• Category Archives Winter Outlook
  • Winter Having A Tough Time Finding Staying Power…

    Through (5) weeks of meteorological winter, it’s been a frustrating time for snow and cold weather enthusiasts across the beautiful state of Indiana.  We’ve seen a few storms cut into the central Lakes, taking their respected snow swaths northwest of central Indiana.  Despite an “overachieving” arctic wave on the 13th and an icy glaze event the following Friday night, it’s been a rather uneventful winter so far.  In ironic fashion, a significant winter event is poised to impact portions of the Lower 48 this weekend, but the general consensus in modeling is for this event not to cut northwest, but, instead, remain suppressed and impact portions of the TN Valley and Southern Appalachians with heavy snow.  Now, sure, there’s still time for this to “correct” north, but as of this writing, there’s just as much argument in the suppressed idea.

    Admittedly, we, personally, believed we would be much farther along in the snowfall department than we are through the first 1/3 of meteorological winter.  Looking ahead, there really isn’t much to “like” about the longer term data as far as getting snow prospects. Sure, an arctic shot is still inbound come mid week with very cold air.  We note AK ridging and blocking “trying” to develop over Greenland.

    gfs-ens_z500amean_namer_1This will take us through mid week and into the weekend with lows in the single digits and lower teens and highs generally in the lower and middle 20s.  We still need to watch Thursday evening-night for a wave of low pressure that may attempt to deliver light snow, but this doesn’t look like a significant event from this distance.

    Additionally, we’ll keep a close eye on the weekend for the prospects of snow, but confidence remains very low in regards to this system.  The GFS ensemble members show the wide range of possibilities Saturday.  Taken verbatim, the respected (or not ;-)) solutions, range from “no snow for you” scenarios to a big hit.

    gefs_ptype_ens_ky_22To further complicate matters, the European and Canadian solutions are much less robust and result in a more suppressed scenario.  Forecasters (including yours truly) can only wish for the days to return of worrying about respected snow/ mix/ rain lines amongst the various data, versus the present time of models showing a storm only to take it away from run-to-run and other modeling not even showing the storm.

    But once to mid-month, the overall pattern is forecast to break down yet again and results in a much warmer look for the east.

    gfs-ens_z500amean_namer_12That brings us to our next point and that’s the modeling performance, itself.  For really the better part of a year now, modeling has been poor, at best- even in the short-term solutions.  More recently speaking to the last few months, I can’t recall model data ever performing worse (13 years of forecasting experience).  It leads to a very low confidence forecast in basically anything beyond (7) days right now.  Additionally, conflicting signals are present (as posted this morning, the AO, EPO, WPO favor cold versus the MJO strongly favoring warmth in the longer range).  The signals are competing with themselves to try and take over the overall weather pattern for mid and late winter, but I’m not sure we’re really ever going to get to a point where we “lock-in” to any one particular warm or cold pattern for any sustained length of time this winter.  As far as snow goes, there’s no way in early January you’ll ever see us greatly alter the long-standing ideas posted originally in the winter outlook.  When a given city averages 26″ of snow on the winter, it only takes one storm to come along and put you in a “good spot” (relative to average).  That said, we hear your frustrations (and know they will only grow louder this weekend if our friends down south cash in on the snowy goods).  Once to late January, we’ll revisit this idea.

    The one thing we try to do here is eliminate the “noise” in the short, mid, and long range data by analyzing it all and building a forecast using a blend of the said data, along with teleconnections, etc.  You’ll never see us update our forecast based on a model run every time in comes in.  We don’t buy into the idea of “knee jerk” forecasting.  Let’s sit back and watch the next few days unfold.  Unfortunately, in this weather pattern, we just don’t see confidence increasing in forecasts much past the 3-7 day window at this juncture.

  • 2016-2017 IndyWx.com Winter Outlook…

    Author: Bill McMillan- Founder and Owner of IndyWx.com

    Date: Sunday, October 30th, 2016

    2016-2017 IndyWx.com Winter Outlook

    We’re bullish on a colder and snowier than normal winter across central IN (and a widespread portion of the Mid West and Ohio Valley, for that matter) for 2016-2017.  Furthermore, model data and analogs suggest the period Thanksgiving to Christmas could be quite wintry this year.  If you’re one of those that likes it cold with storms and rumors of storms through the holiday season, this could be your year.

    The basis of the IndyWx.com 2016-2017 Winter Outlook

    • Weak La Nina
    • West-based QBO (read more about the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation here)
    • PDO- does the negative trend continue?

    The PDO (read more about the Pacific Decadal Oscillation here) is a bit of a wildcard moving forward.  The past (2) years has featured a positive PDO, but latest data shows that we’ve slipped into a slightly negative state (-1.06 in Sept).  Negative phases favor warmth, locally.  Interestingly, most model data suggests a positive look this winter.

    The image below shows the differences in what a warm (left) and cool (right) PDO looks like.

    pdo_warm_cool(Image courtesy of JISAO)

    Sea surface temperature model data centered on the upcoming winter

    SST CA model

    screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-10-11-58-amNMME model

    nmme_ensemble_tmpsfc_season2JAMSTEC model

    ssta-glob_-djf2017-1sep2016JMA model

    screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-10-19-22-amWe’ve done an “about face” in the equatorial Pacific.  Last year at this time featured one of the strongest El Ninos on record.  (Remember that ridiculously warm December last year)?!  This year, a snap shot of the SST anomalies (from 10.27.16) shows a vastly different look and the weak La Nina underway. We think a weak La Nina dominates the majority of the upcoming meteorological winter.

    screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-10-33-07-amThe International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) plume shows the weak La Nina continuing through winter before rebounding over the spring.


    We’re keying in on the following years to get an idea of what the future may hold for meteorological winter (December-February), based on the ENSO state and QBO west.

    • 2013-2014 *snowiest winter on record (52.2″)
    • 2008-2009
    • 1995-1996 *6th snowiest winter on record (37.8″
    • 1971-1972
    • 1961-1962
    • 1959-1960

    We expect a southeast ridge to be a big player through the balance of the upcoming winter.  While that will likely keep our friends in the southeast region milder and drier when compared to normal, it’ll also serve as enough resistance to keep us on our toes with an active storm track through the Ohio Valley.  We’ve alluded to this since late summer and early fall, but the idea of a “big hitter” winter is very much on the table and could include a couple significant winter storms through our part of the country.  Additionally, a second storm track from northwest-flow clippers will have to be monitored- particularly mid and late winter.

    Despite a warm fall, we expect the evolution of the pattern to undergo a significant shift mid-November and again want to reiterate the holiday stretch could be quite “fun” this year- in stark contrast to the 2015 Christmas season.

    IndyWx.com 2016-2017 Winter Forecast

    • Snowfall: 35″, including first flake this fall to last flake next spring (average snowfall at IND is 25.9″)
    • Temperatures: 1 degree below average for meteorological winter (December through February)

  • Winter Ideas…

    We continue to finalize our winter forecast, which will be posted, as always, here later this month.

    As little as only a few months ago, data suggested a major La Nina for the upcoming winter season.  That data has since backed off significantly.  In fact, some runs suggest we’re back into a weak-ish El Nino state by spring.  At the very least, we are confident on avoiding a strong La Nina this winter and lean more in the direction of a weak Nina, at best, to neutral signal.  The CFSv2 is interesting, as always, with the spread in region 3.4.


    sstanimIn addition to the central PAC anomalies, we also are keying in on some other items of interest in the overall SST configuration:

    I. Warmth in the GOA (Gulf of Alaska)

    Argues for central cold this winter, spreading east with time.

    II. Warmth off the eastern seaboard

    Will likely serve to limit the ability for the cold to spread east early on in the season

    92916sstThe SST CA model is quickly becoming one of our more trusted seasonal forecast models.  We note how it becomes increasingly bullish on a central and eastern trough as winter wears on (by the way, this is likely to go deep into spring this year, too).


    screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-10-53-04-amCold overwhelms the pattern and when you combine it with the active storm track (noted by the green hues, suggesting above normal precipitation through our neck of the woods), confidence is continuing to grow for an above normal snow season.


    screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-10-58-05-amThe SST configuration on the JAMSTEC would suggest a cold, stormy set-up, locally.  That said, while it sees the above average precipitation, it’s awfully warm at the surface.



    temp2-glob-djf2017-1sep2016The NMME (to no surprise…) would suggest a very warm, wet winter.



    screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-11-08-47-amAs a reminder, our complete and final annual winter outlook will be posted here during the second half of October.  That will include additional model data, along with several other points behind our reasoning for our winter forecast.  As we always do, we’ll put “pen to paper” when it comes to our winter forecast, including our expected temperature and snowfall anomalies.  Given the data above, including the warm JAMSTEC and NMME, it’s going to be very, very hard to see a warm winter here.  In fact, our idea is for the exact opposite, given the SST configuration, and lines up more closely with the SST CA idea at this point.  We’re also in the camp of a very, very active storm track through the Ohio Valley.  “Big-hitter” potential is present from a winter storm perspective, especially given that we are likely to see resistance from the SE ridge.

    Much more later this month…

  • New SST CA Model Weighs In On Winter…

    The updated Sea Surface Temperature Constructed Analog model is in for the winter. In short, it suggests a slow start to winter gains momentum and turns much colder as mid and late winter arrive. It’s also a stormy look, locally, and would imply big-hitter potential in the Ohio Valley.

    500mb pattern

    *Note how the trough becomes more established over the central and east during the January through March period. 

    Temperature anomalies

    The consistency is remarkable on the bullish cold signal for the central and east for the January-March time frame. We note high agreement, month-over-month, on the J-M time frame being significantly cold. 

    Precipitation anomalies

    *No doubt a stormy signal through the Ohio Valley.

    Time is ticking…winter will be here before we know it! Our official annual winter outlook will be out in October. 

  • I Like It Euro…

    We posted our annual IndyWx.com Winter Outlook last Saturday.  If you haven’t read it yet, or want some good material to put you to sleep :-), feel free to click here.

    Tonight we see the latest seasonal long range European model shifting the Nino to more of a central-based El Nino as we rumble deeper and deeper into winter.  This is another indicator that mid and late winter could be cold.  In any event, here you go:

    Nov, Dec, Jan

    Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.45.13 PMDec, Jan, Feb

    Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.45.28 PMJan, Feb, March

    Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.45.39 PMThere sure have been a lot of comparisons of this El Nino to that of ’97-’98.  That’s fine in talking strength, but the overall SST profile both in the Pacific AND Atlantic is vastly different.

    Hmmm…time to go dream about snow storms.  – Combine a positive PDO with a central-based El Nino and there could very well be plenty of wintry “fun and games” in the months ahead.

    Click here for more from the fantastic European Centre For Medium Range Forecasts site.

  • 2015-2016 IndyWx.com Winter Outlook…

    Author: Bill McMillan- Founder and Owner of IndyWx.com

    Date: Saturday, October 17th, 2015

    2015-2016 IndyWx.com Winter Outlook

    Well, here we are again…  The days are growing shorter, leaves are changing, and the air is growing more and more crisp.  Questions around the upcoming winter began last spring and have only increased in frequency over the past several weeks.

    Before we get too deep into our reasoning with this year’s winter outlook, we want to make it clear that no long range forecast is ever 100% accurate.  There’s a lot of “guidance” out there, but any winter outlook that doesn’t specifically label temperature and snowfall/ precipitation numbers requires a raise of an eyebrow.

    Last year’s winter outlook wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  We were pleased with our temperature forecast (colder than normal, but even we weren’t cold enough).  As for snow, a late season rally did help out in a rather lack-luster snowfall forecast.

    As a reminder, here was our 2014-2015 Winter Outlook:

    • Temperatures: 2 degrees below normal (actual 10 degrees below normal)
    • Snowfall: 35″ (actual 26″)

    Summary of our 2015-2016 Winter Outlook:

    Many factors have to be considered when developing any seasonal outlook.  While the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) state can, and should, serve as the basis of any particular seasonal forecast, there are several other things to consider:

    • PDO- Pacific Decadal Oscillation
    • NAO- North Atlantic Oscillation
    • Northern Hemisphere Autumn Snow and Ice Cover
    • Volcanic activity

    There have been several outlooks posted over the past couple months seemingly broad-brushing the upcoming winter based solely off a “typical El Nino” pattern.  First, this isn’t a “typical” El Nino event, but instead a very strong one, and second, you have to consider the various other items mentioned above (and then some).

    Case in point, let’s take a look at some other El Nino winters and what those provided across central IN:

    Snowfall in Strong El Ninos

    • 1982-1983: 5.7″- 8th least snow on record
    • 1997-1998: 3.9″- 5th least snow on record*
    • 1972-1973: 2.9″- 4th least snow on record
    • 2002-2003: 46.9″- 4th most snow on record
    • 2009-2010: 33.0″- 9th most snow on record

    Snowfall in Weak El Ninos

    • 1977-1978: 49.7″- 3rd most snow on record*

    * indicates top 10 warmest winter

    As you can easily see just based off the data above, using the word “typical” and “El Nino” together is almost laughable.  We took a snap shot of Top 10 least and most snow on record at IND and compared those against strong and weak Nino events.

    As previously mentioned, we can’t solely lie on the Nino.  The current state of the PDO (positive) strongly argues for cold, snowy conditions across our neck of the country.  As a reminder, the positive PDO has been a key item in the cold, snowy past two winters.

    Positive PDO look:


    Sea Surface Temperature as of 10.15.15 profile- note the strong El Nino and positive PDO:


    When the PDO is positive, you’d typically expect the eastern and central region to be cold during meteorological winter (Dec., Jan., Feb.):

    Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 11.57.01 AMInterestingly, model data sees a weakening El Nino as we progress deeper into the winter and spring.  Weakening mid and late winter Ninos have been known to be colder, versus the opposite.

    figure4Other players:

    The NAO, or North Atlantic Oscillation, is a bit of a wild card, as always.  A couple recent El Nino winters teamed up with a predominantly negative NAO to lead to snowy, cold winters (2009-2010 comes to mind).  However, the NAO anomaly is, admittedly, difficult to forecast for winter in October.  Whether negative or positive, the NAO’s impact on our weather is felt most significantly late in the winter- from February into March.  Like a cold late winter?  Root for a negative NAO.

    Negative NAO (blocking)Volcanic activity can also play a role in temperatures across the globe.  Many studies are out there with in-depth research findings around the impact of large eruptions from a global perspective.  Often, years with high volcanism can greatly impact surface temperatures 1-2 years later.

    See the Nasa Earth Observation site here.

    See the Effects of Very Large Volcanic eruptions here.

    See How Volcanism Effects Climate here.
    Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 1.12.11 PM

    Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 1.12.22 PM

    What does this all mean to me?

    First, if you read everything above, “bless your heart!”  🙂  A challenging winter lies ahead with conflicting signals of the strong El Nino (associated with top warm and snowless winters) and positive PDO (associated with top cold and snowy winters).

    Out of the various forecast models, we like the idea the JAMSTEC has best, and the overall way it handles both the El Nino (shifting towards more of a central-based El Nino event) and PDO.  We feel this model best represents the likely milder than average start to winter before colder conditions mid and late winter.

    Model predicted Sea Surface Temperatures Dec., Jan., Feb.


    Model predicted Surface Temperatures Dec., Jan., Feb.


    Model predicted Precipitation Dec., Jan., Feb.

    1We think the winter opens warmer than normal and relatively dry before shifting towards a colder than average pattern for mid and late winter.  The idea of a weakening Nino come mid winter and continued positive PDO is key in our idea of a cold mid winter on.  Should the El Nino not weaken as much as currently expected then it would argue for warmer than average conditions continuing deeper into winter.

    That said, given the state of the PDO, we also think there will be “bouts” of cold, wintry weather scattered through the first part of the season, as well.  While all-in-all we may come very close to seasonal norms when all is totaled up, the extremes in between may be anything other than normal.  The word “volatile” comes to mind at times.

    • IndyWx.com forecasts meteorological winter temperatures (Dec., Jan., Feb.) to average 1 degree below normal (Fahrenheit).
    • Average snowfall at IND is 25.9″.  IndyWx.com forecasts 20″ 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 bill@indywx.com 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…”

    Additional references:



    2016 November Quick Look