be a winter this winter


People walk through flooded streets from Hurricane Nate on Dauphin Island, Ala., on Oct. 8. (Dan Anderson/European Pressphoto Agency/EFE/REX/)By Philip BumpPhilip Bump National correspondent focused largely on the numbers behind politics October 13, 2017

Between 1956 and 2012, there were an average of 30 days a year on which the temperature in Coden, Ala. — just west of Mobile Bay — dropped below freezing. As you might expect, those days were mostly in the winter: 10 in January, on average, with six in February and eight in December. Over the past 365 days in nearby Fairhope, the temperature has dropped below 32 degrees on three days: Jan. 7, 8 and 9.

It’s currently 88 degrees in Coden, but the Weather Underground reports that it feels like 118. In the past 24 hours, a slew of locations in the Deep South stretching into southern Alabama have tied or broken temperature records.

It’s been autumn for three weeks.

Granted, this is Alabama, which doesn’t exactly turn into a winter wonderland. But we focus on Coden because of an interesting comment from a resident of the town that was reported by a local NPR affiliate this week.

“If we don’t have a winter this winter, we’re going to be living in the tropics because the water is what controls it all,” Paul Nelson, a retired shrimper, told NPR’s Debbie Elliott. “So we got to sit around and think, yeah, what is going on?”

That’s an interesting idea: A winter without a winter. Nelson went on to say that he accepts the scientific consensus that the world is getting warmer — which makes sense given that some of the most immediate effects of climate change are being felt in the region where he lives.

Climate Central reported this year that, as with other bodies of water around the world, the Gulf of Mexico has been getting warmer and seeing higher high temperatures.

Warmer water means higher seas, because warmer water occupies more volume. The western Gulf Coast has seen some of the biggest sea-level increases of the past 50 years, with levels near Alabama increasing 4 to 6 inches.


(Environmental Protection Agency)

Those higher seas mean quicker flooding during heavy rains — like the region saw during Hurricane Nate.

To Nelson’s point about winter, though, climate change suggests that his worry about the season vanishing may be warranted.

We don’t know exactly how climate change will manifest itself, and it’s tricky to attribute specific weather events to climate change. We don’t even know the likely range of what will happen with climate change, because we don’t know how much, if anything, people will do to make the warming worse. Climate scientists generally model predictions based on a few scenarios, including ones in which people significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and ones in which those emissions go unchecked.

The government released a tool in 2014 that aimed to help Americans understand what the effects of climate change would be near them. Called the Climate Resilience Toolkit, it allows people to plug in their location and see what climate models predict will happen near them.

Let’s plug in Coden. We see, first of all, that winters will be warmer — as will the other seasons. (We took the three periods for which these projections were estimated and animated them.)

The blue blocks are the estimated range and the blue lines are the median projection. By the 2060 to 2090 period, the temperature near Coden is estimated to be about 4 degrees Fahrenheit higher during the winter.

The blue color indicates that these estimates are under the low-emissions scenario — in other words, if we take significant steps to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Under the higher-emission projections, the shift is more dramatic.

At the beginning of this article, we looked at the number of days that were below freezing. Under the low-emissions projection, the number of cold days near Coden will continue to drop between now and 2100.

Under the high-emissions scenario, the shift is again stark. Years with almost no freezing days will be the norm.

Winter will fade — but summer will become the norm. The number of days with temperatures above 95 degrees will soar under the high-emissions scenario.

In June, the New York Times pointed out that this increase in the number of warm days will not simply mean more time spent in air conditioning. That increase is expected to have a significant effect on the regional economy, with Coden’s county seeing a decrease in its GDP of between 10 to 15 percent by the end of the century.

Paul Nelson’s concern about becoming the tropics is warranted, assuming that climate change continues unchecked. Climate Central published a tool this year showing how unchecked emissions might change the temperatures of cities around the world. Philadelphia could be as warm during the summer as Juarez, Mexico, is today. Houston — the closest city to Coden on the tool — could be as warm as Saudi Arabia.

The winters would presumably be more similar to those in the Middle East, too.

What we can expect this Indiana winter to be like

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If the sweltering heat or hurricane filled summer has you looking forward to winter weather, you are in for a treat.

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Most of Indiana was pretty far from a winter wonderland last year, but this year may be different.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association released its U.S. Winter Outlook Thursday, suggesting that Indiana could experience a winter that is 40 percent more likely to be wetter than average.

A big reason for this? The organization’s Climate Prediction Center expects La Niña to play a role this season.

“Typical La Nina patterns during winter include above average precipitation and colder than average temperatures along the Northern Tier of the U.S. and below normal precipitation and drier conditions across the South,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, in the release.

NOAA says Indiana has an equal chance at average temperatures. Halpert noted that the northern part of the state could experience colder temperatures and the southern part, warmer temperatures as the winter carries on.

The Farmers Almanac says winter will be warmer, with slightly above-average precipitation. It expects Indianapolis’ first snow to fall in mid-November. But forecasts can’t predict exactly how much snowfall the state will experience.

“Snow is a weather event,” said Halpert. “We can get a general sense (of when it’s coming), but don’t have a product for it yet.”

Last winter, Indiana had less precipitation and higher temperatures than normal. In Indianapolis, less than 4 inches of snow fell after Jan. 1 and a toasty February included days where the temperature hit the 70s.

Based on measurements at Eagle Creek, the average temperature of 36.4 degrees was 5.8 degrees hotter than the city’s average the previous winter. In regard to snowfall, Indianapolis had 6.47 inches fall, 0.95 inches below normal.

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How bad will this winter be? How much snow will we get? Will it snow on Christmas?

Long-range winter weather forecasts are always a challenge for meteorologists.

“Seasonal forecasting is still a budding science,” WBZ’s Eric Fisher said in his forecast for the upcoming season.

“It’s generally not going to be a slam dunk or something to take 100 percent literally,” he continued. “It’s an educated guess using the science we have available to us and looking at all the known variables involved.”

Still, local and national meteorologists have issued their winter weather outlooks over the past few weeks. There isn’t widespread consensus on what this winter could have in store for New England, except that all forecasters are looking to El Niño’s probable impacts on the region’s weather the next few months.

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Here’s what forecasters are saying this winter may have in store for New England:

NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts above average temperatures from December through February for most of the Northeast.

While NOAA officials believe the South and mid-Atlantic will see “wetter-than-average conditions,” they expect New England to see average precipitation this winter.

“Snow forecasts are generally not predictable more than a week in advance,” NOAA officials wrote in their outlook. “Even during a warmer-than-average winter, periods of cold temperatures and snowfall are still likely to occur.”

NOAA’s winter temperatures map. —NOAA

Meteorologist David Epstein

David Epstein predicts the Northeast will see average or colder-than-average temperatures this winter with February 2019 being “significantly colder” than February 2018.

“This year’s setup is different than last year because pools of warm and cold ocean water aren’t in the same positions as 2017,” he said. “Last year was the warmest February on record, and it’s highly unlikely we’ll be anywhere near that.”

Epstein forecasts a milder start to winter “with December seeing milder air and less snow.”

He expects this winter to be a stormy one for the U.S., but he said “the challenge” is figuring out if or how those storms will impact New England.

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“A more widespread, powerful El Niño could mean less snow and more warmth for New England,” he said, “but a less common Modoki El Niño could bring lots of opportunities for shoveling this winter.”

WBZ

WBZ meteorologist Eric Fisher said New England is in for a cold December, a reprieve in January, and a “very cold and stormy” February and March.

He, too, pointed to El Niño as a factor in what he believes will be a snowier winter than average. He expects 55 to 65 inches of snow in Boston; the average snowfall in Boston is around 43 inches.

December will be “colder than average and snowier than a typical El Niño winter,” he said.

“January may offer the best chance for relief this season,” Fisher said. “But all signs are that February as well as March will be a very cold and stormy end to the season, the biggest question mark being: Will the storm track be just south of us or over the top of us during those two months?”

The cold weather didn’t keep Dunkin from enjoying the snow and cold weather in Christopher Columbus Park with his owner.

NBC10 Boston

Meteorologist Michael Page expects “milder than average temperatures as a whole, and wetter than average conditions as a whole” because “all signs continue to point towards an El Niño year.”

In a series of tweets, Page said he expects a warmer-than-average December, January, and February.

He called the long-range precipitation forecast “tricky,” and the snowfall forecast “the hardest of all.”

“When we look at very wet autumns, like this year, from the past century, we find subsequent winters that were pretty lackluster snow-wise in Boston,” he tweeted. “The vast majority had much less snow than the average 40ish inches that fall. One was close to average, one above. With that in mind, odds right now favor below average snowfall around Boston this winter.”

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Page urged residents to remember that this doesn’t mean there won’t be storms or that this winter won’t feel cold.

The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel predicts slightly above or near average temperatures in New England for November and December with January at or slightly below average.

Weather Channel forecasters also predict that El Niño will play a role in the temperature.

Meteorologist Todd Crawford said the positive phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Arctic Oscillation could be “fading away,” and the NAO could go negative. This means cold air could be pulled south toward the eastern United States, he said.

A much different temperature regime is expected across the Lower 48 states as we approach the start of #winter. Here’s our latest outlook for November through January 2019: https://t.co/vfwhVxCDy1 pic.twitter.com/mwmnS3OcYU

— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) October 15, 2018

AccuWeather

AccuWeather expects winter will start off mild in the Northeast before January and February turn colder than last year.

“Some Interstate-95 cities will notice a significant temperature dip compared to last year,” Jillian MacMath wrote in AccuWeather’s winter weather forecast.

Overall, the company expects New England will have a season with “cold and mild periods,” though southern Connecticut and Rhode Island fall into the “wintry mix” category.

“Boston and New York, I think they’re going to tend to be near normal on snowfall this coming winter season,” forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

While the mid-Atlantic may see “a few big snowstorms,” the company predicts the Northeast will stay clear of most of them.

AccuWeather’s winter outlook. —AccuWeather

Winter Forecast For 2017-18: Arctic Cold, Above-Average Snow In Some Regions

If you live in the Northern Plains and parts of the Midwest, you may want to dig out your wool socks and extra layers, according to a new winter forecast released Wednesday. Temperatures in the northern Plains could plummet to 30 degrees below zero, the forecast says. And if you’re in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic states, New York City or Boston, do you know where your snow shovel is?

AccuWeather says areas that typically receive large amounts of lake-effect snow — Cleveland; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Buffalo, New York — should brace for mountains of snow and frequent shoveling. Both snow and ice are predicted in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and throughout the Northeast.

Winter will be comparatively balmy in the Southern Plains, the Southwest and southern California, where forecasters say winter will be milder and drier than last year.

Paul Pastelok, the lead long-range weather forecaster for AccuWeather, said it should be a good season for skiing in the Northeast, the Colorado Rockies, the Sierra Nevada range and the Northwest.

Here’s a closer look at the forecast in different parts of the country:

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States

It will be colder than last year, and snowfall is expected to be normal to above normal, depending on where you live. In addition to Cleveland, Erie and Buffalo, snowfall in New York City and Boston could be about 6 inches above normal, “within a few inches,” Pastelok said.

“Areas away from the I-95 corridor have a better chance at a big snowfall,” he said.

Additionally, the forecast holds good news for skiers and those who think it isn’t Christmas without snow.

“I think this year is going to bring a good ski season in the Northeast,” Pastelok said. “And around the holidays we should have some snow for the interior Northeast.”

Southeast and Tennessee Valley

Air temperatures will run above normal in most of the Southeast, especially Florida and Georgia, where the risk of a damaging freeze is lower than in past years. Florida, inundated with rain after Hurricane Irma, is expected to remain mostly dry.

In the western areas of the region, weather could be colder overall, and Pastelok said a few ice storms could hit the area stretching from the Tennessee Valley to northeast Texas.

Tornadoes aren’t out of the question, either. In January 2017, the area from Texas to Georgia was pummeled by 137 tornadoes. Pastelok expects the region to be experience tornadoes in February.

Northern Plains

Arctic cold blasts are expected to plunge Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and most of Missouri into the deep freeze on a regular basis, but the drier, colder air will carry less moisture, so huge, frequent snowfalls shouldn’t be a problem.

The coldest air — minus 30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures (and that doesn’t include the windchill) — will be in the Dakotas, Pastelok said.

Southern Plains

The chilliest temperatures could come in mid-winter, and arctic air blowing in from Canada could lead to freezes in late January, Pastelok said. Overall, though, a cold winter isn’t predicted.

Despite roller-coaster temperatures overall, southwest Texas could experience above-normal temperatures.

And while some storms are predicted, the winter will be mostly dry in the Southern Plains.

“We do feel there are going to be some storms in northwest Texas at times,” Pastelok said. “Southwest Texas could see some but not as frequent as in past winters.”

Northwest and Rockies

A weak La Niña predicted to develop this winter is expected to provide ideal skiing conditions in the Northwest, including the Cascades, and the Rockies.

“I think the Bitterroot chain all the way down to the Wasatch region in the central and northern Rockies has a good shot to be above normal on snowfall this season,” Pastelok said.

Northern California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range is expected to be less snowy, but should receive enough snowfall for good skiing conditions — but it’s not likely to be so significant that people won’t be able to reach resorts, Pastelok said.

Southwest

Dry, warm weather is predicted. In fact, Pastelok said, temperatures could reach into the 90s by early 2018.

Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images News/Getty Images

\”We will preposition the spreaders ahead of first flake,\” she said. \”We anticipate still going out on collections with plows on, \u0027cause we don\u0027t expect two inches until later in the morning.\”

Garcia says she expects the heaviest snow to fall in the afternoon during the middle of the heaviest traffic.

Her advice to drivers? \”I would really prefer, if at all possible, for people to use mass transit,\” she said.

Also new this year are GPS units loaded with 1,400 plow routes, replacing the pages of written instructions.

In the city, alternate side parking rules will be suspended Saturday but parking meters will remain in effect.

In Westchester, truck engines were revving as workers attached plows in Bedford.

\”Getting all the equipment ready, watching the forecasts and having our employees ready to take care of the snow and keep the hamlets clean,\” commissioner of public works Kevin Winn told WCBS 880\u0027s John Metaxas.

Winn says his town has 130 miles of roads to clear.

Snow fell across parts of the Deep South\u00a0early Friday, causing Southerners to panic even though forecasters predicted any accumulations would melt quickly. The threat of even a half-inch of snow caused alarm in a region that doesn\u0027t see regular snowfall.

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Southern snowstorm

NEW YORK — Grab the shovels from the basement and gas up the snow blowers — winter is about to arrive in New England. A winter weather advisory has been issued for parts of the Northeast ahead of snow that’s expected to move in early Saturday morning.

CBS New York reports the advisory takes effect at 6 a.m. Saturday through early Sunday morning for New York City, Westchester, Rockland and Long Island, as well as parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. Meanwhile, winter storm warnings have been posted for two New York counties.

How much snow?

CBS New York reports around 3 to 4 inches of snow is expected in the tri-state area, with up to six inches possible, across parts of Long Island and Connecticut.

A widespread 3 to 6 inches of snow is likely for much of southern New England, away from the immediate coast, according to CBS Boston.

CBS Philadelphia reports forecasters say 2 to 4 inches of snow are possible in Pennsylvania, with the heaviest accumulations on Saturday. A winter weather advisory is in effect for parts of Pennsylvania until 1 a.m. Sunday.

The snow isn’t expected to wrap up until Saturday night. A shift in the track of the storm could change conditions.

At a news conference Friday, the New York City Department of Sanitation showed off some of their new snow removal equipment. Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Farcia says 693 salt spreaders will go into operation bright and early on Saturday.

“We will preposition the spreaders ahead of first flake,” she said. “We anticipate still going out on collections with plows on, ’cause we don’t expect two inches until later in the morning.”

Garcia says she expects the heaviest snow to fall in the afternoon during the middle of the heaviest traffic.

Her advice to drivers? “I would really prefer, if at all possible, for people to use mass transit,” she said.

Also new this year are GPS units loaded with 1,400 plow routes, replacing the pages of written instructions.

In the city, alternate side parking rules will be suspended Saturday but parking meters will remain in effect.

In Westchester, truck engines were revving as workers attached plows in Bedford.

“Getting all the equipment ready, watching the forecasts and having our employees ready to take care of the snow and keep the hamlets clean,” commissioner of public works Kevin Winn told WCBS 880’s John Metaxas.

Winn says his town has 130 miles of roads to clear.

Snow fell across parts of the Deep South early Friday, causing Southerners to panic even though forecasters predicted any accumulations would melt quickly. The threat of even a half-inch of snow caused alarm in a region that doesn’t see regular snowfall.

Parts of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi reported snow flurries before dawn.

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Winter Storm Socks The Northeast With Snow … Again

A woman walks in whiteout conditions in Boston on Thursday. Sunday’s forecast promises similarly daunting conditions, as a winter storm bears down on the Northeast. Scott Eisen/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A woman walks in whiteout conditions in Boston on Thursday. Sunday’s forecast promises similarly daunting conditions, as a winter storm bears down on the Northeast.

Scott Eisen/Getty Images

If it seems like it was just yesterday the Northeast had to batten down for a big, blustery snowstorm — well, you’re almost right. The shovels are hardly dry from the foot of snow dumped on New York City and Boston late last week.

But, to take some liberty with an old adage, no rest for the wintry.

Snow has already returned to the Northeast, and meteorologists expect that well into Monday, areas from upstate New York to Maine will be buffeted by high winds, sleet and snowfall rates that could get as high as 2 to 4 inches an hour in certain parts of New England.

MODERATE/ HEAVY SNOW on i95 in southern Maine about 30 miles south of Portland, ME.
Speed 45 mph
Temperature 31F pic.twitter.com/8tzCo1DHLi

— Jim Cantore (@JimCantore) February 12, 2017

Wind guests up to 60 miles per hour are also expected along the mid-Atlantic corridor, from Washington, D.C., to New York City. Blizzard whiteout conditions are expected in New Hampshire and Maine.

Airlines have taken note. Roughly 3,000 flights have already been canceled.

The storm’s roots rest with a low-pressure system slinking from west to east, according to Reuters, which cites the weather service Accuweather:

“A low-pressure system tracking eastward across the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic region was due for “rapid intensification” on Sunday night and Monday morning after it passes through the New England coast.

” ‘It will become a powerful nor’easter with blizzard conditions expected for parts of Maine as the winds become quite strong,’ the weather service said.”

Central and eastern Maine are set to get the worst of it, according to Accuweather, saying they lie in the “bulls-eye of heaviest snow.”

Luckily, many tweeters in the path of the storm are remaining calm about the “big baddie snowblob” coming right for them.

— WEATHER IS HAPPENING (@WEATHERISHAPPEN) February 12, 2017

I watched 5 snowblowers go out the door in 15 minutes at Lowe’s. Oh, and the snow has arrived! #mewx

— Holly Sherburne (@HollySherburne) February 12, 2017

But in case the rest of you in the U.S. happen to be feeling smug that the snow won’t be plopping on your heads, take heed: It’s set to snow Tuesday in Amarillo, Texas. If the snow can strike even there, it can strike just about anywhere.

If it’s October, it must be time for my annual blog post detailing NOAA’s forecast for the upcoming winter. And as always seems to be the case (well not in 2015), we’re still trying to figure out what will happen across the tropical Pacific. Here I look ahead to provide some insight as to what is most likely to occur during the upcoming winter with regards to both precipitation and temperature.

Standard reminder: probabilities are not certainties

Before discussing the outlooks, I do want to remind readers again that these forecasts are probabilities (% chance) for below, near, or above-average climate outcomes with the maps showing only the most likely outcome (1). Because the probabilities shown are less than 100% (of course), it means there is no guarantee you will see temperature or precipitation departures from normal that match the color on the map. As we’ve explained in earlier blog posts, even when one outcome is more likely than another, there is still always a chance that a less favored outcome will occur (witness precipitation during the last two winters in California).

Cut to the chase: What’s the outlook for this winter

Places where the forecast odds favor a much drier than usual winter (brown colors) or much wetter than usual winter (blue-green), or where the probability of a dry winter, a wet winter, or a near-normal winter are all equal (white). The darker the color, the stronger the chance of that outcome (not the bigger the departure from average). Click image for version that includes Alaska and Hawaii. NOAA Climate.gov map, based on data from NOAA CPC.

Both the temperature and precipitation outlooks lean on typical La Niña impacts, particularly those of the past 30 years, and bear some resemblance to the outlooks issued for last winter (not surprisingly since the forecast guidance is similar – more on that below). In the image above, the winter precipitation outlook favors below-normal precipitation across the entire southern U. S., with probabilities greatest (exceeding 50%) along the eastern Gulf Coast to the coasts of northern Florida, Georgia, and southern South Carolina. In contrast, above-average precipitation is more likely across much of the northern parts of the country, in the northern Rockies, around the Great Lakes, in Hawaii, and western Alaska.

Places where the forecast odds favor a much colder than usual winter (blue colors) or much warmer than usual winter (red), or where the probability of a cold winter, a warm winter, or a near-normal winter are all equal (white). The darker the color, the stronger the chance of that outcome (not the bigger the departure from average). Click image for version that includes Alaska and Hawaii. NOAA Climate.gov map, based on data from NOAA CPC.

The temperature outlook shown above indicates above-average temperatures across the southern US, extending northward out West through the central Rockies and all the way up to Maine in the eastern part of the nation. Above-average temperatures are also favored in Hawaii and in western and northern Alaska. Chances are greatest in an area extending from the desert Southwest to central and southern Texas and Louisiana (greater than 50%).

Probabilities are tilted toward colder-than-normal temperatures along the northern tier from the Pacific Northwest to Minnesota and also in southeastern Alaska. However, the likelihood of below-average temperatures across the North is modest, with no probabilities in these regions reaching 50%.

Both maps include blank regions where neither above-, nor near-, nor below-normal is favored. These areas (shown in white and labeled EC for “equal chances”), have the same chance for above-, near-, or below-normal (33.33%). This doesn’t mean that near-average temperature or precipitation is expected this winter in those regions, but rather that there’s no tilt in the odds toward any of the three outcomes.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issues probabilistic seasonal temperature and precipitation forecasts so users can understand risk and opportunities when making climate-sensitive decisions. However, keep in mind that these outlooks will primarily benefit those who have the wherewithal to play the long game. The maps show only the most likely outcome where there is greater confidence, but this is not the only possible outcome. As we’ve seen in recent California winters, even the less likely outcome sometimes does occur.

Déjà vu all over again?

Don’t worry if the preceding paragraphs seemed familiar. You’re not crazy. Regular readers may remember that last year at this time, we were also anticipating the emergence of La Niña later in the fall. Fast forward one year and, well, the situation doesn’t look much different. If La Niña were to develop this year, certain patterns of temperature and precipitation would be favored across the United States. Over the past few years, we’ve discussed the patterns preferred by El Niño and La Niña, and recently, Tom has presented figures showing what we’ve seen historically during all La Niña winters between 1950 and now (precipitation and temperature).

December-February temperatures compared to the 1981-2010 average during each La Niña winter since records began in 1950. Gray lines under the maps indicate event strength: strong (dark gray), moderate (medium gray), and weak (light gray). NOAA Climate.gov image based on climate division data from NOAA ESRL.

December-February precipitation compared to the 1981-2010 average during each La Niña winter since records began in 1950. Gray lines under the maps indicate event strength: strong (dark gray), moderate (medium gray), and weak (light gray). NOAA Climate.gov image based on climate division data from NOAA ESRL.

From these graphics, it’s easy to see that there’s been a fair amount of variability in the winter temperature and precipitation patterns during La Niña, but also that there are some clear tendencies for above or below normal temperature or precipitation in some regions.

Another way to examine the common features of La Niña winters is to create a composite map (an average of all of these individual maps). This will highlight those regions that often have temperature or precipitation anomalies of the same sign. For temperature, there’s a strong tendency for temperatures to be below average across some of the West and North, particularly in the Northern Plains, with a weaker signal for above-average temperatures in the Southeast, as shown in the image below.

Winter temperature differences from average (degrees F) during La Niña winters dating back to 1950. Temperatures tend to be colder than average across the northern Plains and warmer than average across the southern tier of the United States. NOAA Climate.gov image using data from ESRL and NCEI.

Winter precipitation differences from average (inches) during La Niña winters dating back to 1950. Precipitation tends to be below-average across the southern tier of the United States and wetter than average across the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley. NOAA Climate.gov image using data from ESRL and NCEI.

The precipitation pattern, presented above, shows negative anomalies (indicating below-normal rainfall) across the entire southern part of the country with a weaker signal of above-average precipitation in the Ohio Valley and in the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies.

However, these figures are based on about 20 different La Niña episodes, many of them from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and we have not removed the longer-term trends from the temperature and precipitation data used here. As Tom pointed out last month, the trend is an important component of seasonal temperature forecasts. It’s fairly trivial to break the sample size in half, and compare the temperature patterns for the older half to the more recent half. That provides a significantly different picture, with the average of the latest events much warmer than the earlier ones. We can see this by comparing the right image below (more recent events) with the one to the left of it (older events).

Comparison of winter temperature differences from average (degrees F) between the earliest and most recent ten La Niña winters dating back to 1950. Temperatures tend to be warmer across much of the country during the most recent ten La Niña events as compared to the earliest ten La Niña events . NOAA Climate.gov image using data from ESRL and NCEI.

This picture is consistent with long term warming trends over the United States. These historical relationships along with guidance provided by a suite of computer models plays a strong role in the final outlooks. Differences between the two periods for the precipitation composites are much smaller and therefore are not shown here.

Lead editor: Nat Johnson

Footnotes

(1) The terciles, technically, are the 33.33 and 66.67 percentile positions in the distribution. In other words, they are the boundaries between the lower and middle thirds of the distribution, and between the middle and upper thirds. These two boundaries define three categories: below-normal, near-normal and above-normal. In the maps, the CPC forecasts show the probability of the favored category only when there is a favored category; otherwise, they show EC (“equal chances”). Often, the near-normal category remains at 33.33%, and the category opposite the favored one is below 33.33% by the same amount that the favored category is above 33.33%. When the probability of the favored category becomes very large, such as 70% (which is very rare), the above rule for assigning the probabilities for the two non-favored categories becomes different.

Grading our 2017-2018 winter outlook: Not perfect, but decent

By Matt Ross April 24, 2018
Trevor Patzer takes his dog Boston for a ride in a sled March 21 in Edgewater, Md. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

We have finally shaken the last vestiges of a winter that refused to go away in earnest until mid-April. More typical spring weather is underway, and there are signs of some summery weather next week.

As the threat of winter weather has finally relented, we take a look back at our 2017-18 winter outlook. Some people who issue outlooks disappear when it is time to assess them. We always grade them. Even if the result isn’t pretty.

In short, we did pretty well. We correctly identified that this winter would be slightly warmer and less snowy than average, even if we didn’t nail all the details. Read below for our assessment.

Temperature

On temperatures, we make a seasonal forecast, but we also break that forecast down by month. Not all outlooks do this.

While we consider it important to get the overall temperature difference from normal right, the average monthly temperature is not just an afterthought; it is an integral part of our outlook.

We predicted that winter overall would be near 1 degree above average in Washington, and it finished 1.8 degrees above. We underdid the warmth a bit, thanks to an abnormally warm February, but overall it was a solid call.

The monthly temperature outlooks were a mixed bag.

• We called for December to be 2 to 3 degrees above average, and it finished around 0.5 degrees below average, thanks to the cold spell at the end of the month. This call was a bust.

• We said January would be our coldest month at 1 degree below average, and it finished 0.3 degrees below average. Solid call.

• We predicted that February would be 0 to 1 degrees above average, and it finished at 6.3 degrees above average for our third-warmest on record. Even though we got on the right side of the departure, it wasn’t a very good call.

In summary, we give ourselves a B+ on the seasonal temperature prediction and a C on the monthly calls, for an overall temperature grade of B-/C+.

Snowfall

Our snowfall prediction was pretty good, even if it took a late March storm to get us there.

  • At Reagan National Airport, we called for 8 to 14 inches and ended up with 7.8 inches.
  • At Dulles International Airport, we called for 14 to 18 inches and ended up with 11.9 inches.
  • Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport was our best call. We called for 14 to 18 inches, and it ended up with 15.4 inches.

We give ourselves a B/B+ on our snow call. We correctly identified that seasonal snowfall would be below normal at all three airports, hit a bull’s eye at BWI and flirted with the bottom of our predicted ranges at the other two airports.

Summary

Overall we did reasonably well for a seasonal outlook and give ourselves a B/B- for the outlook on the whole. Our summer outlook comes out in May.

How would you grade our outlook?

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From the past …

2017-2018 winter outlook

2016-2017 winter outlook recap
2016-2017 winter outlook
2015-2016 winter outlook recap
2015-2016 winter outlook
2014-2015 winter outlook recap
2014-2015 winter outlook
2013-2014 winter outlook recap
2013-2014 winter outlook
2012-2013 winter outlook
2012-2013 winter outlook recap
2011-2012 winter outlook
2011-2012 winter outlook recap
2010-2011 winter outlook
2010-2011 winter outlook live chat
2010-2011 winter outlook recap
2009-2010 winter outlook
2009-2010 winter outlook recap
2008-2009 outlook live chat
2008-2009 winter outlook recap
2008-2009 winter outlook
2007-2008 winter outlook recap
2007-2008 winter outlook
2006-2007 winter outlook
2005-2006 winter outlook

News

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration makes long-range forecasts each month.

I am going to show you these forecasts, but first, a warning.

WARNING: Long-range forecasts are rarely accurate, and this article shows how most of last season’s forecasts were incorrect. Also, these forecasts cover three months, but we know that skiing quality improves and degrades with storm cycles that last a few days to a week. Remember that paying attention to a 1-10 day forecast is the way that you’ll find powder. These 3-6 month outlooks offer little to no value for us skiers searching for pow.

Temperature during December, January, and February

Warm. I believe the warmth of this outlook is based on a general trend of increasing temperatures during the past years and decades.

Precipitation during December, January, and February

Most of the country is in the white “equal chances” zone which basically means that the odds of average, above average, or below average precipitation is about the same. If you’re looking at the green area in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado and getting super excited for the chance of above average snowfall, please temper your excitement. Remember, 3-6 month forecasts have little to no value.

What about El Nino or La Nina?

Sometimes, a strong El Nino or La Nina (which refers to ocean water temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean) can help us predict snowfall patterns during the winter. However, for this season, there’s a 50-60% chance that water temperatures will be near average (green bar) and only a 20-25% chance for either a weak El Nino or La Nina. In other words, we don’t see a strong signal.

A funny and generally truthful 3-6 month forecast

Dr. Jim Steenburgh from Wasatch Weather Weenies put out this forecast in mid-August 2017. Professor Powder (Jim’s nickname) lives and skis in Utah, hence the Utah bias.

A quick recap of my strategy for finding the deepest powder

If you want the highest odds of deep powder, here’s what I would do.

First, live in a location that’s close to mountains with the deepest snow.

Second, if you can’t live close to deep powder, wait until 7-10 days before booking your trip.

Third, even if you wait until 7-10 days before booking your trip, consider only booking to a general area.

Fourth, if you have to book a trip far in advance, pick locations that statistics show have the deepest powder.

And fifth, if you can’t execute any of the above strategies, change your expectations for your ski trip.

A wrote a bit more about each point in this article.

All Access

The fun begins within about 10 days of a storm, which is when we start to be able to forecast which regions and which days could offer the best powder.

Being an All-Access member allows you to see our 10-day forecasts, time-lapse webcams for tracking exactly when fresh snow has fallen, and the ability to receive custom alerts to know when powder days are approaching. All of this costs just $19 for one full year (365 days).

In other words, one year of getting the best information about powder will cost you about the same as you’ll spend on one lunch at most resorts.

I’d love to count you as an All-Access member, and you can find out more here.

Email Alerts

If you’d like to get alerted when we publish future articles like this one, and also get access to deals and contests, sign up for our email list. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Sign up by clicking here —> http://opsw.co/2bao4gA

Keep dreaming of future powder days!

JOEL GRATZ

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Winter Weather Forecast 2016 – 2017

Were less than 100 days away from opening day at some resorts in North America and the question on everyones mind is: Where will it snow?

The Old Farmers Almanac released their long range Winter Weather Forecast for 2016-2017, and things are looking good for a strong winter in North America. Their regional forecasts, which are calculated 18 months in advance and claim to have an 80% accuracy rate, purport the Northeast and Pacific Northwest to have the most favorable winters for snow enthusiasts.

Check out the New Winter Weather Forecast for 2017 – 2018 Here

Dive into their regional winter weather predictions for a glimmer of where you could score the deepest days this year, and stay tuned for NOAA’s official Long Range Winter Prediction dropping later this month. The Farmer’s Almanac (different from the Old Farmer’s Almanac) predictions can be found here.

Winter Weather Predictions 2016 – 2017 Old Farmers Almanac : Regions

Northeast

Winter will be colder than normal, on average, with slightly above-normal precipitation and near-normal snowfall. The coldest periods will be in mid- and late December, mid- and late January, mid-February, and early March. The snowiest periods will be in mid-November, late January, mid- and late February, and early to mid-March.

Intermountain : Includes mountainous areas in: California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington

Winter temperatures will be above normal, with precipitation a bit below normal. The coldest periods will be in early and mid- to late December and mid- to late January. Snowfall will be above normal in the north and below normal elsewhere, with the snowiest periods in late November, early and mid-December, and mid-January.

Pacific Northwest

Winter will be rainier than normal. Temperatures will be below normal in the north and above normal in the south, with the coldest periods in early and mid- to late December and mid- to late January. Snowfall will be above normal in the north and below normal in the south, with the snowiest periods in early December and mid-January.

Southern British Columbia

Winter will be colder than normal, with above-normal precipitation and snowfall. The coldest periods will be in early and mid- to late December and mid- to late January, with the snowiest periods in early and mid-December and mid-January.

Upper Mid-West

Winter will be colder than normal, with the coldest periods in mid-December, through most of January, and in early and late February. Precipitation will be a bit above normal in the east and below normal in the west, with snowfall above normal from Minneapolis eastward and below normal in the west. The snowiest periods will be in early to mid- and mid- to late December, mid-January, and early to mid- and late February.

Appalachians

Winter will be slightly warmer than normal, with near-normal precipitation and above-normal snowfall. The coldest periods will be in early to mid-January, from late January through early February, and in mid- to late February. The snowiest periods will be in mid-November, late January, and early to mid-February.

The Rockies

Winter temperatures will be above normal, with precipitation a bit below normal. The coldest periods will be in early and mid- to late December and mid- to late January. Snowfall will be above normal in the north and below normal elsewhere, with the snowiest periods in late November, early and mid-December, and mid-January.

Ed note: The Old Famers Almanac has been predicting weather patterns since 1792 based on a secret formula created by their founder, Robert B. Thomas. The Old Farmers Almanac claims to have 80% accuracy in their forecasts, which are determined though the use of three scientific disciplines: solar science, the study of sunspots and other solar activity; climatology, the study of prevailing weather patterns; and meteorology, the study of the atmosphere.

Check out more weather posts here!

Overall, the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts the 2017-2018 winter season will be a bit cooler than the 2016-2017 season. Although the weather is predicted to be mild, it may be more rainy and snowy than the previous year.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, residents in the Northeast Region, which includes portions of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont, can expect a mild and snowy winter during the 2017-2018 season.

Region 2, which is along the Atlantic Corridor, and includes Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia, can expect a mild and wet winter season.

The Appalachian Region, which includes portions of Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, and Region 4, which is in the Southeast Region and includes portions of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, are also expected to have a mild and wet winter season.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac weather team predicts that Region 5, which includes a majority of the state of Florida, will experience an unusually mild and wet winter as well.

Residents in the Lower Lakes Region, which includes portions of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, can expect cool temperatures and moderate snowfall.

Region 7, which is in the Ohio Valley, and includes portions of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, are expected to have a mild, but snowy, winter.

The 2017-2018 winter weather predictions for the Deep South Region, which includes portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee, range from cold and snowy to cold and wet.

Residents in Region 9, which is the Upper Midwest Region, and includes portions of Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, are expected to have a dry and mild winter overall.

The Heartland Region, which includes portions of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, will likely experience a mild and snowy winter this season.

Residents in Region 11, which is the Texas-Oklahoma region and includes portions of New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, are expected to have a mild to cold and snowy winter.

The High Plains Region, which includes portions of Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, is predicted to have a snowy winter, with conditions ranging from mild to colder than average.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Region 13, or the Intermountain Region, which includes portions of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, will likely experience a cold and snowy winter season.

The Desert Southwest Region, which includes portions of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, will likely have cold and wet conditions during the winter season.

Residents in Region 15, which is in the Pacific Northwest, including portions of California, Oregon, and Washington, are expected to experience an overall cold and dry winter.

The Old Farmers Almanac 2016 – Old Farmer’s Almanac | Almanacs… https://t.co/7IB0Sxy2D5 #AlmanacsampYearbooks pic.twitter.com/AP3tEGgDic

— Peggy (@peggyarnol) August 20, 2017

The Pacific Southwest, which includes portions of California, is expected to be cold and wet throughout the 2017-2018 winter season.

Region 17, which is the state of Alaska, will likely experience a mild winter weather season with normal snowfall.

Hawaii, which is Region 18, is expected to have a cool and rainy winter.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac remains one of the longest-running and most popular publications in the United States. Although the accuracy of the winter weather predictions for 2017-2018 is uncertain at this time, it is always interesting to take a look at the publication’s long-term forecast.

Long range

Long range forecasts provide information about expected future atmospheric and oceanic conditions, averaged over periods of one to three months. Like the medium and extended ranges, the long range forecasts are produced by the IFS coupled ocean-atmosphere model. Long term predictions rely on aspects of Earth system variability which have long time scales (months to years) and are, to a certain extent, predictable. The most important of these is the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) cycle. Although ENSO is a coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon centred over the tropical Pacific the influence of its fluctuations extends around the world. Many other sources of predictability are also represented by the forecast system.

Long range forecasts are released every month and extend seven months in the future. Annual range forecasts are produced with the same system every three months, and extend thirteen months in the future.

Long and annual range forecast charts.

SEAS5

The fifth generation of the ECMWF seasonal forecasting system, SEAS5, was introduced in November 2017, replacing System 4. SEAS5 includes updated versions of the atmospheric (IFS) and ocean (NEMO) models and adds the interactive sea ice model LIM2.

SEAS5 data is contributed to the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s multi-system seasonal forecast.

Documentation

Please provide feedback on the SEAS5 user guide, so it can continue to be improved.

  • Article describing SEAS5 submitted to Geoscientific Model Development
  • SEAS5 uses IFS cycle 43r1

EUROSIP multi-model system

The EUROSIP multi-model seasonal forecasting system consists of a number of independent coupled seasonal forecasting systems integrated into a common framework. From March 2017 the systems include those from ECMWF, the Met Office, Météo-France, NCEP and JMA.

For more information see the documentation of the EUROSIP system.

EUROSIP multi-model forecast charts

ECMWF Seasonal forecast system operational history

System 4

System 3

  • Operational from March 2007 to October 2011
  • System 3 user guide
  • System 3 article in Climate Dynamics
  • System 3 technical memorandum

System 2

  • Operational from to January 2002 to February 2007
  • System 2 user guide

System 1

  • Produced forecasts from January 1997 to December 2001
  • System 1 user guide

October may have ranked as one of the warmest on record for much of New England, but with temperatures finally dropping this month, winter seems to be officially on its way just in time for the holiday season.

Forecasters nationally and locally are keeping an eye on La Nina, a climate pattern that is creating some uncertainty surrounding exactly how cold it will be and how much snow accumulation the region will experience.

Here are some weather predictions from national and local forecasters for the 2017-2018 winter season.

The Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that the East Coast, including New England, will likely see warmer-than-normal temperatures.

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In terms of snowfall, the forecast is less clear. New England has an equal chance of seeing above, near, or below normal precipitation, according to NOAA.

“Our models are kind of waffling in that area,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, told The Boston Globe.

The weather forecasting company says a chilly winter with an above-normal snow season is ahead for the Northeast.

“Areas in the I-95 corridor will average close to normal, within a few inches,” AccuWeather forecaster Paul Pastelok said. “Areas away from the I-95 corridor have a better chance at a big snowfall.”

But Boston may not be included in that average corridor. Early snow predictions for Boston are calling for six inches or more above average, according to AccuWeather.

Farmer’s Almanac

The Farmer’s Almanac is also forecasting snowier-than-normal conditions in the Northeast. In terms of temperature, the almanac says that the region will experience more “normal” cold temperatures.

“Of particular note, for those readers rooting for shovels, we are red-flagging the 2018 dates of January 20-23, February 4-7 & 16-19, and March 1-3 & 20-23 along the Atlantic Seaboard for some heavy precipitation,” the weather guide said.

Dave Epstein

Epstein said in his winter forecast that when November is colder than average, which looks like it may be the case this month, the odds of an average or somewhat snowier than average winter increase.

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But he said a weak La Nina usually makes things unpredictable.

“A cold November on the heels of a mild September and October increases the odds of a somewhat snowier winter, but confidence is lower than average in this year’s forecast,” Epstein told Boston.com. “In other words, expect the unexpected.”

CBS Boston meteorologist Eric Fisher is forecasting that the winter will be “front-loaded,” meaning he expects the biggest cold and snow chances to occur during the first part of the season, with milder temperatures occurring during January and February.

“If I had to peg a number in Boston, I would go with 40″ this winter (+/- 5″),” he wrote in the station’s November forecast. “Around 75″ in the snow belt zones of central and northern Mass, 15-30″ Cape Cod and the South Coast, and a big year across northern New England.”

How the winter shapes up, he said, depends on the month of December.

“If we go through December and the snow isn’t falling, then I feel like we could really bust with a weak winter,” Fisher said. “As long as we start bringing on the snowflakes as expected, we should be able to do fine before a mid to late season thaw.”

Fisher’s colleague, Barry Burbank, is forecasting a “challenging winter” for the region and between 45 and 55 inches of snow in Boston for the season.

NBC Boston and NECN

The forecasting team for both Boston stations is predicting overall warmer-than-average temperatures for New England this winter, with some bursts of intense cold at times. The meteorologists are also forecasting the “ingredients will be in place” for a blizzard or two with the potential clashes in temperature, raising the possibility that the region will see more precipitation than normal for the season.

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“With global warming pulling the strings, no three months are the same and no theme seems to resonate for the entire season,” meteorologist Pete Bouchard said. “We’ll see our fair share of snow — likely running above normal thanks to jacked up storms — but we’ll have our outrageous thaws and at least one or two numbing blasts of arctic air.”

His colleague, Tim Kelley, said he’s expecting New England to experience “an extreme winter” and says area residents should also be prepared for at least a serious ice storm or two.

How Much Snow Will We Get? NBC Boston’s Winter Forecast

It’s around this time every year that the talk about weather shifts to the inevitable question: “What do you think winter will be like this year?”

This age-old question is one every member of our weather team at NBC Boston and necn hears, and every meteorologist is happy to take a stab at.

Of course, we take these educated guesses within the framework of statistics — and the numbers aren’t strongly in our favor/ While seasonal forecasts are, thankfully, correct more than 50 percent of the time, it’s not by much.

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“Winter forecasts are a tough nut to crack,” says meteorologist Pete Bouchard, “Say mild, and everyone expects rain. Say cold, and everyone expects snow. Say what you will, but I’ve always thought seasonal forecasts are too difficult to sum up in a few sentences — never mind how they are perceived by the public. A couple of big snowstorms, and everyone thinks it was a snowy winter.”

While our team crafts New England’s only 10-day forecast with average error of only 4 to 5 degrees a week and a half out, even those forecasters who devote their entire lives to seasonal forecasting only get marginally better results than a coin flip. Still, that does mean the forecasts are right more than they are wrong, and getting better as technology — and our understanding of the atmosphere — improves.

So, with the largest weather team in New England, does this give us an advantage, or just a lot of different opinions? Fortunately, much like our 10-day forecasts, our team is mostly on the same page, and eager to merge our ideas when they differ:

Tim Kelley starts out by looking back over the weather that got us to where we are now.

“Last winter was what I call the whiplash winter, we built up the greatest snow-pack, the fastest since 1969, in the mountains of Northern New England. Then a mid-February ‘heatwave’ eroded 30 to 60 percent of that snow.”

“Then in an amazing comeback, we actually had a typical March, which was snowier than most of the other months of winter for the higher elevations of the northeast.” Tim continues. “As summer set in, the thing that struck me most was how cold it was in Quebec, Labrador, and Greenland, where it seemed like the snow was never going to end. There was a giant iceberg of Newfoundland for most of June and July — I wondered if it completely melted at all. That cold pattern had me recalling the summers of both 2013 and 2014. In each of those summers it seemed like winter never ended in northern and eastern Canada. The following two winters were extreme, 2013-2014 in the Great Lakes, then 2014-2015 in New England.”

Although past performance doesn’t equate to a predictor in the world of weather, our team does use what are called “analogs” in our forecasts, both day-to-day and looking at seasons ahead. Analog patterns are similar patterns that happened in the past: when did the jet stream look like this? When did the temperature pattern across the country, the hemisphere, the globe look like this? What type of weather was observed in those similar setups in the past, and does it seem possible that could happen again? If you can find an analog, you have a metaphorical thread you can pull to see what might unravel.

Tim chimes in again, pulling that thread: “At the Blue Hill Observatory, 2017 was the warmest October on record, beating out 1947 and 1963, among other years. Looking back at the winter of 1947-1948, it was a record for snowfall up to that time, 63.2 inches at Central Park in New York City. The winter of 1963-1964 also evolved into an extreme winter, with heavy snows from Texas to the East Coast, including some all-time record snowfall, including a blizzard of note here in the Northeast in January, and the ‘Crown of Winter’ storm in March. And this new record we tied this week in Boston for longest streak of 40 degree or warmer days at 201 consecutive days matches up — this warm streak tied 1968 as the longest such streak. The winter of 1968-1969 went on to be the snowiest winter on record (still standing) in the mountains of New England.”

Not only can we gain insight from past years of weather, but also by looking at how the pattern is setting up now, in autumn. There was a time when the winter jet stream pattern would lock in for the season in November, giving a really good idea of how the season’s weather would shake out. That’s tougher now.

One reality I’ve noticed over the past several winters is the abundance of warmth in the atmosphere — with very noteworthy exceptions. The past several winters have shown above normal temperatures for so much of the Northern Hemisphere, but always with a couple of persistent, almost semi-permanent pools of colder-than-normal air and associated snow. That same pattern has already set up over the last few months, seen in the map here — a display of how warmer and colder-than-normal atmospheric temperature through the lowest 20,000 feet, averaged over the last three months.

Notice all of the warm colors — lots of warmer-than-normal places and very small colder-than-normal areas. This makes it pretty tough to get a colder than normal winter, because even the more intense bursts of cold are relatively small and remain transient.

Michael Page agrees: “Given the atmospheric setup, it seems like a very good bet winter will end up being warmer-than-average on the whole, even with typical colder periods mixed in.”

Pete adds, “While the cold will be short-lived, the warm-ups will dominate longer thanks to frequent flexes from what we call stratospheric warming (brought about by diminished ice in the Arctic).” That stratospheric warming — warming in very high altitudes — has been shown to send bundles of extremely cold air southward from the North Pole, and was a driving force behind the now-infamous “Polar Vortex.”

Jackie Layer came to Boston from the Midwest, and remembers that intense cold well: “My first winter in the Midwest back in 2013-2014, which finished in the top five snowiest and coldest on record for northern Indiana and southwest Michigan, even the Great Lakes reached a new record high in terms of percentage of the lakes that froze over.”

“I will never forget just how cold -40 degree wind chills felt when I had to start my car multiple times overnight to ensure that: 1) my car wasn’t completely covered by blowing and drifting snow, 2) frozen shut (the trunk was completely frozen shut by 10 p.m.), and 3) it would be drivable when I had to go into work the next morning at 4 a.m.”

Keep in mind: if our team is right and we see warmer-than-normal temperatures with incursions of intense cold from time to time, those warm/cold clashes create storms, meaning incursions of cold will increase the likelihood for periods of moisture-laden, active storms.

“At the same time,” adds Tim, “thanks to such a warm first part of autumn, the sea surface temperatures off the eastern United States are well above climatological average. Also, the Great Lakes have some of the warmest water we’ve ever seen for this time of year. When extra cold air moves over extra cold water we can expect extra strong storms.”

Chris Gloninger says Northern Hemisphere warmth has already had an impact, even this early in the snow season — overseas — but has shown signs of turning around in the last few weeks. “During my time in college at Plymouth State (University), I studied patterns to try and accurately predict seasonal snowfall. One of those methods? Looking at snow cover thousands of miles away in Eurasia! With data reaching back to 1970, you can find a recurring pattern —when there is significant snowfall across Eurasia early in the season, expect a snowy winter in New England.”

“Well, if you were looking to make this forecast in early October, there would have been a lot of disappointed snow lovers. In the recent weeks, we saw a MAJOR turnaround. There has been a significant amount of snow in that part of the world. So, if you look at that statistic, expect average to above average snowfall this winter!”

Chris isn’t alone in looking outside the country for clues — Tim focuses on Canada.

“And the most recent development is early this November, the northern hemispheric snow cover going one standard deviation above ‘normal’ in the first six days of the month,” Tim says. “Across Canada and the northwestern United States, the early November snow cover is close to two standard deviation’s above climatological average. That means that any discharge from the north pole is going to be crossing land that’s covered with snow and ice, therefore delivering shots of colder weather than you might normally see this time of year.”

In our weather specials over the past year, Pete covered New England’s historic drought extensively, but he agrees with Chris that we should see above normal precipitation this winter, and probably above normal snow in a fluctuating pattern.

“With global warming pulling the strings, no three months are the same and no theme seems to resonate for the entire season,” Pete says. “We’ll see our fair share of snow — likely running above normal thanks to jacked up storms — but we’ll have our outrageous thaws and at least one or two numbing blasts of arctic air. While the cold will be short-lived, the warm-ups will dominate longer thanks to frequent flexes from what we call stratospheric warming (brought about by diminished ice in the Arctic). With La Niña at play, the West (U.S. and Canada) is favored for more frequent spells of cold and we’re favored for warmth. But here’s the catch. Weak La Niñas favor more acute regions of cold/warm, while strong La Niñas seem to mellow the extremes and flood the Lower 48 with mild air.”

La Niña? La Niña is the opposite of El Niño, but both represent changes in Pacific ocean temperature and barometric pressure. In an El Niño weather pattern, warm ocean water expands across the Pacific Ocean, near the equator, while La Niña sees colder water temperatures. With the Pacific Ocean so expansive, changes in water temperature surely can mean changes in atmospheric steering wind, too, and that can alter weather patterns, especially in North America.

“With the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center issuing an announcement in early October that a La Niña Oscillation is likely panning out in the equatorial Pacific,” adds Jackie, “that pattern usually slides the Jetstream across the Midwest, slightly southward tapping into the Tennessee Valley, and then northward into New England, as opposed to an El Niño pattern that would favor a polar jet stream to slide it’s way southward into northern New England and oscillate southward at times.”

Noting the abundant warmth could make above-normal snowfall a challenge, Michael adds, “I have a hard time seeing anything to suggest we’re in for a super snowy year; seems like near normal (with a little wiggle room on either side) is reasonable.”

Personally, I tend to agree for Southern New England, in particular, as the warm ocean water and the warm atmosphere, in general, argue for multiple events of snow changing to mix or rain this winter, especially if storm tracks resembling our rare, damaging wind “sou’easter” continue — even a shift just off the coastline as nor’easters could make it tough to hold big cold in Southern New England when storms come calling.

Of course, we all realize that when it comes to seasonal snowfall, one or two extreme storms can make literally all the difference.

“Add up all of these factors, and it leads me to believe that we are going to have an extreme winter. Very powerful storms, with more than one blizzard. Also, strong, cold high-pressure systems that pass to our north generate lower layer heavy cold air in the valleys of New England, so I would also expect a serious ice storm or two,” adds Tim.

Jackie adds support. “With the fluctuating temperatures, I wouldn’t be surprised with a couple of ice storms.”

In set-ups like these, often we see a zone of heavy snow well north of the storm track, so we’ll watch Southern Canada and Northern New England to fall into a heavier snow belt, north of the mixed precipitation zone.

So, putting it all together, our NBC Boston and necn weather team calls for warmer-than-average temperatures overall this winter, interrupted by a few surges of intense cold.

Multiple mixed precipitation events — some of the storms intense to extreme — will make for more precipitation than normal, and, particularly as the occasional surges of intense cold depart, the ingredients will be in place for a blizzard or two as the cold/warm clash rages, in a tendency back to warm.

This adds up to a solid ski and snowmobile season in the North Country, and a messy pattern favorable for slushy travel days in Central New England and big fluctuations in temperature, breeding extra potholes in Southern New England, even if the depth of snow on the ground is more limited than in some years for those southern areas.

Residents of the Mid-Atlantic region may want to pull out snow shovels and stock up on rock salt now. Businesses on the other hand, may need to be sure they have their commercial snow removal contracts in place according to the 2018 Winter Weather Prediction for the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Our Meteorologists and according to Accuweather, the 2017-2018 winter will bring a hefty dose of snow and ice to the Mid-Atlantic states. Coastal areas around the I-95 corridor will see close to average amounts of snowfall, but those areas farther inland could see substantial accumulation beyond a normal year.

Just a bit farther north, New York City and Boston are expected to receive up to six inches of snow above their average winter precipitation amounts. A slight change in the forecast could bring some of that extra snow into the Mid-Atlantic region.

Meteorologists expect a weak La Niña weather pattern to influence winter weather this year. A La Niña pattern occurs when the waters of the Pacific Ocean grow cooler than normal (the opposite of an El Niño pattern, which features higher than normal temperatures in the Pacific).

Seasonal Cycles

While seasonal cycles tend to weaken during an El Niño, a La Niña pattern exaggerates the seasonal cycles, meaning colder winters in parts of the northern United States, particularly late in the season. La Niña patterns also tend to bring more moisture across the northern half of the U.S., producing greater amounts of winter precipitation.

Experts predict only a mild cooling of the Pacific this year, so temperatures aren’t expected to drop much below average in the Mid-Atlantic. However, most forecasters are still predicting enough extra moisture in the air for parts of the region to see above average snow and ice.

In all likelihood, the 2017-2018 winter season is likely to be colder and wetter than the previous winters. Since Mother Nature can be unpredictable, we recommend planning ahead.

At Sauers, we can help you prepare for the 2018 Winter Weather Prediction with our comprehensive snow response plans and risk management services.

Contact us to request a free on-site evaluation.

Photo source: NOAA