Friday, October 28, 2016

Winter Forecast Outlook for Kentucky 2016-2017

Winter ‘16-‘17 is nearly upon us.  Time falls back an hour NEXT weekend (November 6), people are beginning to think about Christmas, and yet another year is wrapping up soon.  And that brings up another thought that everyone has; Will it snow a lot again this year?

I mentioned on the page the other day that I don’t think I’m going to spend a lot of time on a full blown winter forecast this year.  It’s going to be exceedingly difficult this year because of the mixed signals I’m seeing and truthfully I think that it’s almost impossible this year to predict what the latter stages of winter will bring.  The period from February through March is completely up in the air and you’re going to see a lot of seasonal forecasts bust.  Winter forecasting is never a simple thing to do, but this year it’s going to be really tough.  Having said that, I do feel that I can give you a reasonable idea of what to expect November through January so let’s take a look at the weather that we will likely be dealing with for the upcoming holiday season.  This should give you at least an idea of which direction this winter looks to take.

First of all, I always say that history repeats itself.  Looking at the historical record can give a lot of clues as to what the future holds.  We had a period of horrible winters in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s.  I therefore concluded that if the pattern holds, the 2010s should give us some good snow.  Seems logical, right?  Well, we’ve just come off of three consecutive winters with abnormally cold weather and abnormally high snowfall totals.  Amazingly, we saw record amounts of snow three years ago that caused the most school closure days I’ve seen in my lifetime, followed by not one, but TWO snowfalls exceeding a foot deep two winters ago, and then yet another snowfall exceeding a foot deep last year.  Just amazing stuff that truthfully shocks me.  But, history will repeat itself and that means that the balance is coming.  Warmer winters with less snow are coming and that will balance out the last few years.  Remember, nature always tries to achieve equilibrium.

Then you have the ENSO cycle.  Last year we saw a really strong El Nino set up, and that influenced our weather.  Well, currently we’re neutral to slightly into the La Nina phase.  The forecast models indicate that La Nina will likely carry us through the fall, in a weak phase, and then it’s likely that early next year we’ll go into neutral conditions.  What this means is that the ENSO cycle won’t be a big factor in our winter weather this year.  This will act to give us a different look to the overall pattern than what we've seen.


Lastly, if you look at a couple of the seasonal models, the JMA (Japanese model) and the CFS (Climate Forecast System), you notice that both of them are predicting mild conditions across the Ohio Valley region from now through January and possibly into February.  Now, remember that this doesn’t mean that it’s going to be 75 degrees every day.  This just means that the average temperatures for the period are predicted to be above normal.  In short, we should at least begin with a mild winter.

Here's what the JMA is showing:


Notice that precipitation and surface temps are both near avearge, with some slightly above average temps just to our west.  This is valid for the 3-month period beginning in November.

Now, take a look at some of the CFS data:


It, too, shows slightly above average to average temps. across the Ohio Valley region during the period of meteorological winter which is December through February.

Of course, one must also consider the various oscillations and indices that give clues about the large scale patterns that we may see.  There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, but this should give you an idea about where we're headed.

We’ve all heard that the Farmers’ Almanac shows a crippling winter in the Ohio Valley.  And I myself have seen the solid white wooly caterpillars, which are said to mean that blizzards are coming.  Like I said, the back half of winter, March in particular, could be anyone’s guess.  But from the data I’m seeing and the pattern we’re currently in, and taking history into account, I believe that winter 2016-2017 is generally going to be milder than the last few winters.  And I believe we’re going to generally see less snow than the last few winters.

So there you have it.  A brief look at the seasonal forecast.  Now, let's enjoy every day to the fullest, and time will tell if this forecast works out or not.  November begins next week, and it'll be t-shirts and sunglasses.  



-Shawn

Friday, July 22, 2016

The HEAT is on!

Hey guys and girls, I realize I haven’t been updating the website lately.  As a reminder, things are more active on social media so look for me at Central Kentucky Weather on Facebook, or @LburgWXandNEWS on Twitter.

 

Summer in Kentucky has turned out wet for many, with above average rainfall in MOST counties of central and western Kentucky.  The Bluegrass counties haven’t had a Heat Advisory in effect in four years partially due to the wet pattern, and we’re watching closely to see if that streak ends soon.  Regardless of advisories, it will be very hot and humid this weekend so use caution if outdoors.  Flooding and heat are the two biggest weather related killers in the U.S.  This is only true because people don’t take them seriously!

 

As we head toward August, the hottest and driest time of the year in Kentucky is almost upon us.  It will be very interesting to see how the pattern turns out this year.  From what I’m seeing right now, I would expect a continuation of the stormy pattern for at least a little while longer.  The good news is that we’ve almost certainly avoided drought again this year at this point.

 

Take care, and I’ll see you on social media.

 

 

 

-Shawn

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Where Does Winter Go From Here?

I’ve been using the winters of 97-98 and 98-99 as analogs to compare to as one piece to this puzzle. My winter outlook is spot on so far and I’m happy with how it’s going. So where do we go from here?  If you look at January-March 1998, you see only a few transient cold shots, otherwise conditions were mild to warm the entire period with some 70s in February and some 80s in March!  El Nino certainly keeps things toasty in the eastern U.S.  Could we see the same type of warmth carry us through early 2016?  Looking at November-February 1998-1999 you see more of the same.  Lots of highs in the 60s with quite a few highs in the 70s throughout the period.  Sure, there are brief cold snaps…but overall the winters were VERY mild during those El Nino years.  Just something to think about as we head toward January.  There is a lot of chatter in the meteorological community about a turn to cold and snowy weather in the coming months.  I personally am not sold on that idea just yet.  I am beginning to think more strongly that the last 3-5 years have been our cold phase and now we are going to move toward a warm phase.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Winter Outlook for Kentucky 2015-2016

Updated 29-October-2015

After looking over the latest data on the ENSO cycle, the MJO, NAO, PNA teleconnections, and throwing in a little bit of experience and gut feeling, I have made a few edits to the winter outlook for Kentucky.  I also added a tidbit about possibilities for spring 2016.  This will be the final revision.

Updated outlook:

I can’t believe it but 2015 is winding down now.  We are into the last quarter of the year.  The deciduous trees are beginning to change colors and drop their leaves.  The air is getting cooler.  The sun’s angle is waning.  The nights are getting longer.  We're turning the clocks back this weekend.  And with that, those of us who dwell in the mid latitudes of the northern hemisphere are turning our minds toward winter.

That begs the question; what will winter 2015-2016 be like in Kentucky?  Are we in for another harsh one with sub-zero January cold and frequent snowfall?  Or is this winter going to begin a pattern of milder winters that will carry us for a while?

I suppose this would be a great place to insert my disclaimer.  Obviously nobody except God himself knows for a fact what is coming, and even with all the technology we have today and the supercomputer power we have to run our models on, seasonal forecasting has still proven to be a very difficult task with little accuracy.  It is virtually impossible to predict a white Christmas, for example, from this stage in the autumn season.  Having said that, we can look at the global pattern, history, and computer data and come up with at least a ballpark idea of what to expect in the December-February time frame.  And that's the point of a winter outlook... to give folks an idea of the general type of winter we may be in store for.

Here is how I see the winter of 2015-2016 to play out in fairly simple terms: it’ll be more variable this season with more swings in temperatures and a lesser number of snow events but a higher possibility of a “big one” compared to average.  In other words, I do not think we will see as much snow as we've seen in the past few winters, but due to the wild swings in the pattern what snow we do see may come in the form of larger storms.  Overall, I expect temperatures to be milder than what we've seen in recent winters.

Now, to expand on those thoughts a little more for those of you who are still interested…

El Nino is going to be a big deal this winter.  We haven’t dealt with El Nino in the past three winters.  In fact, ENSO conditions have been fairly neutral going into at least the past two winters.  So the temperature of the Pacific Ocean water hasn’t really come into play regarding our winter weather here in Kentucky in recent years.  Other factors such as blocking patterns in the higher latitudes and the persistence of a mean trough in the eastern U.S. were responsible for the cold and snowy weather we saw last winter and the winter before that also.  That is all going to change for this year.  El Nino conditions are already present and are already strong and are predicted to get a little stronger over the next month or two before peaking.  In fact, a look at the latest model predictions shows that an event peaking above 2.5°C from average is very possible.  



That hasn’t happened since the late 1990s.  So what’s going on out in the Pacific waters is going to be a huge factor in the winter weather here in Kentucky this year.  This is true because our weather comes from the west.  The Pacific is sort of the “breeding ground” of our storm systems.  Warmer water generates more action (hence all the hurricanes nearly striking Hawaii this year and hurricane Patricia which set the record for hurricane strength in the eastern Pacific).  As a result, you normally will see wetter than average conditions east of this area which includes the southern tier of the United States during a strong El Nino.  I think there will be storm systems coming out of the southern part of the country more frequently this year, and it’s those “southern runners” that can result in big snow storms for Kentucky.  That’s why I said I feel like the chances of a “big one” are higher this season compared to average.

However, to make a big snow storm you need another ingredient: cold air.  One of the things that El Nino tends to do (and we saw this in the late 1990s) is that it can create a pattern where temperatures are mild across much of the U.S.  When I was a meteorology student at WKU I remember walking to classes in a t-shirt all the way through final exams before Christmas.  After the holiday break we had some mild weather as well.  So this is why I said that I feel like snowfall will be less frequent this year than the past two years.  We will likely see quite a few cold rain events this winter.  It’s going to take perfect timing of a cold air mass being in place while a strong weather system moves up from the south to make the magic happen.  Hence, less chance for snow events, but a bigger chance for a BIG snow event IF one does happen.

I think the theme of this winter overall is going to be summed up in one word: variable.  Whereas the winters of the last several years were just flat out cold (record setting cold at times), I think this winter will be more variable with periods of cold, but periods of mild weather as well.  Having said that, I think the mild weather will win out and average temperatures will be at or above normal.  Keep in mind that the term "mild winter" doesn't mean that it never gets cold.  It just means that compared to average, it's warmer than normal.  In terms of sky conditions I expect sunny days to mix more often with rainy ones.  The occasional snow event will be with us, and as already mentioned the chance of a big one if things come together just right once or twice.  But overall I think we’ll get a good mix of weather this season.  I think this will happen due to the strong influence of El Nino lasting throughout the winter, and the smaller influences of teleconnections like the PNA, NAO, etc. aligning from time to time to alter our weather for a week or two at a time.  If we can get the PNA to go strongly positive, the NAO to go strongly negative at the same time, and this warm El Nino water to kick out some weather systems all simultaneously…look out!  The superstorm of February 1998 comes to mind.  But it will all have to come together perfectly to make that happen.  Time will tell if we’ll see that or not.  For now, enjoy this warm weather and lower energy bills that are coming over the next several weeks courtesy of our buddy El Nino.  In fact, the first week of November looks to be a very warm one with some record high temperatures possibly in jeopardy.

So to summarize:

Temperatures – Average to slightly above average overall, occasional cold snaps, but overall a milder winter than what we've seen in recent years.


Precipitation – Average to slightly above average with more rain and the possibility of a couple of severe thunderstorm outbreaks.  Snow will be less frequent, but there will be the possibility of a big snow storm at some point if timing aligns just right.

Keep in mind that severe weather can and sometimes does occur in winter here in KY, particularly in these types of patterns.  And that will also be something that we'll have to watch closely from March-May 2016 because many times we do see a large increase in severe weather outbreaks following these El Nino years.

So there you have it.  I have often said that harsh winters strike KY every other decade.  The 1950s, 70s, and 90s all featured terrible winters, and so I expected the '10s to give us some harsh ones and the 2012-2015 period proved to do just that.  I think this winter our utility bills will be a little lower than what we've been seeing.




-Shawn

Thursday, September 10, 2015

More Frequent Updates are on Facebook

Due to the surge in social media and how people prefer Facebook, Twitter, etc…I haven’t been updating the blog often.  You can find more frequent updates on Facebook at:

 

https://www.facebook.com/centralkentuckyweather?pnref=lhc

 

Or on Twitter at:

 

@LburgWXandINFO

 

 

Thanks!

 

 

 

Shawn