Thursday, December 3, 2015

Winter Outlook 2015-16

Here we are just a little more than two weeks from the start of winter and we've already had some very interesting things happen. First, the 20 inches of snow for Atwood/Colby, and then the Thanksgiving ice storm that damaged trees and knocked out power to some areas of central and southern Kansas. And we keep hearing about this "Godzilla" El Niño. That's not the only thing to consider when looking long range. Why can't we look back to the last strong El Niño and make a prediction solely off of that? Each event is definitely different, and there are so many factors. It's not easy and we hesitate to make long range predictions because of the fear we will be completely wrong. I still like doing these winter forecasts because it's very interesting and fascinating to me and I think there is a very high level of interest in understanding what could be ahead.

The El Niño is significant to say the least. In the map below (and you can click on any image to enlarge it), I've highlighted the area that is monitored for El Niño and La Niña. Water temperatures are right at 3° Celsius warmer than normal in that region, and this will likely be the strongest ever recorded. While 3° degrees may not sound like much, it has a profound impact on the weather pattern. It also impacts wildlife and fish behavior, which brings up other topics of discussion that we won't get into here.

One of the other factors taken into account for this long range prediction is the Arctic Oscillation (called "AO" for short). I've mentioned it before here on the blog, but just as a refresher, here's why it's important. When the AO is positive, we generally have milder stretches of weather because the bitterly cold air is locked up near the Arctic. When we see it go negative, the eastern two-thirds of the country become quite cold and it can last for a week or two at a time. In fact, it can be warmer near the Arctic than in the US when we see a negative trend in the AO.

Given that we've had such a positive AO this fall and still today, I'm leaning more toward this trend throughout the winter. Sure, there may be some occasional instances of it going negative and it getting cold for a bit, but the overall thought is that we will end up positive for much of the winter. Therefore, I'm leaning toward above normal temperatures throughout the winter.

The El Niño influence will keep us busy from now all the way into next summer. We will likely continue to see one storm right after another throughout the season. Some of them will be quite strong (like the one that caused tornadoes and blizzard conditions) I would expect these storms to mature right over the 4 Corners area and into the Plains. When storms mature near our area, we can get hammered with all kinds of weather. And I think you'll see that happen several times between now and the end of March.

Bottom line here is that this should be a very interesting winter for most of the Plains. If you have questions, please feel free to ask. It's enjoyable looking into these long range patterns.


Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts for the Hays area?

newly said... you forsee any large snowstorms for wichita?

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