Early 2014-15 Winter Forecast: A Region-by-Region Breakdown

Update: Firsthand Weather’s final 2014-15 winter forecast will be released on November 2nd at 2 pm ET on this site.

This is a more simplified version of the preliminary 2014-15 winter forecast that I released on July 20th. In this post, I want to go region-by-region and tell you what I believe this winter entails for those areas. Before I do, please understand that this winter forecast is subject to change, but at this time, I am fairly confident in my current predictions for this upcoming winter. Only time will tell if my predictions verify, and if any changes need to be made, I will do so in my final winter forecast which will be coming out in October.

Two of the points that I made in my preliminary winter forecast was that the strength of the El Nino matters and the placement of the above-average sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific matters. That’s why you can’t come out with one of those “this is your typical weak El Nino winter maps” and call it a winter forecast. It simply won’t work. Also, there are other factors that will be big drivers of this upcoming winter because we will likely only be in a weak to weakly moderate El Nino. The warmer waters in the northern Pacific over the Gulf of Alaska could again be partially responsible for another cold winter in the central and eastern United States, while the West has above-average temperatures.

The warmest waters still remain over the eastern equatorial Pacific, while the central Pacific waters have cooled quite dramatically. I’m not too concerned about this because we’ll likely see those waters across the central Pacific really start to warm back up, while the eastern Pacific will start to see a drop-off in sea surface temperatures in the coming weeks. This is going to have to occur for the El Nino Modoki to kick in, which I have been predicting for some time now. Once those cooler waters start to surface across the eastern Pacific and the waters begin to warm back up across the central Pacific, the atmosphere will likely react in a way that drives further warmer across the central Pacific, due to a larger sea-surface temperature gradient. Many of those who were calling for the unprecedented super El Nino event to develop later this year are now trying to say that nothing could happen at all. They’ll most likely be wrong both times.

If you didn’t see my preliminary 2014-15 winter forecast, be sure to take some time to read it later by clicking here. I go into detail as to why I’m predicting what I’m predicting, but just to warn you, it is quite lengthy! Right now, allow me to break down region-by-region what you can expect for this upcoming 2014-15 winter.

Preliminary 2014-15 Winter Forecast

Firsthand Weather’s Preliminary 2014-15 Winter Forecast

Southeast: The southeastern United States will likely experience well-below average temperatures with many areas across the Southeast getting plenty of snowfall/ice/rain. Last winter, many regions saw above-average snowfall, but that doesn’t always translate to a wetter-than-average winter. This winter across the Southeast will likely be wetter-than-average for most. Because of the cold air that will likely be in place, many regions that typically do not get snow and ice will get it this year. This reminds me of what occurred in 2009-10 when many people living in the Gulf coast states saw snow who hardly ever get it. Unlike last winter, Florida will likely get in on the really cold air this year since a lot of the cold air could be more focused in the eastern U.S. Expect several big storms to move across this region this winter and impact many living in this area.

Mid-Atlantic: The Mid-Atlantic could even see a snowier winter than last winter and likely experience well-below average temperatures. This winter could rival some of the “snowpocalyptic” winters that occurred a few years back, which will likely end up making this a highly discussed topic throughout the winter. This will likely be a wetter-than-average winter for the Mid-Atlantic, and this region will likely feel the effects of low pressure systems bombing off the East Coast. This area will probably be impacted by several storms this season and may even feel the effects of a pre-season storm that may try to develop.

Northeast and Great Lakes: A good portion of the Northeast will likely experience a colder-than-average winter, but it really depends on where you’re located. Places in the northern Northeast like Maine could actually have around average temperatures and snowfall, while regions more to the south and along the coast may feel the effects of heavier snowfall and brutally cold air. The Great Lakes region will be brutally cold; however lake-effect snowfall could be considerably less this year. This was hard for me to include on my winter map, which is why I wanted to mention it here. Waters on the lakes are still very cold from this past winter with chunks of ice that were still being spotted as late as this past July 4th. This will likely have an effect on the lake-effect snow machine this upcoming winter.

Tennessee Valley & Ohio Valley: Most of this region will likely experience brutally cold temperatures with the Ohio Valley and a good portion of the Tennessee Valley having good shots at getting some heavy snowfall this year. The Ohio Valley, in particular, could have another year of average to above-average snowfall and overall, may even be wetter-than-average. The Tennessee Valley, particularly in the eastern regions, will likely have average to above average snowfall also. Sometimes, parts of this area can miss out on the good snowfall, but if this occurs, I only see this happening in the more western areas of the Tennessee Valley.

Southern Plains: The Southern Plains will also likely experience well-below average temperatures with higher-than-average snowfall/ice, and overall, most of this region will be wet, some areas more than others. This is another region that could have areas getting snowfall/ice that typically don’t get it. Several storms will likely track across this region throughout the winter with several places across Texas having a decent chance at getting some good snowfall this year. This region will be in the path of some of the Arctic blasts that will likely dive pretty far south this winter.

Northern Plains: The Northern Plains will likely be in a region that experiences brutally cold air diving south from the Arctic, but some areas will be impacted more than others, particularly eastern sections. Precipitation/snowfall could be around average, maybe even below average once you move more west. This is one of those regions that I’m a little more uncertain about and will have to watch closely as we get closer to winter.

Southwest: The Southwest may actually have a decent shot at getting some good rainfall/snowfall to help put a small dent in the drought this winter. While this region will likely have above-average temperatures overall, I’m feel pretty optimistic for the southern regions across California. The further north you get though, the drier things will get. If we do get a lot of storm systems moving through this region, that may bring the overall temperature averages down somewhat, but for now, I’m still calling for above-average temperatures.

Northwest: This region will likely be dealing with well-above average temperatures and once again, very dry conditions. This area will probably feel the effects of another winter that brings ridging over the region; therefore, warmer and drier conditions.

As I stated, some of this will change as we get closer to this winter, but for now, I think things look really good with the forecast overall. For those of you that do not follow Firsthand Weather on Facebook, you definitely want to like the page by clicking here. I will be putting MANY updates on there regarding this upcoming winter over the next several months.

Preliminary 2014-15 Winter Forecast

As I begin to prepare my winter forecast each year, my main goal is always to identify what is going to drive the upcoming winter. You may be asking yourself why in the world I would even attempt to put out a winter forecast this early. Some would even argue that seasonal forecasts are pointless and inaccurate. By putting out an early winter forecast, it allows me to take all of my research thus far on the upcoming winter and put it all together in a way that reveals to me what will likely take place this winter. I just happen to make that information freely available to you also! Seasonal forecasts can be very accurate if the right assumptions are made and if you interpret correctly what will occur as a result. If you’re wrong on your assumptions for the upcoming winter, then the forecast will likely be completely off. I will show you what I think is going to happen this upcoming winter, and why I think it will happen. I will explain all of my certainties and my uncertainties for this upcoming winter. My final winter forecast will be released in October, which will be a revised and more-detailed version of this preliminary outlook.

Preliminary 2014-15 Winter Forecast

Firsthand Weather’s Preliminary 2014-15 Winter Forecast

Most of you heard all of the talk earlier this year about the so-called super El Nino that was going to develop by this winter, but I really never bought into that happening. There’s no denying that there were similarities between this year and the developing super El Nino of 1997-98, but there were also some major differences. The atmosphere did not react in a way that would necessarily be expected for a coming strong El Nino, and we are now seeing strong indications that the upcoming winter will likely bring a weak El Nino. This means that this upcoming winter will only partially be driven by El Nino, and that there will be other potentially bigger drivers that could influence the United States winter. We saw a similar situation occur last winter, where we were in a neutral  ENSO pattern with other variables driving the winter instead.

So I need to know how strong the El Nino is going to be, and where the location of the warmest waters along the equatorial Pacific will be at this winter. No, we are not going to be going into a Super El Nino, which would have brought us an entirely different winter than we are going to get. Typically when you have stronger El Nino events, the polar jet stream stays further to the north, trapping that Arctic air north and not impacting the United States. However, when you get a weaker El Nino, that doesn’t usually happen because you have other variables that often influence the weather more. That makes it a little more tricky because you have to start identifying those other factors.

To keep things simple, you have an El Nino when sea surface temperatures are above average for an extended period of time over the east-central tropical Pacific. I wrote an article about a month ago explaining what an El Nino was and how it developed, so be sure to check that out if you have any unanswered questions. Another very important factor to take into account is where those warmer waters are located. The difference between having a more west-based vs. east-based El Nino makes a HUGE difference in what the winter will be like. Right now, the warmer waters are in the eastern Pacific, but that is going to likely shift over the next two to three months. You’ll start to notice that the region of warmer waters will be over the central Pacific, surrounded by cooler waters on both sides.

So far, I have identified two very important factors: that the El Nino will likely be weaker, and that it will likely be a more west-based El Nino, which I will refer to as El Nino Modoki. Our last El Nino Modoki occurred in 2009-10, and this phenomenon has been more common in recent decades. The reason I have went through all of this explanation is to show you why you can’t simply come to the conclusion on what the winter will be like simply by saying that it’ll be an El Nino winter. Strength and location DO matter!

Here are the predicted sea surface temperatures: one from June through August and one from December to February. Notice how the warmest temperatures shift from the eastern Pacific and move westward towards the central Pacific by this upcoming winter.

June through August

June through August

December through February

December through February

Now that you’ve had to read through all of that, allow me to start making some predictions, followed by even more explanation on why I feel so strongly about these predictions. I am seeing strong indications that the central and eastern United States will see another brutally cold winter with some areas in the eastern United States potentially getting even colder temperatures than last winter. This will partially be driven by El Nino Modoki, and I’ll explain one of the other main drivers later in this article.

When you have an El Nino Modoki, temperatures across the United States can be a lot different than what you would have with a more east-based El Nino. With an El Nino Modoki, you typically have temperatures that are above average in the Pacific Northwest and below average in the southeastern United States. Now, that’s not saying that other regions will have only average temperatures (which is far from the truth), but that the Pacific Northwest and Southeast are typically the two regions that have the largest departures from average temperatures during El Nino Modoki years. Again, the 2009-10 winter is the most recent winter where we can see this occurring as a result of this type of El Nino. Obviously, the stronger the El Nino Modoki, the more likely this is to be a main driver, but as I stated, this El Nino will likely be weaker.

I believe that El Nino is going to be a factor this year, but I don’t think it will be the only driver or even the main driver of this winter. If you look at a sea surface temperature map again, you’ll notice above average sea surface temps in the northeast Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of Alaska. You can thank those warmer temperatures for the ridging that built up over Alaska and the western United States last winter, which caused the brutally cold winter for the central and eastern United States. With the combination of the weak El Nino Modoki likely setting up and the likelihood of sea surface temperatures remaining above normal over the Gulf of Alaska, this winter could, in fact, be colder for the eastern United States than last winter, and likely just as cold in the central United States. The western United States would again have above average temperatures with the Pacific Northwest having the highest departures from average. In fact, the Pacific Northwest could be warmer than last winter, while the southwestern United States could have similar temperatures to last winter.

Notice the warmer waters over the Gulf of Alaska

Notice the warmer waters over the Gulf of Alaska

Like I stated above, some of the coldest temperatures could end up being more focused in the eastern United States, where even Florida could get in on the below-average temperatures. Florida actually generally had above-average temperatures last winter, while the rest of the East experienced bitter cold. I don’t think that this will be the case this year, as the Arctic air could push well to the South. The only exception that I see to this is Maine having average to maybe above-average temperatures, but that is still questionable and a difficult call.

The sub-tropical jet stream will likely be very active across the South, where regions from the Southern Plains to the Southeast on up to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast will likely get plenty of snow/ice this year. I do expect there to be several big storms this year, and places that typically do not get snow or ice will get it this year. I will continue to watch how strong of an El Nino takes hold, and that will play somewhat of a role as to how wet things end up being. We could have several storms that bomb off the East Coast again this year, so regions up the East Coast could get hammered. Again, areas from the Southern Plains to the Southeast will likely get snow/ice, and there will likely end up being a lot of talk about how unusual this upcoming winter is for those areas.

Southern California and surrounding regions will likely get some relief from the drought as I expect precipitation to be average to above-average. This is another one of those things that I am still questioning; however, I do see good indications of a wetter-season. Waters are very warm off the Californian coast, and the pattern could favor some big rain events for that area this winter. I’ll continue to keep a close watch on that, and if I need to make changes on that prediction by this October, I will.

Once you get up to the Pacific Northwest, it will end up being warm and likely very dry. Again, that is the region that could end up experiencing temperatures well above-average. I’m thinking that the western United States will generally have above average temperatures, and most likely, below-average snowfall/precip. We will probably have another winter where there will be a lot of ridging over that area.

The Northern Plains and Midwest will likely have below-average temperatures. In fact, temperatures could end up being quite brutal at times due to troughing that will likely set up over the region this winter. We could have another polar-vortex driven winter, where pieces of the vortex break off and push well to the south. This is a similar scenario that occurred last winter and could in fact happen again this winter.

There are several other indications that are pointing to another cold winter in the central and eastern United States. A combination of several climate models are showing that precipitation will be higher over Eurasia come this October. High snow cover over this region in October can lead to colder temperatures in the eastern United States the following winter. The theory that higher snow cover over Eurasia in October translates to a colder winter in the eastern US has held up quite well over the years. I believe that this also takes into account the rate of snow-cover change over this timeframe.

Climate models predict higher precip over Eurasia.

Climate models predict higher precip over Eurasia.

Sunspot activity is also a factor that I often look into when I’m putting together a winter forecast. This is something that I will likely look into more when I’m putting together my final winter forecast in October, but generally, sunspot activity has been decreasing in recent months. In fact, we just had our first spotless day since 2011 just a few days ago. Winters tend to be colder when there is a lack of sunspot activity, so if this trend continues, that could be another variable that drives temperatures down across the United States this winter.

Sea surface temperatures across parts of the Atlantic need to be watched closely this year also. Ridging over the northern Atlantic can lock the central and eastern United States into a cold pattern if you have ridging out over Alaska and the western US. Sea surfaces temperatures play a big role in this occurring, which is why it’s important to have a good handle on predicting what’s going to occur in the oceans.

Throughout this year leading up to this winter, I will continue to give you more information and updates as I get them. It’s still July, so there will be some changes that have to be made between now and this winter. As I stated above, I will be putting out a final winter forecast in October, and it will break things down even further than I did in this preliminary forecast. If you currently don’t like the Firsthand Weather Facebook page, click here. I will be putting out a lot of updates on there regarding this winter, and you definitely don’t want to miss those!!

Thanks for taking the time to read this preliminary winter forecast, and I can only hope that you get the kind of winter that you’re wishing for!


Polar Vortex or Not, It’s Going To Get Cold Next Week!

I know by now that most of you have heard all of the talk about the polar vortex supposedly making a big return next week. The big controversy has been whether or not this is truly a piece of the polar vortex that has broken off and is moving south. To put it simply, it’s complicated, and I want to keep things simple in this article. I want to point out a few of my observations though. 1) This is very similar to the pattern that set up this winter. 2) This is EXTREMELY rare for July! 3) Looking at forecast model guidance, it looks like the origin of cooler air is from the Arctic.

I don’t think it is bad meteorology to suggest that this is similar to the pattern from this previous winter. All you’ve got to do is look at a 500 mb height map for this upcoming week and one from this this past winter when a piece of the polar vortex came very far south. It looks VERY similar. But before I get into an argument with a bunch of meteorologists, I’ll admit that it is complicated, and there are Ph.D.’s who have studied this type of thing much more than I have. I think we can all agree that this is a rare event for July and will bring unusually cool weather for the central and eastern United States. I’ll leave it at that.

Now let me get into more of what is actually going to happen for the rest of you who only care about how cool it is going to get. Early next week, unseasonably cold air will start to push south into the northern and central United States and will eventually start working its way east throughout the week. Models have many areas with 10 to 30 below average temperatures next week, but keep in mind that this is typically the hottest time of the year. I do think that records will end up being broken with this event especially in the more northern areas of the United States. In fact, temperatures will end up being so cool in some areas that long-sleeves and jackets will probably be needed.

Probability of Below-Average Temperatures

Probability of Below-Average Temperatures

The reason that I always keep such a close watch on weather around the globe is that it can tell us what is going to happen in the states several days (sometimes weeks) down the road. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, that’s how I was able to make predictions on winter storms well in advance without the need of computer models telling me exactly what was going to happen. Obviously forecast models are very helpful, but I only use them as tools, not forecasts. Super Typhoon Neoguri is likely what amplified the jet stream and put us into a winter-like pattern, so it’s always important to watch the weather around the globe.

If you are east of the Rockies, you will feel this unseasonably cold air! Even places fairly far to the south will have below-average temperatures and will have chilly temperatures at night. Areas across the northern United States will be cool during the day and have temperatures likely getting into the 40s at night in many areas further north. We’ll have to see if anyone gets down in the 30s, which would definitely break some records for sure. Generally though, it’ll be 40s and 50s at night, and 60s and 70s during the day. Further south, some areas will get into the 80s. Hopefully this gives you a general idea as to what to expect.

This is a European model temperature anomaly map for this coming Tuesday. This colder air will push east throughout the week.

This is a European model temperature anomaly map for this coming Tuesday. This colder air will push east throughout the week.

As this system moves in next week, many areas could be impacted by severe weather. I’ll have more details on that later this weekend after I study everything a little more. Please like Firsthand Weather on Facebook, where I’ll continue to put out updates on this coming cold air. Be sure to get outside and enjoy the weather next week!! This kind of weather is almost unheard of this time of year, so take advantage of it!

Super Typhoon Neoguri Heading Straight For Japan

Super Typhoon Neoguri has continued to rapidly strengthen over the past couple of days and is now a super typhoon with sustained winds of 155 mph. This is only 1 mph shy of being a category 5 hurricane, and additional strengthening is very possible. Given that the waters are very warm over where Neoguri is tracking and wind shear is going to remain light, this storm will be able to maintain its strength as it moves northwest. It will eventually start to make a turn north and northeast as it gets pulled in by a trough of low pressure to its northwest.

Super Typhoon Neoguri

Super Typhoon Neoguri currently has sustained winds of 155 mph and gusts up to 190 mph.

Okinawa, the location of the United States’ Kadena Air Force Base, is currently right in the path of this super typhoon and will likely experience sustained winds between 140 to 150+ mph and gusts as high as 180 to 190 mph. Latest model guidance has this storm going just west of the island, but the northeast quadrant of a hurricane is the worst part of the storm. This quadrant of the storm typically produces the highest storm surge, the heaviest rains, and the strongest winds. As Neoguri passes near or over Okinawa, it will likely be a category 5 hurricane.

GFS Ensemble Projection

GFS Ensemble Projection

As Neoguri begins to turn northeastward towards Kyushu Island, it will retain a good bit of its strength and will likely still be around a category 3 hurricane when it makes landfall on Kyushu Island. This will still produce very high storm surge, destructive winds, and very heavy rainfall, particularly on the south side of the island.

Let’s hope that the worst of the storm stays off Okinawa and that this typhoon weakens as it moves northeast towards the main island of Japan. Like I’ve said before, forecasting hurricanes/typhoons are tricky, and the forecasts are always subject to change. Always prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Please like Firsthand Weather on Facebook, where I’ll have continuous coverage on this powerful typhoon.