I could go back over previous winter when the months of December and January were complete duds, but then February went absolutely crazy. Just because it happened certain winters doesn’t mean it’ll happen this winter, but it does definitely happen. This winter has just had a difficult time staying in the pattern that I was expecting it to be in for most of this season, but it has been trying ALL winter. That tells me that I have definitely been onto something, but something else has been pushing things back. That also tells me that we still have the opportunity to snap into that pattern, and what is currently taking place does give me hope that that is going to eventually happen.
I still believe that the warmer waters over the northeastern Pacific have been a big driver this winter, but the biggest difference between this winter and the last is that there have been some things pushing this winter pattern back. I have put out an explanation for this all winter, and we have continued to have a difficult time overcoming that. We have had very cold air over the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. but not at the same time that moisture has been over certain regions. So, it’s either been wet and too warm or cold and too dry. That makes seasonal outlooks kind of deceptive because technically, a group of meteorologists can be right on their seasonal outlooks but wrong on what took place to make things come out right.
Do I Believe February Will Be Active and Stormy?
From what I can see right now, the answer to the above question is yes. At the least, ridging will continue to build up over the West Coast and Alaska. Even with a marginal AO/NAO, troughing will be able to setup over the central and particularly, the eastern United States. We’ve had a difficult time getting any true blocking over Greenland, but we didn’t have that last year either. The big ridge up over a Alaska (a negative EPO) dominated last winter, and with a weaker polar vortex, a piece of the vortex continuously broke off and pushed southward.
Sometimes, the overall pattern can be so cold that it suppresses storms way to the south, and most of the United States just ends up with bitter cold and dry weather. Many times, these more volatile and constantly changing patterns bring many opportunities for snow and ice, even into the South. You may get a cold rain on numerous occasions, but more times than not, you’ll eventually score big with a winter storm. That’s what’s going on now.
There’s currently an anomalous region of troughiness west of the Baja Peninsula, and that is expected to continue into February. Pieces of energy should be able to slide under that ridge into the United States, and with sufficient cold air being available, that could lead to some fun and games down the road. In fact, we already have a big winter storm potential at the very beginning of February, and although forecast models for once agree with this, the other things that I look at to make my long-range predictions generally support this. We’ll see how things play out this weekend, and I’ll have more details in a few days if the threat still exists by then.
Most of the time, you don’t need a record-breaking, apocalyptic, non-stop, bone-chilling winter to get some major action. All it takes is an active pattern, and some cold air. Folks, there’s still plenty of hope for all you snow-lovers in the South.
Matthew Holliday (Curriculum Vitae - Resume) is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, where he completed a B.S. in Meteorology and a B.S. in Geographic Information Science. He completed his master's degree in meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University and is currently pursing a Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.