Abe Katz wrote a winter outlook story for yesterday’s New Haven Register. I was one of the ‘experts’ quoted.
Let’s just say my quotes weren’t the ones you’d put in the first paragraph.
Not a whole lot, said Geoff Fox, meteorologist at WTNH. “I’m a real non-believer in long term forecasts,” he said.
My problem, however, comes with a quote deeper in the article. I’m not sure whether I was misquoted or just didn’t say exactly what I meant.
“If someone said it would be 3 degrees below normal for three months, how would that change your life?” Fox said
What I meant to say, or possibly did say, was:
Adding day-to-day makes all the difference, because you would notice a season that’s three degrees below normal. That small temperature difference would take marginal rain days and make them snow days. Your heating bill would be significantly higher. You just wouldn’t notice it on any particular day.
It’s a tiny difference in meaning, but a significant one.
Weather experts predict drier, milder season
By: Abram Katz , Register Science Editor
Remember last winter?
Good, because current forecasts suggest that the approaching season will be like winter, only warmer.
More rain, less snow. Good news for homeowners. Bad luck for snow plowers, if the forecasts pan out.
The National Weather Service and AccuWeather.com both agree that the next three months will have above average temperatures and below normal precipitation.
Skeptics of long range forecasts contend that the predictions don’t mean much. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, October was warmer and drier than normal.
The normal average temperature for the 10th month is 56.6 degrees. This year, the number came up 63.6. October was about half an inch below the average monthly rainfall of 3.54 inches.
The big problem is a well-established La Nina anomaly off of the coast of South America. La Nina is the cold sister of El Nino. The phenomenon is called ENSO, for the El Nino Southern Oscillation, and it can affect weather from one coast to the other.
During La Nina, cold water pools off of the Pacific coast and westerly trade winds weaken. This can produce either a warmer winter in the Northeast, or a cooler one. This year, it’s looking warmer.
Michael Halpert, head of forecast operations for the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, said, “The prediction for a warmer than normal winter is still on course. Even though December, January and February are likely to be milder than average for much of the country, people should still expect some typical winter weather this season,” he said.
La Nina affects the northern branch of the jet stream, a high altitude river of air that separates zones of warm and cold air.
This jet straightens out, ushering in mild Pacific air, hence the prediction of a 3.4 percent warmer winter.
At the same time, the North Atlantic Oscillation is in a warm cycle. The NAO is often described as an atmospheric seesaw between high pressure over the Southern Atlantic and low pressure over the North Pole. That’s basically what we’ve got right now, according to Ken Reeves, senior meteorologist and director of forecasting operations at AccuWeather.com.
The warm NAO will prevent the jet stream from dipping south, he said. The jet stream usually does this, descending in a loop over New England.
Then frigid polar air barrels south and the Northeast has storm after storm.
“Right now, the jet stream is looking for a place to dip. With a warm Atlantic ,it will dip farther east, so most of the east will have a southerly or southwesterly flow.
The jet stream will kink over Greenland, forming a low pressure trough there, Reeves said.
With no loop, there’s not as much cold air. So that means less snow and assorted frozen precipitation.
Meanwhile, the Climate Prediction Center’s 90-day map of the United States shows a 33 percent chance of higher than average temperatures during December, January and February.
What does this mean?
Not a whole lot, said Geoff Fox, meteorologist at WTNH.
“I’m a real non-believer in long term forecasts,” he said.
There are two problems, Fox said: The forecasts are not accurate, and people live day to day, not season to season.
“If someone said it would be 3 degrees below normal for three months, how would that change your life?” Fox said.
Moreover, the CPC maps, be they for temperature or precipitation, have three legends. “A” areas mean above normal; “N” is normal; and “B” means below normal.
New England has a 33 percent chance of above-normal temperatures in the December, January, February map. That’s a blunt meteorological instrument, he said, although it may be useful for businesses that depend on weather, such as petroleum companies and ski resorts.
Reeves said long range forecasting is ultimately doomed to uncertainty.
“There are 34 variables in our predictions of climate. You can’t solve them all because you don’t have enough information,” he said.