Introducing the players for the November and winter forecasts….

I often go back to water vapor imagery to establish what types of systems will affect North America in the longer term. Thankfully, the key features are easily identifiable. And viewed collectively, there are big changes on the way.

First off is the El Nino episode, the warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific Basin. There are four kinds of signals you can determine by “rule of thumb” using the sea surface temperature anomaly graphic. If the highest hydrothermal heat content is in the western zones (4 and 3.4), therein lies the best chances for a cold and snowy winter east of the Rocky Mountains. Should the warmest seas be in the central sectors (3.4 and 3), the DJF period will probably have its share of cold intrusions with both coastlines tending to miss the worst chill. An east-based warm strata around the Galapagos Islands usually makes Midwest and East Coast cold/snow lovers cry. And in the case of a basin-wide warm water event, anyone living outside of the Arctic Circle misses out on winter. Ski lodges might close.

As of now we are in a very firm Basin-wide +ENSO signature of moderate strength. You can make out an axis of warmth that continues into the Atlantic Basin. Supporting this axis is the Madden-Julian Oscillation near the International Dateline and a Central American gyre. The latter feature is tied to two massive storms that are or will be affecting Europe.

In time the storm sequence in the northern Pacific Ocean will start to dig through the Intermountain Region and into northern Mexico, starting a new storm sequence that will bring important rain and thunderstorms to Texas by November 13. Most of the longer term guidance shows a cooler and wetter response for the southern and eastern portions of the USA in the last week of this month. But before you give up on winter again…consider that the long-so-warm CFS series is showing a lower response in temperature over the eastern two-thirds of North America in the DJF trimester, The ECMWF outlines are not all that warm, with the JMA and UKMET longer term predictions showing a warm West vs. cool/cold Central/East scenario in the lower 48 states this coming winter.

I suspect that with a potential stratospheric warming event in Alaska and the Yukon Territory possible in about a month, and a weakening trend in El Nino by mid-January, it would be unwise to write off your hopes for heating demand, snow removal and skiing. But you might have to wait a while.

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