The winter forecast

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for snow and cold lovers. Winter is right around the corner, and the usual questions are flying my way. How much snow will I have this year? How cold will it be? My personal favorite: How many snow days will I have this year? Let’s try to answer those questions with the 2013-14 winter forecast.

The local weather

I always like to look at how the weather has been before making the winter forecast. We’ve had a wet and cool year across Central and Eastern Kentucky. This past summer in Lexington was the third wettest on record. That wet trend carried into fall, and we continue to see temperatures averaging below normal.

The past month of weather has been especially wild. We had snow on a few days in Late October and that was followed up by a widespread damaging windstorm on Halloween. Record snowfall was recorded in early November and that was followed up by a history making tornado outbreak in the Ohio Valley.

I always look back to find years that featured similar weather conditions. Among the years I looked at: 2005, 2002, 2000, 1993, 1992, 1989, 1980, 1976, 1968, 1962 1942 and 1935.

Global weather factors

We can’t just look at the local weather when making a seasonal forecast. The world is a big place, and things that happen thousands of miles away have a big impact on the weather here in Kentucky.

The Pacific Ocean is one of the biggest drivers of the weather across the United States. A quick look at water temperatures near the equator will show that conditions are ripe for a La Nada to carry us through winter. What’s a La Nada? That’s what some people call it when neither El Nino nor La Nina conditions are present.

Winter 1Water temperatures in region 3.4 of the Pacific are slowly rising into what I call a warm-neutral. Past winters that featured slightly warmer water in this region had a tendency to run colder than normal here.

The next stop takes us to the north Pacific near the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The water there is running warmer than normal, and this can help promote a ridge of high pressure to extend across Alaska toward northwestern Canada. That has a tendency to dislodge cold air and send it southward toward the states.

Winter 2The final two stops will find us in the Arctic Circle and across Greenland. The Arctic Oscillation  and the North Atlantic Oscillation. These run in two phases: positive or negative. The negative phase is when blocking high pressures set up in the respective regions. That effectively puts up a stop sign to the cold air and forces it southward instead of to the east.

Winter 3The AO and NAO are the wild cards of the winter for me. The pattern this fall has been dictated more by the pattern across the Pacific, and I think what’s going on near the Aleutian Islands might be the driver of the winter pattern and that would favor more cold air across the eastern part of the country.

Winter 4The winter forecast

It looks like winter will get off to a fast start, with arctic air across much of the country in early December. Here’s your winter breakdown:

Winter 6 Winter 7The bold prediction is something we have talked about before on the blog. We haven’t had a record low temperature in Lexington in 17 years. Given the amount of arctic shots I’m seeing this winter, I think we break that streak.

Snowfall is likely to be slightly above normal for most of Central and Eastern Kentucky. Here’s the breakdown:

Winter 5Remember, it takes only one big storm to increase those totals. It’s been a long, long time since our region has had a monster snowstorm, and the odds of seeing one grow with each passing winter. Will this be the year?

Have a great day and take care.

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