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My winter forecast beyond the fiscal cliff, Hanukkah and Christmas

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It may be the Christmas season but the weather does not look very cold or white into the start of Hanukkah. But things start to change between the 3rd week of December and the end of the first month of winter.

Temperature forecast

Expected temperature anomaly pattern for the coming winter.

Precipitation forecast

Forecast winter precipitation anomalies.

If you want to see all the factors I looked at (such as ocean cycles, sun spot cycles etc.) to make this outlook please refer to the preliminary outlook issued in October as I will not repeat myself here. Keep in mind I do not forecast by just looking at a computer model, I use the analog method as described in previous posts. All methods have their failings, but I am not a fan of most climate models.

Climate model consensus is for a mild to warm winter for most of the country, especially here in the South. The NOAA winter outlook has much of the country in the "equal chances" category, in other words too close to call so they make no forecast. Two analog years that keep coming up are the winters of 2003 and 2006. Of course there are many other analog years that are close matches to various signals from the oceans and atmosphere so far this year. I apply a "best fit" approach in making my outlook as opposed to a subjective "weighting" system. Just FYI, the winter of 2003 had 2.5 inches of snow in Atlanta in late February. The winter of 2006 had several trace snow days in January and February. These all reference Hartsfield Airport climate records.

Unlike last winter arctic outbreaks can be expected for the coming winter, some rather significant, but their frequency and duration will be limited. And periods of abnormal warmth during the winter would be no surprise, some of extended length. But when added up and divided by the total period December to March the bias will be colder than average here in Georgia.

The swings in temperature should make for a more stormy winter with the back and forth swings providing ample frontal passages to make precipitation average out near-normal to a little above-normal by the time we get to March. It does not look like it will be wet enough to help the Georgia drought or raise Lake Lanier in any big way.

Odds of snow and/or ice look normal to above-normal in Georgia.

There are many signs pointing to this turning into a harsh winter for much of the country, including here in the Southeast. However, with some signals suggesting a warm winter I am not confident on "pulling the trigger" on the more extreme solution. Unfortunately, when looking for matches from the past as a predictor of the future, similar is not exactly the same. There is no such thing as a linear correlation in weather. As they say in the investment world, past results are no guarantee of future results. Or put another way, as mutual fund ratings say, past results have proven to be better than a mere guess over the long term. But they may or may not perform well in any given season. We will know in March 2013 what the winter brought.

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