This morning, AccuWeather released what I have to believe is their final Winter outlook. December 1st is the beginning of meteorological Winter and I don’t think much could change between now and then to affect their outlook. So how do they headline their final Winter outlook?
SANDY A SIGN OF WINTER TO COME
Really? A catastrophic, one-in-a-lifetime event is the sign of things to come over the next three months? I understand what they’re trying to say is they expect a higher-than-normal frequency of coastal storms this Winter. OK, but Sandy wasn’t just any coastal storm or even strong Nor’easter. It was an alignment-of-the-stars storm (which might not be the best analogy given it’s 2012). Let’s hope they have a decent explanation for this headline.
“[Sandy] gave us an idea of what can happen off the East Coast if we get phasing to take place,” AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok explained. “And we also saw a couple storms, not as extreme as Sandy, but have a similar impact. So, that is a little bit of a prelude of what we think can happen.”
Phasing refers to a northern branch of the jet stream meeting with the southern branch of the jet stream, allowing big storms to impact the East. Think of it as two smaller rivers merging together into one larger one.
And now try to imagine that river catching on fire, overspilling its’ banks, and flooding a number of cities. Then you’ll have Sandy in your analogy.
Last night I mentioned how ENSO-neutral conditions are forecast this Winter and how that might make long-range forecasting difficult this Winter. AccuWeather acknowledges this issue.
Originally a weak El Niño, which is classified by above-normal water temperatures in the central and equatorial Pacific Ocean, was forecast. Now meteorologists expect a neutral phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) for the winter, which is characterized by near-normal water temperatures in the central and equatorial Pacific Ocean.
During a neutral phase of ENSO, there can be times when the northern branch of the jet stream is dominant across the U.S., and other times when the southern branch of the jet stream is dominant. The chance for the different branches to phase together for big storms in the East also exists.
So, really, anything is possible. BUT THAT INCLUDES CARNAGE ALONG THE EAST COAST SO WE’RE GOING TO RUN WITH THAT SCENARIO BECAUSE SITE HITS, BIAS, THERE’S NOTHING WEST OF I-95 ANYWAY!!!!!!!!1111!!!!
AccuWeather meteorologists expect that blocking will be in place at times during the winter. Blocking is a term that meteorologists in the Northeast use to describe areas of high pressure that dominate eastern Canada or Greenland, forcing cold air to reach the U.S.
Blocking is special to the Northeast. Meteorologists in other parts of the country/globe/galaxy/universe don’t even know what the term means. In fact, there aren’t even meteorologists located outside of the Northeast I-95 corridor. Those are just cyborgs that regurgitate information fed to them! HAHAHAHA!!! (Yes, I’m heavy on the sarcasm this morning.)
The last third (maybe quarter) of the article discusses the rest of the country where they expect Alberta Clippers to be frequent enough in the northern Plains and Midwest to keep snow near normal for the Winter. Behind these clippers, lake effect snows usually develop and they guess that northern Michigan will have above normal snow as a result. Finally, it will be dry and warm out west, but there may also be some storms near the Mexican border to keep precipitation totals near normal. OK.
Here are the two maps they provide (one for snowfall, one for temperature):
So, there’s the AccuWeather outlook. They’re clearly focused on the East Coast, and that may turn out to be warranted. Still, their explanation of ENSO conditions doesn’t support their intense focus on any one part of the country. They also made no mention of any other oceanic oscillations that might play a role in the weather patterns this Winter, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) or the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). When speaking about blocking near Greenland, they’re really referring to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which doesn’t really oscillate on a specific time scale. The NAO can switch between positive and negative phases in the matter of a week, or stay in one phase for several weeks. AccuWeather has made their forecast and is focused on the East. They just don’t seem to have a good reason for it.