Weather blog: A final outlook for the upcoming winter.. still looks dry but could get colder than expected


A few months ago I offered a preliminary outlook for the upcoming winter. Now that November will soon come to a close and we will be heading into the winter months of December, January, and February, it’s time to offer my final opinion on what we might see during the upcoming winter months.

First, let me share the latest winter outlook from the Climate Prediction Center. They provide a rather general look at how the winter months will compare to what is normal in both temperatures and precipitation.
The CPC outlook for winter temperatures shows that the ArkLaTex has a better chance of seeing above-normal temperatures during the months of December, January, and February. The precipitation outlook from CPC indicates that we will likely experience below-normal precipitation.

As I mentioned in my preliminary winter outlook, many things contribute to the type of weather patterns that we experience during the course of the year. One of the biggest players in determining our weather patterns are temperatures in the world’s oceans. We have several SST (sea surface temperature) indices that are created. There is a correlation that exists between the temperature of various parts of the Pacific and Atlantic and the type of weather patterns that we see in the United States. You have probably heard of El Nino and La Nina, right?

The one index which seems to affect our weather patterns the most is the ONI in the Pacific ocean. Right now that index is pretty much neutral. To determined what type of weather we might experience this winter, I found many years where the ONI is exactly what it is right now and also trending down. Upon looking at the weather experienced during those winters, I found a big variation in possible winter outcomes. Some were wet. Some were dry. Some were warm and some were cold. Obviously, this doesn’t off much guidance in producing a meaningful winter prediction. Since this November has been rather cool and dry compared to normal, I decided to look in my list of ONI years for Novembers that were similar to November of 2019. I discovered five different years from four different decades that experienced November weather similar to this November’s. I then discovered that the winter weather experienced during those five years was remarkably similar from year to year. Consequently, I had my guidance for the winter of 2019-20.

As I did in my preliminary winter outlook, I’ll break down what you might expect from month to month. Let’s start with December. The December temperature outlook looks similar to the CPC outlook. Every one of the Decembers in my list saw above normal temperatures. On average those Decembers saw temperatures that were a little over one degree above normal. The December precipitation outlook also looks similar to that provide the CPC. Four of the five years saw below-normal precipitation with an average deficit of nearly two inches. I wouldn’t expect any December snow. Each December in my sample saw NO measurable snowfall.

The last few months of my winter outlook is where we might see an outcome different than that offered by the CPC. I found that of the five years in my list, four saw temperatures that were BELOW normal. The average temperature deficit during those two years was nearly 3 degrees. There is also a decent shot that we experience a freeze where temps drop below 20. The average coldest temperature in the five years studied was 19 degrees. The January precipitation outlook agrees with the CPC prediction of a drier than normal. Three of the five Januarys had below normal rainfall with an average deficit of nearly 2 inches. Snow will be possible in January, but not much. Snow was observed in three of the five years but was measurable in only one year.

February is the month where things could get more ‘interesting’. Unlike the CPC outlook, to me, it appears that we could again see the below normal temperatures. Four of my five years saw below normal temperatures with an average deficit of nearly three degrees. Chances are that our streak of drier than normal months will continue through February. Three of my five years saw below normal rainfall with an average deficit of just over an inch. The ‘interesting’ part of the winter outlook comes with the snowfall outlook. I was surprised to learn that we received snow in every one of my five years. In fact, we had measurable snow in four of those five years.

Obviously, as I say every night during my live online updates you have to take any long-range outlook with a grain of salt. In other words, I’m not going to go out and buy a new sled for February’s potential snow, but for those who like seeing good snow during the winter have some hope.

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