What will this winter be like? Two Forecasts for Winter in your Region

UPDATE: Find out which forecast won HERE.

Let’s get this out of the way first. This is for winter 2014-2015. Hello everyone, Since last year’s post on the winter forecast was so popular, I’ve decided to do it again. This time, I’m going to look at two totally different winter forecasts; one from the European Centre of Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and another from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The ECMWF is my personal favorite weather model. It’s a true example of getting out what you put in. The Europeans put big money into this model and it’s stellar. It was the only model to nail Hurricane Sandy’s landfall location 72 hours out. The American Global Forecasting System (GFS) is comparable, especially since its recent overall, but in my experiences “the Euro” is always a little better. That being said, there is one definite advantage to the GFS: you can get its data for free. Go HERE, to NCEP’s Central Operations to view American model data. For the Euro you will have to go through third-party sources like WeatherBell. Well the ECMWF also published long-range, seasonal forecasts. These use climatology and a series of climate patterns, the most famous of which is the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The images I am using for this blog were taken from Brett Anderson’s blog on AccuWeather.com. He took the ECMWF long-range data and turned it into some easy-to-follow images. To look at this blog entry, follow this link.

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The “almanacs” (Old Famer’s AND Farmers’… yes, there’s two)  are a constant annoyances to me as a meteorologist. Every autumn people can’t stop talking about what they predicts for the winter, and its accuracy always turns out to be comparable to tossing dice. Remember the big snowstorm predicted by The Farmer’ Almanac for the Super Bowl last year? It didn’t happen. But here we are again and everyone is clambering for a winter season forecast. So lets compare these two forecasting “systems” are saying for winter in your region, and you decided which one you should trust for Winter 2015-2016. For the full Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasts go here. I’m going to do this by breaking down the regions into The Farmer’s Almanac’s 17 regions for the continental United States and Alaska (sorry Hawaii). I will also be covering December, January, and February (meteorological winter).

Climate Regions, as dictated by the The Old Farmer's Almanac
Climate Regions, as dictated by the The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Northeast ECMWF:  Wet and Stormy throughout the season, especially for southern New England. Most of this precipitation should fall as snow as temperatures are near average for December but colder than normal in January and February. Almanac:  A very cold winter. Average temperatures 5 degrees below normal in January. A very wet, and presumably snowy December, but a dry January and February.

Precipitation and Temperature departures for the Northeast
Precipitation and Temperature departures for the Northeast

Atlantic Corridor ECMWF:  Wet weather and mild temperatures make for a rainy December. The rest of the winter is just as wet and stormy but temperatures are below average. Expect above-average snow totals. Almanac: No warm December here. Temperatures are below average throughout the winter, especially in January. December is is very wet, January is fairly dry, and February is close to average. Appalachians ECMWF: Like the Northeast and Atlantic Corridor, this winter is looking wet for the Appalachians. Expect rain to fall in December as temperatures will be mild. In January and February temperatures will be below average and the snow should pile up. Almanac: December and January are very cold. December is slightly wetter than typical (snow perhaps?); January and February will be on the dry side. Southeast ECMWF: A warm December and a cold January. January and February will be rainy. Almanac: Cold, cold December and January. No major departures from normal with precipitation.

almanac southeast
Precipitation and Temperature departures for the Northeast

Florida ECMWF:  A warm December throughout the state. January may be a little wetter than average around Tallahassee. Miami expected to have a warm February. Almanac:  Very cold in December and January. January should be very rainy. An average February. Lower Lakes ECMWF:  A wet, possibly snowy December. January is forecasted to be dry. The Euro has February as average to cold temperature-wise. Almanac: Cold and dry in December and January. February is close to average, slightly snowier if anything. Ohio Valley ECMWF:  December is wet with temperatures slightly above average. January and February are cold. Almanac:  December and January are very cold. January is very dry.

Temperature and precipitation departures for the Ohio Valley.
Precipitation and Temperature departures for the Ohio Valley.

Deep South ECMWF:  December looks warm for Alabama. January looks wet and cold. February just looks wet. Almanac:  Colder than average in December and January. Drier than average in January and February. Upper Midwest ECMWF:  December looks wetter and usual. January is uncertain. This means there was very little agreement between model runs. February looks to be near average. Almanac:  Slightly colder than average in January and February. Slightly wetter in December and February. Heartland (clearly not a scientifically-named region) ECMWF: A wetter than average December. A cold January in Nebraska and Missouri. February may be cold as well. Almanac: A slightly drier than average winter. February may be on the warm side. Texas-Oklahoma (although it contains neither all of Texas or all of Oklahoma) ECMWF: A cold January. Everything else looks average. Almanac: Average as well. February may be slightly on the warm side.

almanac texas_okla
Precipitation and Temperature departures for the Texas-Oklahoma region.

High Plains ECMWF:  A cold December in eastern Montana. January in uncertain and February is seasonably average. Almanac:  Average, average, average! Sorry but the Almanac is not predicting any significant departures from normal this winter. Intermountain ECMWF:  December is a cold one in Montana. The southern tier of this region is wetter in December. January is uncertain and February is average. I understand the frustration in seeing “uncertain” here, but its important to distinguish between a 50/50 cold/warm split and good model agreement for average temperatures. Almanac: A warm winter, especially in January and February. January is wet and February is very wet. Desert Southwest ECMWF: December is warm and maybe a little wet. El Nino conditions should enhance rainfall across the region. No major departures expected in January or February. Almanac: Above-average rainfall doesn’t arrive until February. January and February are slightly on the warm side. Overall the winter looks pretty average. Pacific Northwest ECMWF:  A wet December, especially in Oregon. January is warm and dry. February is wet in Oregon and dry in Washington. Almanac: A warm winter for sure. January looks a lot rainier than average.

Precipitation and Temperature departures for the Texas-Oklahoma region.

Pacific Southwest ECMWF:  December looks wet, and we all will certainly be crossing our fingers that this verifies. California is in the midst of a truly devastating and historic drought. January and February looks warm. February could be wetter than average for northern California. Almanac:  a warmer than average winter, although not by too much. January is slightly on the wet side. I will certainly be rooting for the ECMWF to win in this case. Alaska ECMWF:  A warm winter is predicted by the ECMWF for Alaska. Northern Alaska is warm in December while Juneau looks cold and dry. The entire state looks very warm and very stormy in January. These are potentially some very dangerous conditions here. February is also warm across the state. Almanac:  The Old Farmer’s Almanac also has December and February to be warm in Alaska. However, it has January as seasonable. December looks very dry while January and February are close to average

The Old Farmer's Almanac Winter Forecast for 2014-2015
The Old Farmer’s Almanac Winter Forecast for 2014-2015. If you notice some differences between the Almanac’s seasonal forecast and the month-by-month forecasts, my hunch is that it is because the Almanac is using the winter solstice and spring equinox to bound the winter season. Although that is a common practice, meteorological winter is December 1st til February 28th (or 29th).

I hope you all enjoyed reading these seasonal forecasts. In March we will have to revisit this post and see how both the ECMWF and Almanac performed. It should make for some interesting results. Have a great winter! ~Wildcard



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