IndyWx.com 2014-2015 Winter Outlook
Author: Bill McMillan- Chief Forecaster
2014-2015 Winter Outlook
Whitestown, IN- The time has come yet again for us to post the annual IndyWx.com Winter Outlook. After last winter, I know some of you may cringe at the sound of that word- “winter.” The brutal winter of ’13-’14 was one for the record books around these parts in terms of snowfall totals, duration of snowpack, arctic cold, etc. Winter 2013-2014 won’t be forgotten in quite some time, if ever. All of that said, no one can stop time and another winter awaits on deck…
Before we go further, it’s important to note that any long range, seasonal, forecast is a risky business. Only the Good Lord above knows what the future holds. While we’ll give you our best educated idea below, it’s important to note that this isn’t a forecast that’s “etched in stone” by a long shot. We can highlight items that have our attention and suggest the way the winter pattern may go, but overall confidence in any seasonal forecast could (and should) be classified as low when compared to the day-to-day weather forecasts you see here or from your favorite weather outlet. One final note before we sort through some of the data- we suggest raising an eyebrow to any winter outlook you may see out there that doesn’t list specific numbers (in regards to snowfall or temperatures) and/ or uses broad-brushed terms such as “harsh” or the “worst winter we’ve seen” without substantial data and numbers that back up such a call. There’s simply no room for sensationalism in this industry, and, unfortunately, it’s becoming more common these days.
Lets dig into some of what has our attention…
ENSO Discussion/ Central and North Pacific Profile:
It wasn’t too long ago that some outlets were touting a major El Nino (represented by water temperatures that are above normal in the Equatorial Pacific) was on the way. Models that, at one point, did happen to show a major El Nino are continuing to “back down” to a more reasonable weak-to-moderate event. First, no El Nino is like another. Furthermore, it’s also important to note that most models are keying in on what’s called a Modoki El Nino (or an El Nino that features anomalous warming in the central Pacific waters). Big differences take place between an east-based event, central-based event, or west-based event.
As of mid October, the International Research Institute (IRI) ENSO forecast suggests a weak to borderline moderate El Nino event is on the table this winter:
The European forecast model seasonal forecast shows the developing Modoki El Nino as we head into the winter: Note the warmer anomalies shifting west as we transition from November, December, January to December, January, February:
Perhaps an equally important factor in the winter pattern across our neck of the woods has to do with what’s going on with water temperatures in the central and north Pacific. The memorable (good or bad) winter of 2013-2014 was dominated by a persistent dip, or trough, in the jet stream steering winds across the Mid West and East. This was powered, in large part, by anomalously warm water in the northeast PAC region waters. This promoted an Alaskan ridge for the majority of the winter which played a role in dislodging one arctic air mass after another southeast.
Note the current SST anomalies as of 10.18.14:
The central Pacific cool anomalies coupled with the warmer north and northeast Pacific anomalies lead us to believe the pattern may at least resemble (remember no winter pattern is identical to another with all of the “wild cards” in play) itself to that of last year, including plenty of arctic air intrusions.
* When it comes to developing analog years (we talk about this below), we must admit that we don’t have nearly as much experience to lean on when it comes to the impact the central/ north Pacific water profile has on our weather compared to that of the ENSO state.
In developing the 2014-2015 winter outlook, we’re leaning on the following analog years: 1968-1969, 1969-1970, 1976-1977, 1977-1978, 2004-2005, 2006-2007, and 2009-2010. Analog years give us similar patterns of years past to help formulate an idea of what may lie ahead.
Again, no winter is identical to another, but we can draw ideas of what we may, or may not, see by looking back at past similar patterns.
Sorting Through Additional Data:
While the Climate Forecast System (CFSv2) sea surface temperature anomalies would suggest a big ticket winter looms, the model is actually contradicting itself with its’ forecast surface temperatures for this winter. Blowtorch, anyone?!
Image 1- seasonal Dec. Jan. and Feb. sea surface temperature anomalies; Image 2- seasonal Dec. Jan. and Feb. surface temperature anomalies
The September (latest version as of this post) JAMSTEC makes much more sense with itself and our overall ideas as winter approaches.
Image 1- projected Dec. Jan. and Feb. sea surface temperature anomalies; Image 2- projected Dec. Jan. and Feb. temperatures anomalies; Image 3- projected Dec. Jan. and Feb. precipitation anomalies
There have been studies published that suggest an early northern hemisphere snow and ice pack can impact blocking in the winter months and the resulting pattern. Northern hemisphere snow pack is off to a bang up start.
Links to research on this topic and a look back at the last (6) mid Octobers for comparative purposes:
Northern Hemisphere Snow and Ice Chart as of 10.18.14:
What does this all mean to me?
Hoosier snow lovers have to love the trend we’re on- 4 of the past 5 winters have featured above normal snow here. As we started, take any long range seasonal outlook with a grain of salt. That said, there’s a “tad” higher than normal confidence in this year’s forecast. The combination of analog years, a Modoki El Nino event, and the temperature profile in the northern Pacific waters would imply a cold and snowy winter (when compared to normal) awaits for our region.
- IndyWx.com forecasts meteorological winter temperatures (Dec., Jan., Feb.) to average 2 degrees below normal (Fahrenheit).
- Average snowfall at IND is 25.9″. IndyWx.com forecasts 35″ of snow (first flake to last flake).
Remember that we’ll be here all winter long producing daily forecasts and in-depth winter storm discussions. In addition, if your industry is impacted by winter weather, please be sure to shoot us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn ways about how we can help your business with customized winter weather consulting. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter @IndyWX for more “behind the scenes weather…”