The most read items I publish on this blog are weather related. Especially when it comes to winter forecasting. This is going to be another one of those blog entries.
Matthew Holliday from FirstHandWeather.com has put forth his first significant look at the coming winter in is ‘Early Winter 2015-2016 Winter Forecast’ item he published on Sunday.
That link will take you to his write up and Matthew always does a good job of ‘saying things so people can understand thayem’ (written in my best Forest Gump). I will add that he typically hedges himself well, layout out cases for both sides of the possibility spectrum, but I find some value in his winter outlooks.
Here is the thing I will sample from his write up, and again I encourage you to click on the link above to read it all for yourself:
When I first saw Matthew’s map and without reading anything, I thought ‘this is an archetype El Nino forecast’. I’ve studied these quite a bit given what I do for a living. Below is a graphic I posted last spring when El Nino was being bandied about, to help folks see what a ‘typical’ El Nino winter could mean for the US.
Warning: There probably isn’t a ‘typical’ El Nino winter because not all El Nino’s are the same. Last year we saw a ‘Modoki’ El Nino…and in Japanese, Modoki means ‘different, but the same’. How about that?
Yet there are typical themes that emerge for El Nino winters, or areas that can expect a higher probability of certain types of weather. I think Matthew is leaning towards the typical El Nino pattern here, with a few noteworthy points I want to highlight:
GULF OF ALASKAN WARM POOL: If you have been reading my missives for any length of time, you have seen me mention the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf of Alaska related to Sea Surface Temperatures a number of times. The reason is simple; IT’S ONE OF THE BIGGEST HARBINGERS OF NORTH AMERICAN WINTERS. When we have a large pool of warm SST’s in this location, you get ridging there. When you get ridging there, you get a trough on the back side. When you get a trough on the back side, you get the Polar Jets stream diving down into the eastern half of the United States, just as we have seen the past two winters. These past two winters were really similar, it’s just that last year’s Pacific Northwest ridge set up a few hundred more miles to the east than it did the previous year, which pushed the core of the most cold air farther to the east. The result was record/near record HDD’s (Heating Degree Days) for the folks in the Northeast over the June-February time frame.
As of right now, we are seeing a very, very impressive swath of above normal/warm SST’s in the Gulf of Alaska, one of the factors we want for the best shot at a cold North American winter.
You’ve seen me write about the Siberian Snowpack Effect, right? It’s some interesting research that tries to link the October snowpack in Siberia to what type of winter we might see in North America. I have been look at this for a few years, reading about it, and I am siding with WeatherBELL.com’s Joe Bastardi as it relates to what the Siberian Effect is…it’s actually not a driver of weather/climate, but a symptom of climate conditions…and those conditions? Warm SST’s in the Gulf of Alaska. If you have that warm water there, you are more likely to have excessive Siberian Snowpack. So (Joe believes) the snow is a climate teleconnection; weather anomalies being related to each other at large distances. I think that makes the most sense.
As mentioned, Matthew is taking the Pacific Northwestern warm SST pool into account. From the article:
“…it’s worth pointing out that the northeast Pacific warm pool does have the capability to override about any climate signal that may influence the overall pattern in the U.S., even El Nino to an extent.”
TIMING OF EL NINO: This El Nino began earlier than most, which has several meteorologists wondering if this El Nino could fade near the start of winter. If that were to happen and if the warm pool in the Pacific Northwest stays in place, then you would see a winter more similar to what we have experienced the last two years.
The most important thing to continue to monitor will be the SST’s in the Gulf of Alaska, and I will be doing just that.
You’ll typically see solid HDD winters in the Southeast when El Nino conditions are present, and that is likely the safest bet on the board.
One final thing to add for this post: Bastardi made a post recently that was certainly less bullish than he has been pursuant to the coming winter, based on some model runs that have been reliable in the past. The strength and intensity of this El Nino is nearly off the charts, so much so the computer models don’t know what to do with it. Matthew’s predictions, while not so sexy or trailblazing, those might be the safest calls to make for this year. I would wager right now that the National Weather Service is going to go that route since it’s the safest trail to take and especially after flaming out badly last winter. The Washington Post has an informative El Nino post from today that is also worth your time.
I get the feeling that due to such things, we could be flying more blindly into this winter than might normally be the case. I am still going to watch the things I watch and I will still share items with you when I think they have significance…but the next 8 months of weather will be fascinating to watch unfold and to see how they impact an oversupplied propane industry.
LATE ADDITION: This is a great shot. Notice the shot on the right, and the much warmer waters around Alaska in July 2015 than in November 1997. If you want a cold winter, you want that area to stay red
— NWS (@NWS) July 21, 2015