Monday, November 10, 2014

MWN 2014-2015 Winter Outlook

Winter appears to be starting a bit early this year, as Arctic air is poised to ooze south of the Mason-Dixon by mid-late week. But is that a foreshadow of things to come or just an anomalous event in what would be a reversal of last year's cold winter?

This year's MWN Winter Outlook is presented below in video format and includes some background on processes such as ENSO that ultimately affect our seasonal climate, methodology behind the outlook, as well as our official forecast. I hope you'll take 25 minutes to watch the entire presentation, but if you just want the bottom line, jump ahead to about 21 minutes into the video or see below for the bullet points.

MWN Outlook Methodology:

  • Based on 10 analog years with weak El Nino conditions (1952, 1953, 1954, 1959, 1970, 1977, 1978, 1988, 2005, 2007)
  • Recent research by NWS-Memphis on El Nino impacts in the Mid-South
  • Research and winter outlooks by WeatherBell, WeatherTrends360, and NOAA

MWN Winter Outlook:

  • Temps slightly below to below average (possibly as cold as last year)
  • Precipitation near average
  • Snowfall near to above average (average is about 4")
  • Periods of large temperature swings and possible severe weather

Of course, my typical caveats on long-range outlooks apply. I typically don't look beyond 7-10 days when forecasting and spend a great deal of effort focusing on the upcoming 36-48 hours. As a meteorologist and not climatologist, I have no formal training in long-range forecasting, but I do follow and learn from those that do. And if I got paid for accurate long-range outlooks, my family would be hungry!

The goal of producing these outlooks is as much to encourage preparation and education with regards to winter weather as it is for accuracy (though I would certainly rather be right than wrong!). Last winter was a cold and long one with some areas (especially the northern metro) experiencing multiple icing events and extended power outages. Plan ahead for how you will handle extended periods of cold weather and potential snow and ice.

Winter weather is extremely difficult to forecast, even sometimes on the day of the event (see March 2, 2014). Slight variations in temperatures (surface or lower levels of the atmosphere), available moisture, and previous or ongoing precipitation can all directly affect the type and amount of precipitation that occurs. These differences can also vary widely in a small geographic area. Once again, refer to last winter for obvious examples.

Have a safe winter and stay tuned to MWN for the latest information ahead of potential winter weather events!

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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