Tropical Storm Hermine To Bring Flooding and Strong Winds

We have been keeping a close watch on Hermine for what seems like a long time now, and it has taken quite a while to gets it act together. Initially, it struggled due to strong wind shear and drier air having a negative impact on the system, but as Hermine has moved into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the storm has been able to intensify over the very warm waters and in a lighter shear environment.

Deeper convection has now developed around the center of circulation, and some of those outer bands are already moving across the state of Florida. Hermine has about another day to continue strengthening, and by the time the system makes landfall, it will likely have reached strong tropical storm strength or even a category 1 hurricane. If all goes as expected, it should make landfall somewhere along the Florida panhandle, and hurricane watches now extend from the Florida panhandle to western portions of the Florida coast.

As discussed earlier, a jet streak (a region of fast-moving air in the upper-levels of the atmosphere) has developed over parts of the southeastern U.S., and Hermine is moving in the right entrance region of this jet streak. Basically in this region, the air is accelerating in the upper-levels, which can aid in lowering pressures at the surface. The reason this is important in this case is that this could further ventilate Hermine and enhance strengthening/pressure drops at the surface. Aside from strengthening, this could also enhance thunderstorm development across portions of Florida, southern Georgia, parts of the Carolinas, and eventually northward along the East Coast leading to copious amounts of rain falling across these areas.

Luckily, Hermine will move out of that region rather quickly, and although some of the areas that I just mentioned could easily get 8 to 10 inches of rain with well over a foot in some locations, the system shouldn’t stall over those areas. Another interesting feature that will play into the mix is a frontal boundary that will be swinging southward into the Gulf coast states by late week, which will be yet another mechanism that could enhance heavy rainfall. So, we have favorable upper-level dynamics thanks to a developing jet steak, a tropical system, and a stalled frontal boundary. This has heavy rain event written all over it. All of this will unfold between Thursday into early weekend.

After that, the forecast even gets a bit trickier. A trough will continue to dig southward from the Great Lakes and begin to pull Hermine north and then northeastward. However, this isn’t a situation where we have a long-wave trough establishing itself over the eastern third of the U.S., a scenario that would allow for Hermine to move across Florida and then out to sea. The eastern trough is going to move out quickly and will be replaced by ridging over the Northeast, which will extend into eastern Canada. Surface high pressure will also build into the Northeast behind the trough with the high pressure center eventually moving just offshore. If Hermine doesn’t book it northeast quickly enough, it could actually get stuck under the blocking ridge and impact regions from the Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast. Under this scenario, it wouldn’t even be out of the question for a brief jog northwestward towards or into the coast to occur.

Some of the model guidance actually shows this occurring, but we can’t ignore the fact that forecast models have not been reliable in predicting the strength and track of Hermine, even the European model. However, it is something that we’ll have to watch, since this could slow down the forward-speed of Hermine as it impacts parts of the Mid-Atlantic. This is just something to watch as this could bring very heavy rainfall to those regions, along with strong winds.

Below is the latest 5-day forecast projected path of Hermine from the NHC. This generally goes right along with the consensus of the latest model guidance, so expect some changes in track for sure.

Hermine Track

Although strength is important, the possible flooding situation should be taken just as seriously. A tornado threat will also develop tomorrow for northern Florida, southern Georgia and into southeastern coastal areas of South Carolina. This threat will shift northward for most of the Carolina coast by Friday.

These are projected rainfall totals through Tuesday night. The axis of heaviest rainfall could shift some as changes in the projected path forecast could occur.

Hermine Rainfall Totals

Tropical Storm Watches Issued

Tropical Storm Watch Issued for North Carolina

The Tropical Atlantic has become very active with 2 Tropical Depressions developing in the last day close to the Southeast Coastline, one near Florida and the other threatening North Carolina.  Hurricane Gaston also quickly intensified into a category 3 Hurricane but remains no threat to land.  NOAA aircraft are scheduled to investigate both Tropical Depressions today.

Major Hurricane Gaston

Gaston

Gaston remains a well organized hurricane and current satellite images indicate that the eye remains quite distinct with deep convection around it.  The upper-level outflow is well  established both to the west and the east of the system providing good outflow at the top of the system.  Maximum sustained winds are 120 MPH and the minimum central pressure has dropped to 957 millibars as Gaston continues to strengthen slightly.

Gaston has not moved very little during the last several hours and should remain generally stationary overnight and Monday. Gaston remains in weak steering currents caused by a blocking mid-level ridge to its northwest.  A trough that is currently over eastern Canada is expected to dampen by the time it nears Gaston, but it should be strong enough to erode the ridge and allow the hurricane to become embedded in the mid-latitude westerlies. This pattern change should result in Gaston’s turning east-northeastward continuing in that direction through the remainder of the forecast period.

The atmospheric conditions suggest that Gaston could maintain its strength for the next day or so, however, given the expected slow motion of the cyclone there is some chance that cold water upwelling would counteract that.  Beyond that time, the hurricane is likely to encounter an environment of increasing shear, drier air, and cooler water. Given these expected conditions, Gaston should begin to weaken on Monday.

Tropical Depression 8, Tropical Storm risk for North Carolina

Tropical Storm Watches have been issued for the coast of North Carolina from Cape Lookout to Oregon Inlet.

Tropical

Satellite imagery shows that Tropical Depression Eight is currently comprised of a swirl of low-level clouds accompanied by minimal shower activity.  This structure is due to the impacts of 20-25 kt
of southeasterly vertical wind shear and abundant mid- to upper-level dry air seen in water vapor imagery. Maximum sustained winds are currently 35 MPH and the minimum central pressure is 1010 millibars.
The initial motion is West to Northwest at 10 MPH.  For the next 48 hours, the depression is expected to move west-northwestward to northwestward toward a weakness in the subtropical ridge near the North Carolina coast.  After that time, a mid-latitude shortwave trough moving through the northeastern United States is forecast to erode the ridge and cause the cyclone to recurve Northeastward into the westerlies.  The track guidance is in good agreement with this scenario, and the new track forecast lies near the consensus models through 48 hours which would bring the storm within 35 nautical miles of Cape Hatteras.

Wind shear is expected to decrease during the next 48 hours and  depression 8 is expected to move into a more moist environment.  Based on this, the intensity guidance is showing
strengthening as the system approaches the coast of North Carolina. The intensity forecast also shows some strengthening, but it is on the low side of the guidance envelope due to uncertainty about
whether the environment will become as favorable as the models are suggesting.   Depression 8 is expected to recurve but with such a small distance between its expected location and the coast landfall as a tropical system is certainly not out of the question.

Tropical Depression 9

Depression 9

Flight-level wind data from an earlier NOAA reconnaissance mission along with WSR-88D Doppler radar data from Key West indicate that the depression had been moving southwestward.  However, the most recent radar data and nearby surface observations suggest that the cyclone has now turned toward the west. The last reliable wind data from the NOAA WP-3 recon aircraft supported an intensity of 35 MPH, and that intensity is being maintained for this advisory given that the radar and satellite signatures haven’t improved. The central pressure of 1007 mb is based on a reliable observation from ship WMKN, located just north of the center.

The initial motion estimate is to the West at 9 MPH. Now that deep convection has waned, the system has turned westward and this motion is expected to continue for the next 24 hours or so. This short term motion is supported by NOAA recon dropsonde data, which indicated that 500 mb heights were 10-20 meters higher over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico than what the global models have been forecasting. After that time, the global and regional models are in surprisingly good agreement on the cyclone slowing down and turning toward the west-northwest and then northward in the 36- to 48-hour periods as the depression moves around the western periphery of a narrow subtropical ridge that is expected to be located over South Florida. By 72 hours and beyond, the tropical cyclone is forecast to lift out and accelerate to the northeast towards Western Florida coast.  The current forecast Track brings the system on shore North of Tampa.

Strong vertical shear that has been inhibiting this system for the past week is expected to gradually subside to less than 15 MPH in 18-24 hours, which should allow for more organized convection
to develop. However, the southerly low-level inflow will still be disrupted by the terrain of western Cuba.  By 36 hours and beyond, the depression will moving over SSTs greater than 30C and the light vertical wind shear is expected to back around from a northerly to a southwesterly direction, which usually favors more significant intensification. However, there is  lot of dry air in the region north of Key West and this will play a factor in preventing rapid intesnfication of this system.

Robert Millette

Staff Meteorologist

Firsthand Weather

Firsthand Weather Tropical Update

Tropical Depression Fiona, currently about 543 nm northeast of the Leeward Islands is still working her way east while 2 Tropical waves  look like they have the potential to develop over the coming week give Firsthand Weather plenty to watch in the Atlantic.

image

Water temperatures in the Atlantic are very warm ahead of these systems with temperatures in the low to mid 80’s spanning the coast from Florida up towards Virginia Beach.  These warm waters extend well out into the Atlantic along the Gulf Stream, which is bringing water as high as the upper 70’s along the New Jersey and Long Island New York coastlines.  The drop off to colder waters, around the low 70’s, doesn’t really happen until you get up to around Massachusetts, where the Gulf Stream moves further off shore, but water temperatures above 82 degrees exist not too far South from New England, which could help prevent a storm from weakening too much as it heads North.

image

Tropical Depression Fiona

Fiona has weakened into a Tropical Depression today as deep convection continues to sputter near her center.  Each successive burst has been a little smaller and less organized than the
previous ones that sheared off in the strong westerly upper-level winds.  Given that earlier scatterometer data only showed a few 40 mph winds, the decrease in convective organization since that time leaves maximum sustained winds at 35 mph.  Fiona continues to weaken at this hour due to 35 mph wind shear from the west and mid-level dry air impacting the system.  Fiona may devolve  into a remnant low in the next day or two but additional strengthening is expected after that as the wind shear is expected to greatly weaken as the atmosphere moistens to the west.  If Fiona manages to maintain her tropical characteristics during this time period, it is possible that she could once again become a tropical storm near the end of the week as she passes to the Southeast of Bermuda.

Tropical Depression Fiona

Tropical Waves

In the Central Atlantic, a tropical wave is pushing west toward the Lesser Antilles.  This system is producing limited and disorganized showers and thunderstorms as dry air near the system continues to inhibit the waves development.  Environmental conditions are expected to be come more conducive for development as the wave approached Hispaniola and the Southern and Central Bahamas later this week.

Another tropical wave is located about 300 miles South of the Cape Verde Islands.  This wave is continues to show signs of development and is forecast to become a Tropical Depression in the next couple of days.  Environmental conditions will remain favorable for the next several days as this system moves West over the Eastern Tropical Atlantic.

Southern Plains Preliminary 2016-17 Winter Outlook

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler, and we are slowly transitioning into autumn. This transition has many people excited partially due to the hot summer but primarily because of the lackluster winter last season. While this is my Preliminary 2016-17 Winter Outlook, the good news is, it does appear this winter will be much different than last winter.

Last winter was characterized by a very strong El Nino, which will not be the case for this winter season; we are currently transitioning into a La Nina period. Right now, my beliefs are this La Nina will be relatively weak, which plays an important role in the winter forecast for the Southern Plains. Another important variable when assessing the winter forecast for the Southern Plains, during a La Nina period, is to observe what is happening in the northeastern Pacific. The heights and water temperatures in this area are above average. This is indicative of a negative EPO, which appears to persist into the winter season. These teleconnections were used to assess analogs that had similar atmospheric setups heading into the winter season.

The Southern Plains will likely see a seesaw winter in which temperatures will go from being above average to below average overnight, and frequently, as Arctic air masses ooze into the region. Overall, the temperatures should be below average, but again, times of above average temperatures are possible, too; especially in parts of November and January. Far western Texas and New Mexico will see temperatures ranging from near average to slightly above average. The coolest temperatures will exist for eastern parts of the Southern Plains into Arkansas.

Precipitation will be near average for much of the Southern Plains, minus parts of western Texas where slightly below average precipitation will occur. With that said, I do forecast wintery precipitation will be above average for the Southern Plains. Snowfall events will happen in Kansas, Oklahoma Texas, and Arkansas, but I believe a few substantial ice threats will develop for parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and northern Louisiana, which could be the worst in some years.
Slide01

Temperatures Will Soar Across Pacific Northwest This Week

While the focus lately has been on the recent heat along the East Coast and parts of the Southeast, areas along and near the West Coast in the Pacific Northwest are going to begin to really heat up, especially today, tomorrow and Saturday. Excessive heat warnings have been issued through Saturday from western Washington state, including Seattle, down into western Oregon, including Portland. For most areas directly on the coast, heat advisories have been issued and extend down into northern California.

Typically, coastal areas in the Pacific Northwest have moderated temperatures thanks to the Pacific Ocean and onshore flow. This keeps milder temperatures west of the Cascades even during the summer months. Although it can definitely get cold at times in these same areas during the winter, this same scenario keeps temperatures milder during the winter months than they otherwise would be.

A thermal trough is going to build into the Pacific Northwest generally west of the Cascades and strengthen today and tomorrow. To give you a visual of this, take a look at the two images below. The mean sea level pressure will lower along the Pacific Northwest coastal regions today, and as the thermal trough builds further into the region, the surface pressure will drop even further on Friday. Also notice strong surface high pressure building into Montana building behind a mid to upper level trough that will be bringing much cooler temperatures east of the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday MSLP

Friday MSLP

This kind of setup changes the overall wind flow at and near the surface. Instead of getting the typical onshore flow (winds moving from from the ocean to land), it will switch to an offshore flow (winds moving from the land to the ocean). Since the Cascades extend from Washington down to northern California, this will enhance warming even further as air will get forced up those mountains and back down the other side, and due to adiabatic processes (not going to elaborate on that), the air will warm as it is forced down the ocean-facing mountain slopes.

At or near the surface, wind flows from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. The map below shows the direction the wind will be blowing near or right above the surface. As you can see, it’ll be blowing from northeast to southwest, and at times, even directly east to west. This is a recipe for really hot temperatures this time of year along and west of the Cascades.

850 mb Wind Speeds

In addition to all of this, mid-to-upper level ridging extends along the West Coast into western Canada. This will further enhance those really hot temperatures.

What To Expect?

Temperatures will soar well into the 90s just inland, possible even reaching 100 degrees or slightly higher in places. Temperatures directly on the coast (from the northern half of Oregon into Washington) will likely reach the mid to upper 80s today and Friday, with some areas possibly hitting 90. Friday should be the hottest day with Saturday being a bit better for areas directly on the coast.

These are projected temperatures for Friday at the time of peak heating and below that, are projected temperature anomalies (departures from average temperatures). Records could definitely be broken across these areas!

Pacific Northwest Hot Temperatures

Temperature Anomalies Pacific Northwest

Farmer’s Almanac Releases 2016-17 Winter Forecast

The Farmer’s Almanac, along with its competitor the Old Farmer’s Almanac, has released its 2016-17 winter forecast. Winter forecasts tend to be one of the most anticipated weather forecasts released each year, and while many look forward to these predictions, winter forecasts always come with their share of skepticism, especially from the weather industry. I think it’s fair for the general public to be skeptical of long-range and seasonal forecasts, and I often encourage new Firsthand Weather followers to make Firsthand Weather prove that it is a reliable source. In fact, I encourage you to hold every source to that standard.

I want to first show you both sets of predictions from both almanacs and will include Firsthand Weather’s early 2016-17 winter forecast for comparison. Then, I want to share my honest opinion on long-range and seasonal forecast while making some references to the Almanac predictions.

Farmer Almanac’s 2016-17 Winter Forecast:

Farmer Almanac’s 2016-17 Winter Forecast

Old Farmer Almanac’s 2016-17 Winter Forecast:

Old Farmer Almanac’s 2016-17 Winter Forecast

Firsthand Weather’s 2016-17 Winter Forecast:

Firsthand Weather's Early 2016-17 Winter Forecast

To fully know our entire forecast, you definitely should read our written winter forecast, which you can access by clicking here.

I am NOT against sub-seasonal and long-range predictions. In fact, I embrace the latest research, and our improved understanding of what drives our seasonal patterns. However, we still have A LOT to learn and have only scratched the surface. Despite the uncertainty that still exists with such forecasts, Firsthand Weather has always put out long-range and seasonal forecasts and will continue to do so. We miss the mark sometimes with some years being harder to predict that others, but generally, our long-range predictions have given various industries a large lead time in preparing for inclement weather.

Long-range and seasonal forecasting is NOT the same thing as your everyday weekly forecasts. Predicting that it’s going to be cloudy with a 60% chance of rain this Wednesday is entirely different than predicting that a particular region has a higher probability of having above average snowfall or that the drought will continue in California this upcoming winter, etc. Firsthand Weather does attempt to pinpoint timeframes within a given season when it will be colder, warmer, snowier, wetter etc., but that’s still not predicting that it’s going to snow 2.5 inches on January 3rd, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. So making statements like, “meteorologists can’t get it right 5 days out, so they definitely can’t get anything right several months in advance” isn’t the best comparison to make. That’s comparing apples to oranges. It’s different. In fact, even some local meteorologists make statements like that, but the methods used to produce a local forecast for the upcoming workweek and putting together a seasonal forecast for the entire U.S. or even a particular region of the U.S. are completely different.

Now that I have defended seasonal forecasts and to an extent have defended the Almanac predictions, I do have a few things to say specifically about their predictions.

  1. They tend to be very secretive about how they come up with their forecasts. Because of that, I can’t definitively say that the methods that they use are scientifically sound. I’m always skeptical when anyone or any group talks about having a “secret formula” to forecasting. Generally, to be an excellent long-range and seasonal forecaster or any good meteorologist for that matter, it requires extensive research and experience that doesn’t stop with getting a degree in meteorology. A B.S. in meteorology is step 1, but there’s much more work to follow. Truly excelling in this field is simply doing the hard work. Firsthand Weather doesn’t have any secret formulas. We just study this stuff daily and have been for years.
  2. The kind of maps that they come out with are good, but it would definitely be beneficial if they had some explanation to go along with each region. What does “chilled-to-the-bone” cold even mean? I’m all for using those fancy phrases like that on a map, but my ultimate goal is to get people to read our regional written winter forecasts that we provide. That’s the actual forecasts, and the maps are just there to guide you to the forecast.
  3. There are certain kinds of forecasts that we just simply can’t do at this point in time. I’m willing to admit that, and that’s why I try to emphasize the importance of research, whether that’s government-funded research or research done within the private sector. Putting out day-to-day forecasts months in advance is currently unreliable. Forecasts like, “it’s going to snow with a high of 31 degrees on December 23rd at this location” generally can’t be done in August, for example. The Almanacs aren’t the only ones that put out such predictions, but even larger weather companies do. Again, those types of forecasts generally aren’t reliable.

Other than those few “criticisms” that I have, I don’t think it’s fair to say that predictions like what the Farmer’s Almanac put out is what astrology is to astronomy. Even though I take them with a grain of salt since they don’t provide their methodology behind the forecasts, they’re always fun to look over each year, even when they don’t pan out at all.

I defend long-range and seasonal forecasting, and even as I’ve advanced in this field, I stand by that. Always know your sources, and understand the limitations of this great science.

Early Season Cold Front To Bring Cooler Temperatures to Parts of U.S.

Even though this week just started, I want to go ahead and fast-forward to late week/this weekend into early next week. We’ll discuss this upcoming week in this week’s newsletter, so be sure to give that a read if you’re signed up! I should have that out by tonight.

A shortwave feature is going to move across western Canada later in the week and eventually begin to dig southeastward and swing across the Northern Plains by this weekend. An upper-level low pressure system will develop and move over or near the Hudson Bay region. In response, a longwave trough will develop over the central U.S., and an early season strong cold front will move through a large chunk of the U.S., associated with a surface low pressure system that will develop and swing across Canada.

What all of this means is that some areas, particularly the central-third of the United States, will get to experience an early taste of fall. Regions to experience below average temperatures first will be Montana, Wyoming and the eastern Rockies late this week, and as the cold front sweeps southeastward over the weekend, temperatures will fall across the Plains, including parts of the Southern Plains. These cooler temperatures will eventually move into the Great Lakes region, the Ohio Valley, Tennessee Valley, and even into a large area of the Mississippi Valley by early next week.

Although temperatures should eventually cool some near the East Coast regions early to mid next week, the potency of the air mass shouldn’t be as strong by the time it reaches those regions, especially towards the Southeast. However, the lower moistures levels and slightly lower temperatures should be noticeable, given how hot and humid it has been in many of those regions this summer (which will continue this week, by the way).

As far as specific temperatures, lows should run in the 40s and 50s across the Central and Northern Plains early in the weekend. Temperatures may even dip down into the 50s for even parts of Oklahoma for a night or two this weekend. Low temperatures across the Midwest, Great Lakes, and Ohio Valley will drop down into the 50s and even 40s in spots late weekend into early next week. Temperatures could definitely even get quite cool across the Tennessee Valley and extend southward into northern and central parts of Mississippi and northwestern parts of Alabama, with temperatures running from the 50s to lower 60s from north to south. By early to mid week, the temperatures will cool down across the western Northeast and extend down the Appalachian Mountains. As mentioned above, the air mass should be a bit more modified by the time it reaches the far East Coast and far Southeast regions, but there still should be some noticeable differences early to mid next week. It might not be quite as cool as some of you in those regions might want though!

For highs, temperatures will be in the 60s and 70s for a couple of days during the same timeframe as described in the paragraph above. Temperatures will be in the 80s in the more southern areas described but still noticeably cooler with lower humidity values. Closer to the coast and far Southeast, 80s/90s will be common until the front makes it through, and temperatures may stay in the 90s across far southeastern regions.

So, this will be a nice and brief (2 to 3 day) cool-down for many of you. It’s important to keep in mind that below to well-below temperatures in August is different than what it is during the winter months.

Below are the probabilities of having below/above average temperatures in 6 to 10 days from now! Like I said, it will cool off farther east in some of those red-shaded areas on the map early to mid next week.

Temperature Anomaly Map

On a side note, this type of setup actually mimics what I believe could occur early this winter. The coldest of air will spill into central parts of the U.S. and move eastward will time. By the time it reaches the East Coast and Southeast, the air mass will be a bit more modified. Of course, since I believe Southeast ridging will be an issue early on this winter, that will further enhance above average temperatures at times across the Southeast and even along East Coast regions into the Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Northeast until January/February. A good recent example of that is the 2013-14 winter. I talk about all of this in my early 2016-17 winter forecast in much more detail, so please give it a read if you haven’t already! And don’t forget to get prepared for the cold spells! If you want to find out how to keep your home warm find out more here.

Early 2016-17 Winter Forecast

We have once again reached that time of year when Firsthand Weather releases its early winter forecast. Before we continue with this discussion, I want everyone reading this forecast to realize that this is an early winter forecast, and that some changes may have to be made in the final winter forecast set to released in early November. Generally, significant changes don’t have to be made in the final forecast, but to give an example from last winter’s forecast, the final forecast featured very warm and dry conditions over the Southwest (including southern California) whereas I had previously called for those regions to be wet in the preliminary forecast, despite being very skeptical even then.

In this forecast, there are three sections. The first section includes some of the high points, which then leads into the main and second section, the region-by-region winter forecast. Simply find your location on the map below, which includes your region’s number. Each section is numbered in the region-by-region breakdown, which corresponds to the number on the map. The last section includes my concluding thoughts. DO NOT just look at the map without reading the discussion that goes along with it, because the map does not include most of the details.

For those who have followed the Firsthand Weather forecasts over the years, you already know that I don’t mind telling you what I’m uncertain about in a forecast and will do the same thing in this forecast. Particularly take note of my uncertainties, and we will discuss those uncertainties in the coming months in my newsletter and on the website as this forecast evolves. This early winter forecast is based on previous winters that could be similar to the 2016-17 winter, my own research, and peer-reviewed research published in various academic journals. With that said, there are details that I simply won’t know until October/November, which won’t be incorporated until the final forecast.

Early 2016-17 Winter Forecast:

2016-17 Winter Forecast

Hitting The High Points:

We have finally wrapped up one of our strongest El Nino’s in recorded history and have started to make a transition into a La Nina-like state. However, most model guidance has substantially backed off on the prospect of a moderate to strong La Nina developing by this winter and is now more in line with a weak La Nina evolving with time.

Also, above average sea surface temperatures are in place over the northeast Pacific, which extend into the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea regions. It would be unprecedented for a moderate to strong La Nina event to evolve without there being significant cooling in parts of the northeast Pacific (a horseshoe of below average sea surface temperatures in the northeast Pacific with a tongue of warmer waters just west). However, the opposite has occurred in that region, which is indicative that a weaker La Nina event may only evolve, resulting in an entirely different 2016-17 winter forecast. Remember though, it is still early August, and there is plenty of time for a change.

Instead of temperatures being above average along and east of the Mississippi River and cooler over the western U.S. like some of the previous La Nina winters with strong cooling in the northeast Pacific, the placement of the warmer sea surface temperatures this upcoming winter could once again have a major influence on our overall pattern, similar to what occurred during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 winters. However, this is contingent on the La Nina event staying weak and warming persisting in the northeast Pacific, and it’s important to note that there should still be some noteworthy differences this winter compared to those recent two.

With all of that said, I want to hit a few of the high points in the form of a bullet point list before we get into the regional forecasts.

• Parts of the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and East Coast will likely start the winter warm due to southeast ridging, but it should get much more active and colder in January and February.
• This year’s wintry battle zone is from the Southern Plains into the Ohio Valley and parts of the Great Lakes. This region should stay active throughout the winter with very cold conditions over the Ohio River and Great Lakes region.
• The Northern Plains and Upper Midwest will be dealing with brutally cold temperatures, especially early. It is possible that some of the western zones could warm up later in the winter, however.
• The Northeast, especially western regions, will be cold with quite a few snow chances. The coastal regions in New England will be cold later in the winter, but not quite cold as areas to the west.
• The Pacific Northwest should start out with an active and cold winter, but it’s a bit uncertain whether or not that will continue later in the winter. That’s currently one of our biggest uncertainties in this forecast.
• Drought conditions will prevail across the Southwest, especially over southern California. It’ll be quite warm, too
• Overall, the winter should start out very cold from the Northern Plains extending over to the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes region, and western parts of the Northeast. This cold could spill southward down into parts of the Southern Plains, Mississippi Valley, and even parts of the Tennessee Valley early in the winter, too. Conditions should progressively get colder later in the winter for regions closer to the East Coast, as winter may start late farther east and southeastward. It is also possible that the Plains will warm up late winter, while the eastern U.S. has colder than average temperatures late winter.

One side note: this forecast is for the period December 1st to February 28th, although it’s very possible some of the conditions described will start later in November and end early March.

Early 2016-17 Winter Forecast By Region:

Region 1: Out of all of the eleven regions included in this forecast, this is probably the one I’m most uncertain about this winter. I expect ridging to eventually build into this region, especially later in the winter, but the exact placement of this ridge will determine just how above average temperatures are or if they’re even above average at all! The winter could very well start out fairly active with numerous storm systems moving into the Pacific Northwest region and then down across the Rockies, but as the winter progresses, temperatures should end up pushing above average overall with coastal regions drying out by late winter. At least that’s what I’m going with for now.

Now, the tricky part is determining just how long this active pattern could persist into the winter for coastal regions, and that’s where I remain uncertain. Some of the analogs that I used had northern California to Washington exceptionally wet throughout the entire winter, while others were exceptionally dry. What this means is that I may have to make some changes in the final forecast in November upon further research and after observing later trends. While the sea surface temperatures anomalies favor ridging potentially developing along the West Coast and extending into Alaska, exact ridge placement is very important and makes a huge difference in weather conditions across this region.

Just to reiterate and bring all of this together, I expect temperatures to start out below average across most of this region with above average temperatures prevailing by the end of the winter. The storm track could be active across this region early in the winter bringing heavy rains and mountain snows early, but overall temperature averages should end up evening out by the end of the winter with a possible drying trend by late winter.

Region 2: Once again, temperatures across most of this region will likely end up being above average for most of the winter, although extreme western Texas could manage to end up with temperatures closer to average. Conditions will be drier the closer to the coast one is located. In other words, central and southern California will be exceptionally dry this winter, while areas a bit farther west into parts of Arizona and New Mexico could manage to get around average precipitation.

Expect below-average mountain snows across the lower two-thirds of California, and expect drought conditions to worsen especially as winter comes to an end. Elsewhere in this region, snowfall amounts will generally be below-average, although I can’t rule out one or two noteworthy winter storms impacting parts of New Mexico and Arizona. However, most winter activity will occur elsewhere across the United States this year.

Once again, my biggest concern is over the lower two-thirds of California, a region that has not benefitted from monsoonal rains like their neighbors to the east of them have. The severe California drought will continue to be a big newsworthy topic.

Region 3: This region falls is in one of those awkward zones, where conditions are expected to be warm and dry to the southwest but very cold just to the northeast. While it could easily swing either way, I’m currently expecting temperatures to run slightly below average across most of this area with temperatures closer to average in the southwestern fringes of this zone. It’s definitely possible that the winter will start out active and cold and then moderate later on.

Snowfall should end up close to average, but there will be places that end up with above average snowfall. This winter shouldn’t be a huge loss for ski resorts across this region, but if you’re looking to hit the slopes, you might want to make the trip early in the winter in case the area does see less activity and cold later on. As all of you know in this region, this area can get a snowstorm out of nowhere late in the year, but predicting when those storms will hit this far in advance is next to impossible!

Region 4: Most of this region should start out very cold this winter, and while the brutal cold could relax some late winter over eastern Montana, northeastern Wyoming, and over western parts of North Dakota and South Dakota, temperatures should run below average and possibly even well-below average at times from the eastern half of the Northern Plains over to the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region fairly consistently.

Snowfall amounts should run about average over the Northern Plains to the western portions of this zone, but the eastern half of this zone could end up with above average snowfall, thanks to the combination of northern stream systems moving across the area, and at times, from systems tracking up from southern regions and dumping snow into the area.

This winter will be a stark contrast from the well-above average temperatures that this area felt last winter. So again, temperatures will be brutally cold this winter with below-average temperatures overall early in the winter with a possible moderation in temperatures later in the winter for the western third of this zone. Everyone else can expect temperatures to end up below average overall. Places like Chicago should definitely get some decent snows this year.

Region 5: This region tends to get “stuck in the middle” sometimes, especially those located in the Central Plains. Ridging should remain fairly prominent to the west of this region this upcoming winter, but the location of the ridge axis is very pivotal in determining just how cold it will end up being. The 2013-14 winter is a good example of how ridging was far enough west to allow for a very cold winter across this entire zone that year, whereas ridging was slightly farther east the following winter, which resulted in western parts of the zone having above average temperatures overall.

For this upcoming winter, I expect temperatures to be below average overall with Arctic air pushing into the area on numerous occasions. Temperatures could moderate some across the Central Plains later in the winter, but the rest of this region should stay very cold throughout.

Forecasting snowfall amount anomalies gets a bit trickier, but I do feel that this area will tend to fall on the snowy side of most of the systems that actually do impact the area. If there is a “rip-off zone”, it will probably tend to be more towards northwestern part of this region in the Central Plains, while those in the eastern two-thirds of this region should end up with average snowfall. With that said, actual precipitation amounts won’t be overly impressive with liquid equivalent amounts probably running around average to below average.

Again, the biggest hindrance from getting big snowfall totals overall will likely be from systems sliding just a little too far south and northern stream systems sliding just to the north. Probably the greatest snowfall chances will come early in the winter for the Central Plains portions of this region.

Region 6: This is the region that has made it into the wintry battle zone this year, mainly because Arctic air could intrude into the area numerous times throughout this winter, and winter storm activity could be heightened, even early on in the winter. This region should remain sandwiched between southeast ridging early in the winter and Arctic air masses swinging down from Canada and could be downright cold by January and February.

Expect average to above average snowfall across the Ohio River Valley and along parts of the Tennessee Valley. Icing could be more of an issue into the southern regions of this zone, including locations such as northern Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, extreme northern Louisiana, the northern half of Mississippi, southern Missouri, and western Tennessee. Snow chances could increase later in the winter across those same areas since the storm track will probably be a bit farther south at that point, as ridging to the east flattens out quite a bit.

Temperatures will generally be below-average across this region with the possibility of well-below average temperatures into the Ohio Valley region and Great Lakes area. If ridging over the western U.S. does happen to expand far enough eastward, it could bump up temperatures a bit in the Southern Plains, but that would likely only affect the western parts of this zone and not even until later in the winter.

Overall, expect an active winter across this region with quite a few systems to keep track of.

Region 7: Temperatures should end up pretty cool/cold across this region this winter with below average temperatures for most. There will be times that Arctic air will actually manage to get into this zone, especially in the eastern two-thirds. Temperatures might actually end up closer to average in the far western segment of this zone, right under the panhandle, but that should be the exception.

Overall, precipitation should be below average with the exception possibly being Mississippi and Alabama, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any activity at all. Remember, we’re trying to capture the overall picture over the span of three months. Since this region does fall close to the wintry battle zone, those in the far northern regions extending from eastern half of Texas and over could have to deal with some icing issues this winter; however, that threat decreases farther south. In the far western part of this zone just below the panhandle, it is possible that the region could have to deal with early season snowfall, but that’s not necessarily out of the ordinary.

Again, temperatures should end up cold overall but with drier conditions prevailing. However, that doesn’t mean the area won’t have some wintry weather in northern and western areas.

Region 8: If you’re included in this region, you also need to read region 4 if you’re in the two left dark blue regions and region 9 if you’re in the far right dark blue region. That information is also relevant to you. This discussion is strictly about lake-effect snowfall.

This upcoming winter should be a big lake-effect producing winter across this region. The lake-effect snow season should start off quite strong, probably even before the official start of the meteorological winter, which is December 1st. After a strong start, things should definitely calm down a bit around mid winter. However, I do believe that snow amounts will generally be above to well-above average across these areas by the end of the winter.

Region 9: After a mild and mostly snowless winter last year, this upcoming winter should be quite a contrast to that, especially for those in western parts of this zone. Expect temperatures to run below average overall, although temperatures could run closer to average the closer to the coast one is located. Temperatures should start out cold early in the winter for at least the western half of this zone with temperatures not quite as bad closer to the coast but likely still cold. Temperatures should remain below average through January and February for the western half of this zone with temperatures average to below average in the eastern half.

Inland snowfall amounts should end up quite decent for most of this area, and it’s definitely possible that a lot of the inland regions could end up with above average snowfall. Several northern branch systems will likely impact the region, along with additional systems that will make it into the area after impacting regions in the wintry battle zone depicted on the map.

The area in this zone likely to have snowfall closer to average will be coastal regions and far northeastern parts of this zone. With such warm waters off the coast that will likely remain into winter, this may have a negative impact on overall snow totals for coastal regions and even on the extent of colder weather early on in the season along those areas.

Just to summarize, expect below average temperatures across the western half of this zone with numerous intrusions of Arctic air making it into the region. Temperatures will run average to below average closer to the coast with it likely being warmest in that area early in the winter. Snowfall should run above average in the western half of this zone but should end up closer to average near the coast, although it really only takes one or two big storms to do that. Compared to last winter, this winter will be much better for businesses that rely on snow falling across the region.

Region 10: Initially, it is very possible that southeast ridging will be present in this region; however, this ridge should begin to flatten out in January and February or possibly even be absent at that point. We saw this occur during the 2013-14 winter, which ultimately was a blockbuster winter in this zone with several winter storms impacting the area.

Most of the winter storm activity likely won’t occur until January and February with numerous winter storm chances emerging throughout that time period. Out of those several chances, two, maybe three of those, will materialize into something noteworthy. Those in the Appalachian Mountains could very well see higher snowfall probabilities, thanks to the addition of northwest flow setups.

Over the three-month period, temperatures should run average to slightly below average, but keep in mind that this will be due to a late start. So basically, temperatures could run above average in December but will probably go below average, or even well-below average at times, through January and February. Precipitation amounts should generally be above average across most of this region. Average to above average snowfall totals will be common with the exception being in southern parts of this region, where icing could be more of a concern (areas generally south of Atlanta/Birmingham, etc.). Icing is not guaranteed in extreme southern parts of this zone and for those closer to the Georgia and Carolina coasts, but the potential will still be there.

Just to reiterate, this will most likely shape up to be an active winter across this region with several potent Arctic intrusions dropping across the area later in the winter. Some may be tempted to believe that their neighbors to the west and north are getting the more active winter, but just hang in a few weeks if you’re looking to see some snow and ice.

Region 11: This is always a very interesting and oftentimes difficult region to forecast each winter, mainly because it’s hard to determine if Arctic air will manage to get far enough south to have a major impact in this zone. On the map, I indicate that this zone will remain under the influence of southeast ridging for most of the winter, but I want to elaborate on that a bit more.

Much of Florida should end up with temperatures above normal as a whole this winter, although that’s not to say that an Arctic front or two won’t sweep down across the state enough to bring a major chill to the area. Remember though, we’re looking at the winter as a whole, and a couple of intrusions of Arctic air likely won’t be prolonged enough to bring the overall averages down, given the possibility of persistent ridging overall.

Now, let’s talk about the very northern regions of this zone, which get a bit more uncertain. As you can see, the panhandle of Florida, extreme southern Alabama, and extreme southern Georgia fall very close to my region 10, meaning those regions could indeed end up having temperatures closer to average overall. I could see those same areas getting some fairly noteworthy freezes, especially later in the winter, as ridging could flatten out quite a bit by that point.

Precipitation should run about average overall with a few spots ending up with above average precipitation when all is said and done. Precipitation amounts shouldn’t be nearly as high as what would occur during an El Nino winter, so compared to last winter, precipitation amounts should generally be less.

Concluding Thoughts:

Just to conclude, I want to mention again that it’s important to keep in mind that this is our early winter forecast, and it’s not uncommon for some changes to be made between now and winter. At this point, we just want you to see our ideas thus far, and in return, we want you to realize that there are limitations to seasonal forecasting.

I want to encourage you to take a look at some of the winters that could be similar to this upcoming winter. The 1983-84, 1995-96, and 2013-14 winters are good ones to look at, although they won’t be exact replicas of the upcoming winter. I tend to not just blend similar years together and make that the forecast, but instead, I take a handful of similar years and analyze them each individually. What if this La Nina ends up being a bit stronger than expected and/or the northeast Pacific cools significantly? Take a look at the 2007-08 winter. It’s always very important to look at the range of possibilities especially this far out even if they don’t exactly line up with the current forecast.

While we feel we generally have a good grasp of the regions that could end up colder/warmer than average temperatures overall this winter, it is still yet to be determined how severe the cold/warmth could be over a given region. There is a lot more information/factors that we consider aside from analog years, and that information won’t be available until the October/November timeframe.
In the coming months, I will be sending out a lot of the actual research on the upcoming winter through my weekly newsletter. This article gave you the actual forecast but a lot of the research was excluded to keep this article “short.” I encourage you to sign up for the newsletter by clicking here (make sure you confirm you signed up), and in addition to the research, you’ll be getting a 7-day forecast each week, too!

One last thing, be sure to like us on Facebook by clicking here. Even though we are very active on Twitter and Instagram, we utilize Facebook quite a bit to get relevant information out to our audience quickly.

Thanks for taking the time to read this forecast, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us!