Depending on where you live or who you ask, the winter season can begin in a variety of ways. It could be the first snowfall, the end of Daylight Savings, or simply December 21st: the first day of astronomical winter. But for meteorologists, the answer is always December 1st. For us, winter is clearly delineated by the beginning of December and the end of February. Therefore, just in time for winter I wanted to share some seasonal forecasts.
First, some important notes. These are not my forecasts: they come from (mostly) reputable organizations. They are also forecasts for the December 2020-February 2021 time period. Now, as I grew up in New England, I am aware that winter weather is not limited to the bounds of meteorological winter. However these forecasts will not cover from March 2021 on, and they certainly don’t account for any winter weather that has occurred already. These are winter season forecasts, not winter weather forecasts. I will also mention that specific values (temperatures, snow totals, rain totals) will not be given. These are forecasts with respect to the climatological norms of a given region. The current baseline for such forecasts in the United States is the 30-year period from 1980 to 2010.
Forecast One: The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (CPC)
The US Nation Weather Service CPC (https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/) is a great resource for monthly and seasonal outlooks, drought information, and ENSO forecasts. (ENSO stands for El Nino-Southern Oscillation and is the climate pattern familiarly characterized by its El Nino and La Nina phases. We are currently in a La Nina phase that will almost definitely persist through the winter, and as you will, this is strongly reflected in the forecasts. The traditional pattern produced by a northern-hemisphere wintertime La Nina is show below. For more information about the ENSO pattern and other climate patterns, the NOAA Teleconnections page is a great place to start. (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/teleconnections/)
So with such a La Nina in place, what is the CPC forecast? Pretty similar actually. The southern tier of the continental US is forecast to remain warm and dry through the winter. This signal is particularly strong in southern New Mexico and West Texas. Where I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this forecast is particularly unwelcome news given our current drought situation. Other regions closely align to the La Nina pattern as well: the Midwest is forecast to be wet, southern Alaska is expected to be colder, and Washington state is looking like it will be both.
Of course the CPC forecast is produced using more than just the ENSO forecast, so other features mark the map. The warmer-than-average forecast for New England is immediately interesting to me and I will be curious to see if it verifies. What is the CPC forecast for your region?
Forecast Two: The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S)
The C3S (https://www.copernicus.eu/en) is part of EU’s Copernicus Earth Observation Programme and supports climate policies through free and open access to climate data. It is run by the European Centre of Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF, operators of the “Euro” model). C3S data is compiled from a variety of sources, including the ECMWF, the UK Met Office, and Meteo-France. The winter forecast I will be sharing is a multi-system combination of these sources with a reference period of 1993-2015. You can find all of the C3S seasonal charts at https://climate.copernicus.eu/charts/c3s_seasonal/.
You will notice immediately that these forecast are not smoothed for public consumption like the CPC maps. State boundaries are also gone, so unless you live on the coast you may have to do your best to find your precise location. But once you get your bearings you will notice that the C3S and CPC forecasts have a lot in common. Warm, dry conditions are forecast across the southern United States and additional precipitation is expected for the Midwest and Pacific northwest. The C3S forecast also predicts southern Alaska to be cold and the entire eastern seaboard to be warm. The only real difference I see is the northern rockies and plains, where the C3S is forecasting warmer-than-average temperatures and the CPC forecasts it to be colder. In both cases however the forecast signal was not particularly strong, indicating that the region could go either way.
Forecast Three: The Old Farmer’s Almanac
It just wouldn’t be fun without throwing in a Farmer’s Almanac. Yes, there’s both a Farmer’s Almanac and an Old Farmer’s Almanac. Back in 2013 I posted about both the Farmer’s Almanac’s and the CPC’s winter forecasts for a little fun, so this time let’s go with the OFA. Outside of “solar cycles”, I’m not really sure what the OFA uses to produce these forecasts. They do seem to be accounting for “rising temperature trends” so maybe there’s hope for them yet! Editors note: The Old Farmer’s Almanac winter forecast is not a scientific publication and should not be used for anything other than entertainment purposes.
Sign me up for some pelting and melting!
I hope you all have a great winter. Please stay safe and enjoy the season. Hopefully I will be back soon.