2020-21 Winter Forecast

2020-21 Winter Forecast

Firsthand Weather’s duo of long-range meteorologists, Matthew Holliday and Christopher Nunley, have released 2020-2021 Winter Outlook for this upcoming season. The dynamic duo has been analyzing global phenomena’s and weather patterns, along with diving into seasonal models, to get a good handle on what old man winter will toss to the lower-48. One of the main driving influencers of this upcoming season is La Nina. La Nina is a phenomenon where the surface water over the equatorial Pacific Ocean area cooler than average. This phenomenon can have significant impacts on weather patterns across the lower-48 and around the globe, with the most noticeable impacts during the cool season (winter). The current La Nina has strengthened and is forecast to deliver similar conditions as expected during a La Nina, but there are some meaningful differences, which will be driven by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and North Pacific Mode. 

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Firsthand Weather’s 2020-21 Winter Forecast

Take a peek at the detailed region-by-region breakdown: 

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic

The winter will begin with intermittent periods of cold across the Northeast and upper Mid-Atlantic, in part driven by mid-latitude cyclones cutting northeastward toward the Great Lakes region. However, these brief periods of anomalous cold with often be followed by periods of above average temperatures. Numerous rounds of precipitation in December will keep rainfall totals around average to above average levels across most of New England. Areas across the Mid-Atlantic will begin having below-average precipitation. Snow amounts across most of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic will not be all that impressive early on, due to an unfavorable storm track and general lack of cold air.

Moving into January and February, the coldest air will remain mostly confined to the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and sometimes the Great Lakes. However, cold air will spill into the Northeast often enough that temperatures should average out to around typical winter values. On the other hand, most of the Mid-Atlantic will likely experience mild conditions more often than not, with dry conditions especially prominent in January. Western parts of the Mid-Atlantic, including West Virginia and far western Pennsylvania, may be the exception to the rule in terms of precipitation. Inland New England will have the best shot at snow and/or ice. February should bring an uptick in potential winter events across inland parts of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. Big swings in temperatures will likely persist across at least the lower half of the Mid-Atlantic.

We don’t expect this winter to bring quite the blowtorch warmth that characterized the last one; however, the 2020-21 winter likely won’t rival the cold 2010-11 La Nina winter or the extreme cold experienced in 2013-14 and during parts of 2014-15.

Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region

Though December will bring wild swings in temperatures, the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region will likely experience prolonged periods of below average temperatures in January and February. Both regions will face impacts from an active southern stream storm track, which will run from the Great Plains northeastward toward the Midwest/Great Lakes. Thus, expect periods of rain and/or snow to become quite common across the area. As a result, precipitation totals through the winter should run at least slightly above average across both regions. Snowfall totals will generally run average to above average. Due to the lack of consistent cold in December, the lake-effect snow threat may persist considerably longer into the winter than one would usually expect.  

Though we don’t expect this winter to bring unusually warm conditions to either region like the last winter did, keep in mind that it may take a few weeks before the brutally cold air comes to stay.

Northern Plains

Winter will not play around for the Northern Plains. Expect brutal cold with several Arctic air intrusions. A good amount of snow is in the forecast for all of the region but the sweet spot may be for the eastern-half of the region, near the Western Great Lakes. This area has a shot to see a very active pattern with numerous opportunities for snow. At times, milder air will sneak north allowing for rain & storms, but cold air will quickly move in, changing the rain over to heavy snow. Get the snowblowers ready!

Ohio Valley and Kentucky

This region will experience an active winter right out of the gate, which will continue through most of the season. Southern stream storm systems will have a tendency to track through the Ohio Valley, often bringing rounds of rain and/or snow/ice. Temperatures will have good odds of running above average south of the Ohio River through at least January, with the coldest air likely not arriving until February. The far northern Ohio Valley may be the only ones to pull off temperatures closer to average when all is said and done. Icy weather could become a concern with some passing storm systems, and even with warmer conditions overall, it’s inevitable that sufficient cold will be available at times to bring enhanced snow chances. We expect that precipitation will run above average most of the winter.

Southeast, Tennessee, and Florida

Though not as consistently warm as the last, we expect that at least the lower half of the Southeast, much of the Carolinas, and Florida will have above average temperatures through much of the winter. Furthermore, we anticipate below average precipitation across the lower Southeast and Florida, which will increase the risk of expanding drought conditions in 2021. Despite the expected warmth and mostly dry weather, we placed much of the Carolinas in the light blue zone to emphasize icing concerns later in the winter. Severe thunderstorms could become problematic over the lower Gulf coast states at times this winter.  

Farther north, the southern stream storm track could bring a slew of storm systems across much of Tennessee and potentially as far south as northern Mississippi, northern Alabama and northern Georgia in January and February. These areas could be the exception to the dry winter, where we anticipate that precipitation amounts could run average to above average. At times, sufficiently cold air could allow parts of Tennessee to get decent shots of snow/ice the latter two-thirds of winter. Northern parts of the Gulf coast states will remain a bit of a wildcard through most of the winter in terms of snow/ice chances.

The odds of snow/ice across Tennessee and northern parts of the Southeast will be higher than last winter, but elsewhere, those probabilities will be about the same.


The Mid-South will be milder & drier, overall. However, there will be quite a bit of variance at times as Mother Nature battles with warm air followed by big cold shots. While a lesser extend of old man winter’s blow is expected, there are times the northern & southern jet streams come together to produce thunderstorms, followed by a chance ice & snow near the I-20 corridor. These big temperatures swings will allow for the opportunity to see a couple notable severe thunderstorm events for parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Southern Plains

The Southern Plains will be a region of disparity. The northern-half of the region will experience old man winter at his finest while the southern-half of the region experiences a less-harsh version of old man winter. The northern-half of the region can expect big swings in temperatures; from mild to freezing cold. With the battle of these air masses, a few impactful winter storms can be expected with the opportunity for ice & snow. Farther south, temperatures will be a touch milder with drier conditions. This area won’t be immune to winter. Still expect to see some pesky cold air masses ooze south with a chance for one or two winter storms. Western Texas & western Oklahoma have a good shot to see these winter storms. I-20 & I-40 should see some wintry problems later in the season. With the battle between winter and milder conditions, don’t be surprised to see a couple severe thunderstorm events for Texas and Oklahoma as you approach the I-35 corridor. 

Pacific & Inland Northwest and Northern Rockies 

This region will experience the harshest of what winter has to offer. The Pacific Northwest will experience frequent low pressures moving ashore bringing rain & snow. These low pressures will take advantage of a stout subtropical moisture feed, at times, which will allow for heavy precipitation. Keep an eye out for flooding and landslides. The I-5 corridor will experience the wettest conditions from Portland to Seattle with shots for snow at times. The heaviest snow will fall in the Cascades & Olympics. Farther east into the Inland Northwest and Northern Rockies, the active pattern will continue with numerous shots of frigid cold air. This will lead to above average snow and below average temperatures.

Southwest and Southern Rockies

This region will be the inverse of areas farther north. The Desert Southwest can expect fairly dry conditions with below average rain & snow. This does not mean it will be warm and dry all winter. At times, pesky upper-lows will crash into California and move across the Southwest. This will bring periodic chances of rain and high elevation snow. Along with the periodic shots of precipitation, cold air will sneak into the region at times. But, overall, winter will take a vacation in this part of the county. Farther north & east into the Southern Rockies, there will be lots of battles between winter and a warmer & drier pattern. The Southern Rockies will get a fair share of significant winter storms and shots of bitterly cold air. 

Major Cold On The Way

A very cold stretch is in store for the Midwest, Great Lakes and Northeast through the end of January into early February (this will impact the Southeast–details discussed later in the article). Temperatures tonight into tomorrow morning will feel like 20 to 40 below zero for parts of the Midwest and Great Lakes (see Fig. 1). This cold will continue into the weekend for these regions and parts of the Northeast but the coldest air will arrive by mid to late next week.

Fig. 1: Feels like temps early tomorrow (Friday) morning

As we head into mid week (the end of January), it appears the polar vortex (I know, you’re tired of hearing this since it is so freely tossed around via media) will drop into the Midwest & Great Lakes (see Fig. 2). This equatorial displacement of the polar vortex will allow temperatures to fall even further than what will be experienced tomorrow (Friday) into the weekend. Temperatures by mid next week will be 30 to 50 degrees below average (see Fig. 3). High temperatures for parts of the Northeast, Midwest and Great Lakes will not get above 0 from Wednesday through at least Friday and likely be 5 to 15 degrees below zero for highs. It is possible feels like temperatures will be close to 60 degrees below zero.

Fig. 2: Polar vortex over the Great Lakes by mid next week
Fig. 3: 850mb temp anomalies by mid next week

So why is this cold air moving into the lower-48? The answer is due to a stratospheric warming event that occurred a few weeks back. When a quick stratospheric warmup occurs, it can allow the polar vortex to weaken and thus get displaced from the North Pole; sometimes that displacement is farther south towards the North American continent. When the displacement is over the North American continent (which is this case this time), very frigid air can engulf parts of the lower-48. This will be the case next week and possible as we head into February due to the weakened state of the polar vortex.

It is not only locations of higher latitude that will get in on the cold weather. Parts of the Southeast will be very frigid too by the end of next week (see Fig. 4). Thursday and Friday may of next week may feature high temperatures below freezing for parts of Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina with lows in the teens (or possibly single digits for some locations).

Fig. 4: 850mb temp anomalies by late next week

It should be noted, temperatures of this magnitude are dangerous. Actions must be taken to ensure your pets are protected. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS OUTSIDE if cold weather is in the forecast for your area. If you have elderly neighbors, make sure they are okay. Protect the plumbing in and around your house and be VERY CAUTIOUS with space heaters.

Arctic Air Mass Will Bring Much Colder Temperatures

polar vortex cold

We definitely have an interesting pattern shaping up for this upcoming week into next weekend that will give most of the United States relatively wild swings in temperatures. This is somewhat typical to see at the beginning of the astronomical spring, but the colder temperatures that will follow next weekend, which will be especially potent across the Midwest, Great Lakes and Northeast, are going to be pretty impressive. I’ll address the timing on all of this momentarily.

I must admit that what is about to occur is coming about a month later than what I anticipated at the beginning of the winter. Timing means everything in meteorology, and being off by even a couple of weeks can make a huge difference. While the cold plunge will be impressive, especially farther north, this will not be something that will set in for an extended period of time. However, I would be careful about planting crops or a garden since the volatility in the pattern going into April could bring AT LEAST a couple more shots at frost or freezing temperatures.

Meteorological Discussion with Reasoning:

Frost advisories and freezing warnings extend as far south as Oklahoma and Texas tonight, which won’t be the last time that regions fairly far to the south will flirt with temperatures at freezing or even drop below that. The shortwave (disturbance) responsible for this first wave of colder temperatures is currently moving northeastward into the Great Lakes region and will drag a cold front all the way to the Gulf Coast and East Coast by Monday/Tuesday. The cooler temperatures behind the front won’t be anything impressive, and temperatures will once again warm up across the eastern half of the U.S. by mid-week ahead of another system. This will be temporary, however.

As the first system (discussed above) moves out over the Northeast early in the week, a long-wave trough is going to dig southward just to the north of Hawaii. As this occurs, a ridge is going to build just off the West Coast and extend into western Canada and Alaska, and downstream of that ridge, a trough is going to build into the western U.S. as a piece of energy drops southeastward from western Canada/the Pacific Northwest. This kind of pattern configuration is known as an Omega block, and the reason for its name is that the mid and upper-level pattern literally takes the shape of the Greek letter Omega. Where this occurs, the wind flow does not go from west to east like what typically occurs but actually goes up and over the ridge and then back southward. Sometimes these kinds of patterns can stick around for a while, which is why it’s called an Omega BLOCK.

omega block

So you’re probably wondering why that is even worth mentioning. Here are a few things to keep in mind. With the building trough over the western U.S. (specifically over the Rockies into the Southwestern U.S.) this will bring below average temperatures for most of the week over those areas. The immediate West Coast, especially over the Pacific Northwest, will actually warm up quite nicely while that ridge hugs close to the coast. Conditions generally will be very dry over the West Coast with snow chances over the Rockies. Again, this is what I thought would have occurred in February instead of this late, but nonetheless, this kind of pattern does cut off the ability for system after system hitting the Pacific Northwest, even if it is temporary.

As I alluded to earlier, the eastern U.S. will warm up after the brief “cool-down” early in the week, but don’t get too comfortable because the real cold is coming in a one-two punch later in the week going into next weekend. I still say that the more impressive cold will be farther north, but freezing temperatures could reach as far south as the northern Gulf Coast states or at the least get into the 30s at night with the weekend Arctic intrusion. This last cold punch in the forecast period should be the most impressive.

A series of shortwaves will drop into the northern U.S. from Canada, with the first shortwave likely picking up energy from the southwest U.S. and triggering an outbreak of severe weather mid-week across the central U.S. I’ll get more into the specifics on the severe weather potential in another update. A cold front associated with a surface low pressure system will drag in the colder air behind it and will probably be further reinforced by another shortwave dropping south from Canada. This will be punch number 1 of colder air coming to the eastern two-thirds of the nation later in the week going into the early weekend. Some will definitely feel this more than others.

Right on the heels of the first punch of colder air, a very potent Arctic air mass will dive southward into the Great Lakes region and Northeast Sunday into Monday of next week (7 days from now) and will bring well-below average temperatures from the Northern Plains to the East Coast. This will occur as the ridge over the western U.S. and Canada flattens out some and comes slightly farther east. This will definitely be an impressive intrusion of Arctic air for this late in the season. Temperatures could be unseasonable cold air far south as the Gulf Coast states, but how potent that cold air will be farther south will be dependent on how far south that lobe of the polar vortex digs southward into the Great Lakes. This is something that we have a few days to watch, so those details can be ironed out this week. Farther north from the Northern Plains eastward, I could definitely see some records being broken.

polar vortex cold

With that said, I want everyone to understand that temperatures well-below average in late March and early April are much different than the same thing occurring in January or February. It might be significant from a climatological perspective if record lows are broken, but as we progress into spring, the sun angle becomes more direct over the Northern Hemisphere. That doesn’t mean that it can’t get very cold, but it just means that it won’t be as bad as if the exact same event occurred during the winter months.

I didn’t get a chance to address much the flooding situation that could occur over the Southeast regions this week or the severe weather threat coming up this week, although I did post the 5-day rainfall forecast below. I’ll try to have updates on all of that in a day or two.

5 day rainfall forecast

Polar Vortex: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

The image on the left shows the polar vortex stronger and well-placed, while the image on the right shows the polar vortex much weaker.

In 2014, almost all of you became quite familiar with the term ‘polar vortex’ when it brought brutal cold to the United States during the 2013-14 winter. The polar vortex is nothing new among meteorologists and has been responsible for some of the United States’ worst Arctic outbreaks. Some winters, the polar vortex stays quite strong and well-placed over the North Pole, but other winters, it can become weaker and displaced, bringing bitter cold to different locations in the mid-latitudes. It’s important to note that all of the Arctic blasts that move across the United States are not caused by the polar vortex becoming displaced and/or splitting. Polar vortex has been rated one of the most overused terms in 2014, but nonetheless, it is still important.

What Is The Polar Vortex?

The polar vortex is an area of low pressure that is located over the North Pole in the upper troposphere and stratosphere which can become particularly strong during the winter months. Because of the sharp contrast of really cold air at the North Pole and the warmer air further south during the winter months, very strong winds rotate counter-clockwise around the polar vortex and bottle up all of that colder air. When the polar vortex is strong and well-placed, the cold air has a difficult time getting past those strong rotating winds. As I stated above, there are other ways to tap into that cold, Arctic air during the winter, but typically when the polar jet stream stays further north (north of the United States), then the nation doesn’t experience extended periods of cold. When it all comes down to it, it all depends on where that jet stream is.

What Causes The Polar Vortex To Weaken?

You can kind of think of the polar vortex as one of those spinning tops. When you spin it really fast on a table, it typically rotates very quickly in one place. Now if you were to tap the spinning top or if it were to just slow down on its own, it may continue to rotate in one spot, but its rotations would become more wavy. In some cases, the spinning top may completely move all over the table. You can think of the waviness of this slower spinning top as tentacles of colder air being displaced due to the weaker spin. Last winter, the polar vortex was all over the place, or to put it another way, it was spinning all over the table. Because of the weaker polar vortex, the polar jet stream was all wavy, and it just so happened that a piece of the vortex became displaced and moved into the United States on multiple occasions last winter.

The image on the left shows the polar vortex stronger and well-placed, while the image on the right shows the polar vortex much weaker.

The image on the left shows the polar vortex stronger and well-placed, while the image on the right shows the polar vortex much weaker and split.

There are various ways to weaken the polar vortex. To put it simply, warming over the Arctic weakens the polar vortex. This creates a weaker temperature contrast between the North Pole and the warmer regions further south; therefore causing the polar vortex to displace, elongate, or even split. The jet stream that was once nicely rotating around the vortex becomes wavy and all over the place. If you are under one of those wavy tentacles of cold, then you are in for some really cold, Arctic air.

That’s why you hear so much about the Arctic Oscillation (AO), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Eastern Pacific Oscillation (EPO), sudden stratospheric warming events, etc. Those can indicate that blocking (the building of high pressure) is setting up over the Arctic, Greenland, Alaska, etc., which would indicate warming over the Arctic regions. Sudden stratospheric warming events can warm the North Pole enough to really break down and weaken the polar vortex. That will likely occur this month also, and the effects of this warming could be felt in the form of very cold air over parts of the United States later in January and February.

Will The Polar Vortex Pay The United States Another Visit This Winter?

So far this winter, the polar vortex has remained very well-placed and strong over the North Pole. While many regions around the globe in the Northern Hemisphere have already experienced really cold air so far this winter, other regions have not. Much of the United States has missed out on some of the brutal cold so far, but that could drastically change later in January. If the polar vortex weakens later in January, that could bring brutal cold to the mid-latitudes. Determining where that cold will set up is the challenge.

Model guidance continues to hint that strong warming in the stratosphere is going to weaken the stratospheric polar vortex, which will eventually make its way down to the troposphere. Over the next two to three weeks, this could have major consequences at the surface. We’ll have to watch where exactly this warming occurs, which will ultimately determine where this Arctic cold gets displaced.

To help you visualize this, check out the two images below. This shows you the North Pole, and notice all of the warming that is currently taking place. You’ll notice on the next image how in a few days, all of that warming weakens and splits the polar vortex into two vortices. While it takes time, these effects will eventually be felt at the surface.

Notice the warming currently taking place.

Notice the warming currently taking place.

Even over the course of a few days, things will begin to drastically change over the North Pole.

Notice how in a few days the warming begins to weaken and split the polar vortex.

Notice how in a few days the warming begins to weaken and split the polar vortex.

Sunday Weather Ramblings and Snow Photos

Dianne Caldwell Loague sent this to us from her friend in Salem, Wisconsin.

Sometimes my weather updates are too short to put into an article but too long to put on Facebook. I’m going to start doing these weather ramblings articles from time to time just to share some of my current thinking without making any official forecasts. Many of you sometimes want to know what I’m thinking about a particular storm or pattern change, and this will be a more relaxed way for me to give you some tidbits of info before making any big or official forecasts on the site.

Polar Vortex:

The cold air pushing into the United States is very impressive for this time of year, but nothing that was unexpected. I’ve heard the term ‘polar vortex’ being thrown around quite a lot lately, and I realize most of you are probably tired of hearing it. Yes, I realize the media picked up on that term last winter, but that is actually a meteorological phenomenon that has been around for a long time. You can think of the polar vortex as the gatekeeper of the Arctic cold, but sometimes, something causes that gate to open.The polar vortex is just a cold upper-level low pressure system located over the North Pole that typically strengthens during the winter months, but every once in a while, something causes this vortex to weaken or become disturbed. This can displace a piece of the vortex further south as was the case last winter.

You could argue that the cold blast this week is being caused by the polar vortex, but I don’t care to get into that debate. Everything is caused by something though. When Super Typhoon Nuri made its extra-tropical transition in the Bering Sea, a large amount of heat was released into the atmosphere, pumping a big ridge up over Alaska, therefore causing a big trough over most of the United States. That’s enough on all of that for now. Be sure to check out my article from earlier today if you missed it.

500 mb Geopotential Height and Anomaly Map for Monday Night

500 mb Geopotential Height and Anomaly Map for Monday Night

Thanksgiving Storm:

I have been calling this the ‘Thanksgiving storm’ and will continue to refer to it as that, regardless of whether it actually happens on Thanksgiving or a few days before. All of this is actually starting to get VERY interesting. Models are predicating a piece of energy to break off and move southeast into the Californian coast sometime this weekend. This little piece of energy eventually becomes part of a larger trough that is projected to move into the United States next week, and due to all of this, a surface low pressure system develops and begins strengthening over the Southern Plains. This eventually begins to strengthen fairly rapidly as it moves northeast to the Great Lakes. This alone would be a big snow maker for those on the cold side of the system and a severe weather threat for those on the warm side. I’ll have details on all of the specifics later.

Then, things get even more interesting. Cold air really begins to rush in and push south behind this system, and the pattern really begins to favor something else developing further south. Now, this is just an observation on my end, but this could get very interesting if we were to get something to develop further south and eventually move up the East Coast. I can’t rule out the possibility of a southern branch system like this developing, and it would probably happen right around Thanksgiving. Maybe I should start talking about the Thanksgiving storms, not just storm.

Remember, these are just me sharing my thoughts and not making any official forecasts. Things will change between now and then.

Your Snow Photos: 

I just wanted to share a few of your snow photos that you shared on the page today. By the way, I’ve been sharing some of your photos on Instagram, so be sure to follow Firsthand Weather on Instagram by clicking here!

Dianne Caldwell Loague sent this to us from here friend in Salem, Wisconsin.

Dianne Caldwell Loague sent this to us from her friend in Salem, Wisconsin.

This is from Christine Wooledge- Myhre in Chaska, Minnesota.

This is from Christine Wooledge- Myhre in Chaska, Minnesota.

16 inches of snow on the ground in McKean, PA outside of Erie. Photo sent in by Steve Joseph Danylko.

16 inches of snow on the ground in McKean, PA outside of Erie. Photo sent in by Steve Joseph Danylko.

This was at the Philly City Hall shared by Kevin Kilmartin.

This was at the Philly City Hall shared by Kevin Kilmartin.

Major Cool Down On The Way For The United States

This Saturday!!

Summer finally decided to kick in just as we were transitioning from the meteorological summer to the meteorological fall. For many, this summer has been on the cool side, and even back in July, most of us got to experience a pattern that was very atypical of a summertime pattern in the U.S. I understand that some of you have had to deal with the summer heat, but this heat wasn’t anything that set in the entire summer. As most of you know, we’ve had way worst summers in the past.

Just as we’ve started to heat up, things are about to cool off dramatically for a large portion of the United States. The colder air will be more aggressive further north; however, below average temperatures can be expected even in the Deep South behind the cold front that will be pushing through by next weekend.

We’re moving into the time of year where the weather gets a little more exciting. Even though it’s typically still a bit early in September to be getting these kinds of outbreaks of colder air, I do expect these wild swings in temperature to continue through this month and beyond.

Many of you up North will be seeing your first deep freeze this week, while those further to the south will be experiencing much cooler temps and less humidity by this upcoming weekend.

Here are the expected temperature departures from average for September 7th-12th:

Temperature Departures from Average (Sept. 7th-12th)

Temperature Departures from Average (Sept. 7th-12th)

As you can see, the cooler air spreads southeast (Sept. 12th-17th):

Temperature Departures from Average (Sept. 12th-17th)

Temperature Departures from Average (Sept. 12th-17th)

Later in the month, the cooler temps fade; however, the temps will be much cooler even in the Deep South (Sept. 17th-22nd):

Temperature Departures from Average (Sept. 17th-22nd)

Temperature Departures from Average (Sept. 17th-22nd)

Just to give you a snapshot of what this weekend will look like, here is a temperature anomaly map (departures from average) for Saturday morning!

This Saturday!!

This Saturday!!

There is a mid-week severe weather threat that I am currently keeping a close eye on, which I mentioned yesterday. I’ll have more updates on that in a day or so, along with additional updates on the Facebook page. Be sure to like the Facebook page if you haven’t already!

Have a great Sunday afternoon!!

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

Probability of Below-Average Temperatures

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!

Brutal Cold Is On The Way For The United States!

We are about to enter a very interesting period, and while I know that many of you like the cold, this next Arctic outbreak could be dangerous and even historic. I put out an article about a week ago and then one before that that basically restated that I thought that mid to late January going into February could end up being dangerously cold for the central and eastern U.S. While I have really been putting myself out on the line over these last few weeks, I am now getting a lot of forecast model support to back up what I saw coming several weeks ago. Like I said on the Facebook page, the GFS model did not handle the last Arctic outbreak that well in predicting this in the long-range, so I absolutely had no reason to believe that anything would be different this time. Yet again, many fell into the trap of using the GFS as their model of choice for their long-range forecast, and they got burned. See, weather and climate works in cycles, and you have to be able to see those cycles. If you miss that, then you’re left depending on a model that dictates your forecasts, and those forecasts can change A LOT! You’re at the mercy of the forecast models, and I try to never put myself in that situation.

Now that I’m getting the support of the forecast models and we’re much closer to the event, I want to show you what the models are predicting. In fact, if what the forecast models are predicting for the last week of January going into February comes to fruition, then we have a historic Arctic outbreak on our way that would give us brutal cold. The Canadian model also supports a big East Coast storm later in January, which I really think could happen. From the way things are starting to look, this cold pattern could lock in, which would continue into February, and we could also move into a very stormy pattern. Many of you have commented on the Facebook page (yes, I take the time to read almost all of your comments and messages) that you were disappointed that you didn’t get any snow with this last Arctic outbreak. I’m really thinking things will be different this time. No, I’m not saying that Miami, FL will get snow, but I do think many areas in the Southeast and up the East Coast will.

The pattern that is setting up is classic for extreme cold and storminess in the East and well-above average temperatures and dry conditions in the West. When you get this kind of ridging in the western U.S. and over Alaska and blocking over Greenland, the cold in the East is going to be brutal. A piece of the polar vortex is going to split and move south again (possibly further south than the last time) and be responsible for yet another brutal Arctic outbreak of cold air. I’m thinking that this cold air could end up even being more potent further south than the last time, so places even into Florida will end up with brutal cold. The biggest difference this time is that the cold will likely stay around for a long time, and ridging is going to prevent the polar vortex from re-establishing itself over the North Pole. In other words, this cold may not go anywhere for days, even weeks, and we could be setting up a pattern that has not been seen in decades.

Of course, there are some uncertainties, but I am highly confident that this cold blast is going to occur. I think the worst of the cold could be focused east of the Mississippi, but that will not be the only areas that are cold. I’m also watching what is currently occurring over the Bering Sea, and there are strong indications that this cold won’t go anywhere in February. While there will be some fluctuations, I really don’t see the eastern U.S. fluctuating back into a warmer pattern. You’re going to have your cold spells, and then you’re going to have your REALLY cold spells! Again, the East Coast needs to keep their eye on the potential for a big winter storm later in the month, and I will detail that more in another article.

Since the GFS has its act together for now as far as predicting the cold, I want to show you it’s ensemble. Most of its members have really cold air establishing itself over the eastern U.S., which is remarkable that we’re getting that kind of agreement. If it were just the operational model showing this, then I wouldn’t even bother showing it. The European and Canadian models are also in agreement with predicting very cold temperatures later in the month.

On January 22th, the GFS ensemble really establishes the cold over the eastern third of the nation.

Jan 22

Fast-forward to January 25th, and you still have really cold air over the eastern U.S.

jan 25

Then we move into January 28th, and things just look brutal!

Jan 28

Now, take a look at the European ensemble average temperature anomaly for January 26th through January 30th. This shows extreme cold! These are the expected temperature departures from average, and given that we’re in the heart of winter, this kind of cold would be very dangerous!!


Of course, I’ll continue to keep you updated! If I don’t have time to post on the site in the next couple of days, I’ll definitely be posting on the Facebook page. Please give it a like if you haven’t already.

Let The Fun and Games Begin

Trying to understand what the weather will be like for the rest of the month is like putting pieces of a puzzle together. Most of the pieces are sitting out there on the table with a few missing, and I’m the one left putting the pieces together. That’s where I’m at right now, and as I fit these pieces together, I will continue to get a clearer picture of what is going to take place over the coming days. Let me share with you what I foresee taking place.

The forecast period from now going into February will be very active and is actually going to get somewhat complicated. It was pretty straightforward to me back 2 or 3 weeks ago that a part of the polar vortex was going to split off and give us the recent bitter cold that we recently experienced across the United States. First off, we have two systems that we are going to have to keep an eye on for next week, but I do not think either of these systems will be huge. Some areas will get snow from this, and at some point, I’ll specify those areas in a later article or on the Facebook page. I don’t see this being anything that would give the southern U.S. any snow, and neither of these will be the big storm that I think is going to occur later in the month.

Fast-forwarding to mid-week, we’re going to have a pretty strong trough building in the eastern U.S. while ridging will be building back in the West. While I see temperatures being below-normal, this will not compare to the Arctic event that occurred a few days back. Now before you start thinking it, I’m not backing off my very cold forecast for later in the month. I just don’t want you to get next week’s cool down in the East confused with what I still think will occur later in the month.

If you go back and study previous winters, typically you don’t just have one cold Arctic blast, and then winter just wraps itself up and goes away. Once something occurs, many times it will happen again later down the road. Now I may be totally wrong on this (which I don’t think I am, otherwise I wouldn’t be telling you about it), but the last week of January could end up very cold in the eastern U.S. with a monster snowstorm developing and moving up the East Coast. I don’t think this would be one of those situations where snow/ice would be limited to just the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, but the Southeastern U.S. would get in on this also. Going back to what I said about things happening in cycles, a winter storm occurring along the East Coast the last week of January is actually supported by Lezak’s Recurring Cycle (LRC). To put it simply, the LRC allows us to make predictions well into the future based on previous events.

Determining how expansive the cold air later in January will be is becoming quite difficult. Next week, models have the ridge building pretty far to the east and actually have areas like the Southern Plains on up to the Northern Plains and areas westward with above average temps. I actually agree with that for next week, but whether or not that ridge continues to be placed that far to the east going into the last week of January is the question. Regardless, the eastern third of the U.S. looks brutally cold to me all the way to the end of the month, particularly the last week of January.

I have a lot more to talk about, but I’m going to end it here for tonight since it is getting kind of late. I will be posting some stuff on the Facebook page so go give it a like if you haven’t already.

The GFS has a trough building in the East, while a ridge builds to the West.

By mid next week, the GFS has a trough building in the East, while a ridge builds to the West.