Thursday, October 18, 2012

NOAA releases winter outlook with lower-than-normal confidence, citing "elusive" El Niño

Earlier today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Climate Prediction Center issued their 2012-2013 winter outlook.  Citing what forecasters term an "elusive" El Niño that has not made it's presence known as expected this fall, the forecast is "less certain than previous years."

"This is one of the most challenging outlooks we've produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. El Niño is the presence of warm ocean water in the equatorial Pacific that in turn influences the strength and position of the jetstream and storms over the Pacific Ocean and United States.  General climate conditions are fairly well understood during El Niño winters in the U.S.  When El Niño decides to play peek-a-boo is when the uncertainty rises, besides other complicating factors, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

According to the outlook, wintertime temperatures (defined as December-February) are expected to be above normal for much of the western U.S., which there is a greater chance of above normal temperatures than below normal temperatures extending east roughly to the Mississippi River Valley.  Below normal average temperatures are expected for the Florida peninsula.

Precipitation-wise, the Gulf Coast is expected to be wetter than normal while drier than normal conditions are more likely over the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

In the Mid-South, there are equal chances of above and below normal precipitation and slightly better chances of a warm winter than a cold one. However, after the 7th warmest winter on record in Memphis last year with one-third the average yearly snowfall, even closer to average conditions offer hopes for some cold spells and possibly winter precipitation.  Time will tell!

Graphics above courtesy NOAA/CPC.  For the full report from NOAA, click here.

What do you hope will happen this winter?  Are you a snow-lover or would you prefer another mild winter?

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