Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Winter Analog Set Prospers in Summer; Cold Winter Chances Rising

My winter analog set I presented in my preliminary winter forecast a few months back is doing very well at this point in time after success in the summer month of June, and indications are its success will continue into the winter.

I bring up the analogs' success because of recent developments in the past couple of months. Data shows that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), a major driver in the seasonal climate around the world (including North America), spiked to positive levels for the first time this year. Previously, we had been in a solid negative PDO state. I did a little research to find other years that had a quick spike to positive PDO values before dropping back to negative territory, like we had in May and June, and I only found one year- 1951. If you recall, the winter of 1951-1952 is one of my two analog years, the other being 1962-1963. To have one of my analog years already accounting for this quick spike to a positive PDO greatly enhances its chances of working out come winter.

Since the analog set has had recent success this summer, let's see what it is telling for this winter.

The mid-level atmospheric pattern for the winters of 1951-1952 and 1962-1963 included low pressure across nearly all of Canada into much of the United States. This depression in heights was extended into the Northeast by the presence of a negative North Atlantic Oscillation, depicted as above normal height anomalies in and just south of Greenland. This negative NAO also assisted in below normal temperatures, which I will show a bit later in this post. Anomalous high pressure was also observed in the Bering Sea, which then enhanced the probability of lower heights in North America. You'll notice these two areas of enhanced above normal heights are positioned in key areas. I already discussed why the Greenland height anomaly was important, but the Bering Sea anomaly is also key to the winter. If we see persistent above normal heights in that region for the winter, it greatly enhances the chances of sudden stratospheric warmings, which can then lead to a dismantling of the polar vortex, and that delivers us into our next subject.

The 50mb level, usually acknowledged as the middle of the stratosphere, is shown to be overtaken by massive above normal height anomalies across the upper latitudes. Typically, one would expect to see the polar vortex over the Arctic Circle, but it has been drastically weakened and forced south into the western North America region. These two large domes of above normal heights tell me the polar vortex did not have an easy time between these two analog years, and if all goes as planned, this winter's polar vortex will not have an easy time either. As I told of in the 500mb paragraph, the Bering Sea high pressure anomaly very well could have played a role, as it typically does with breaking down the polar vortex.

The temperatures for the combined years averaged out below normal across much of the country. One year had above normal temperatures, while the other had very below normal temperatures. When they come together, though, the average is clearly in favor of the below normal. After my recent post about the consistency of the CFS in its winter forecast this summer, I do not doubt the idea of below normal temperatures in the Great Lakes, Plains, Midwest, Ohio Valley, and Northeast. With drought conditions still looming over the Southern Plains, above normal temperatures do not seem that far off of the spectrum of reason. All in all, this analog set is making a reasonable case for this winter at the moment.

Precipitation wise, the average of the two winters was rather dry across the Southern Plains into the Midwest, especially hitting the Pacific Northwest hard. Areas including the Mid-Atlantic and New England areas had limited success in the above normal precipitation department, but the Southwest ended up as the wettest in the nation. An analysis of the two years contrasted greatly, with a very wet Ohio Valley and southern Midwest in 1951-1952, but a very dry Central US for 1962-1963. It is for this reason that I am skeptical about the precipitation idea for this winter. I feel it will not be as dry as this image indicates, but it could end up a tad below normal in portions of the Plains and Midwest. I'll reveal the whole story in my official winter forecast in September.

Overall, I'm feeling very good about the analog set I have going right now. No problems appear to be arising, and I plan on using these same years for my official winter forecast.



Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this! I feel if one must live with Iowa winters (& I must as I make my living here) & one cannot move to Florida with their sister, then only having to deal with cold is fine so as long as the snow is limited to little to none!! I'll live! I do prey we have a short lived winter! I'm a warm weather person & I live in Iowa! Crazy! I am looking forward to your September forecast! Thank you so much!

Jacob said...

how do you make analog package maps? I have been wondering this for a long time and I reallly want to know, thanks and bye!!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds great! I hope this winter is colder than last winter for the DC metro area. Do you think the souther jet will be more active this winter? Because if we can get an active southern jet and some cold air into the mid-atlantic, looks like we are going to see some snowflakes flying :)

Andrew said...

Jacob: The maps come from the ESRL Monthly Composite website, which should be your first result if you do a search on it on Google.

Andrew said...

Anonymous in DC: I have yet to analyze the jet stream, southern jet stream and other wind patterns- those will be addressed in the official winter forecast in September.

Anonymous said...

Utterly depressing news. Almost half a year out though - one can only hope the positive NAO gets its act together and puts the winter in check.

Frank-o said...

We so need a "REAL" winter here in North Carolina! Hope the NAO opens the flood gates and we get slammed here in the NorthWestern part of North Carolina, as we have had no winter in 3 years now. Areas above 4 thousand feet here are the only ones that have been seeing anything as far as snow goes for the last 3 winters.
So hoping for a ideal forcast....can't wait till September!!

Anonymous said...

Can you share the research that talks about the PDO being a major driver of climate across the globe? Thanks.

Andrew said...

Anonymous at 7:37: The link below is a good place to start, but the internet has trillions of items of information, with likely thousands of PDO-related articles nestled in there. You may have to do a few web searches to find exactly what you're looking for.