Sunday, October 19, 2014

Preliminary Winter Outlook 2014-15


The Winter Season always has the most interest here in the VA/NC regions. Other seasons rarely contain events that shutdown schools and disrupt daily business as much as Winter. That being said... Central VA saw massive disruption in the 2000 and 2010's caused by:
  • Hurricanes, Isabel and Irene. 
  • A Summer Derecho wreaked havoc on the power grid. 
  • Tropical Storm Gaston (Honorable Mention) damaged areas due to flooding 

Winter 2013-14 featured harsh cold across the Eastern US and the more frequent forays into below 10 low temperatures than I remember as a child in the late 70's. Elsewhere, the Great Lakes still contained ice in the areas most hard frozen in JUNE. My theme last Winter was "Go Big or Go Home" based on that expected cold and associated disruption. At the weather level, many of you will know that these terms describe what kept temperatures so cold, so long : -NP, -EPO, +PNA, -AO. Those names describe observations made in the North Pacific, NE of Hawaii, Western US, Canada. Take note that the NAO (North Atlantic) was not a major player last winter.

Keep in mind the following principles:

  • This is October:  While changes are not expected, my final prognostication in late November is subject to change.
  • Weather is a designed mechanism:  The weather as a system that was designed by God.  This means that study of that system must include an investigation into the purpose of each system. How does a layman apply this?  Include economics in the process of observing weather.
Now, What You have been Waiting For...

What do the Oceans indicate about Winter 2014-15?

Note:  Australia's version is much better than the NOAA.   For some reason the chart published by NOAA/NESDIS was changed so that neutral values (-0.5 to +0.5) are 1/2 blue and 1/2 yellow.
  1. Warm Gulf of Alaska - Based on data in modern times, this is the key to every big winter in the NC/VA region.   People like to rave about -NAO but...  -EPO/+PNA is a stronger correlation to cold,
  2. Cool North Atlantic: This feature is a key reversal that is expected to introduce a dominant negative NAO into this season's weather equation.
  3. Developing El Nino:  Pacific and Indian Ocean weather patterns and ocean temps are indicative of a weak/low moderate episode of West Based El Nino (called "Modoki").  This situation provides enough El Nino to keep the mean trough mostly in the East but not so much that rainy cool weather dominates over cold.
  4. Warm Gulf of Mexico - Feeds Nor'easters and Nor'easter wanna be 's :>)

Winter Wild Card?  - What could this mean?

There is a relationship between October snow buildup in Siberia and the dominance of the -AO cold signal.  Data has been kept close to 50 years, not much in the History of the Weather Machine, but enough to raise some questions about how vulnerable we may be to rare weather extremes,

Talk about what apocalypse could massively disrupt society seems to be on the increase.  My greatest concern is being blindsided by a Killer Winter that leads to massive suffering caused by a combination of terrible cold.  The electric grid is known to have limits.  Natural Gas distribution system was near its limits last year in some regions of the US.  The observed impact of $400-$600 electric and heating fuel bills per month on middle class and poor families here in Central NC is huge cause for concern,  Being able to set a temperature that is comfortable has health care implications as well.  Is an energy policy that prices the poor and lower Middle Class out of reasonable comfort really save the environment or society?  

Let's talk Snowcover...

These chart from the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab seem to be telling a story.

Note the spike in snowcover preceding the legendary late 1970's winters
and the long steady uptrend channel since 1991.

Notice how the lowest lows were steady in the 1960's and the 1980s but were less prominent in the 21st Century.  The 2 distinct snow droughts correlate very well with ideas about the Icecaps allegedly melting and other "Global Warming" beliefs.   A good Scientist would warn against responses to to apparent weather until the longer term is better understood.

October snowcover better correlates with Winter Outcomes.
This data stops at 2013.  I can tell you that the month started
at +4 on the scale

Pay attention once again to the prominent snow drought period followed by a ramp-up that could partly explain the eventful winters of the early 2000's in our region,  Keep in mind that October 2014 is likely to be a very positive result.

My big question:  Did the huge circa 1976 spike in snow cover contribute to the legendary winters of 1976-79?

Bigger Question:  Since 2009 Severe Winter outcomes have evoked memories of the late 1970's and summoned historical reports from the early 1880's.   Must we consider the option that even more severe winter outcomes lie ahead if the trend continues?

Some are very excited about prospects for a cold snowy winter.  I would be excited as well ... except ... the snow data leads me to dig deeper into the potential for outcomes never experienced by the living generations.

My final outlook will be near or on Thanksgiving Day.

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