My Winter Outlook 2016-2017: Colder With Snow Spread Out More
Snow lovers with Faith in the Flakes may have reason to be a little extra anxious this year in the Mid Atlantic region. We have a completely different weather pattern compared to last year, and there are plenty of signals that lead to temperatures being colder. We shouldn’t forget that last December was the warmest on record in Baltimore with five days at or above 70°F, then in January we had the largest snowfall on record with 29.2″. Considering the season brought 35.1″ to BWI, most of the snow did come in one shot! That was partially ruled by a record El Nino. This year, the Pacific Ocean is experiencing a cooler La Nina pattern. This is less intense, but the strength could play a role in the storm track behaves.
Overall I expect a colder winter with snow spread out across more of the winter months than last year. But how much? There is a lot of information I want to share, but I have tried to keep the jargon to a minimum. My winter outlook summary is at the bottom of this post. Also- The Faith in the Flakes online store is open. There is one new item for now. We plan on adding more and including the snow sticks soon as well.
History and Statistics
The amount of snow is the true measure of the winter outlook. We have had three winters in a row with above average snowfall (21 inches). To get a fourth to follow would be rare, but it has happened.
I love looking as numbers and patterns. In fact we had a pattern of large storms occurring every three to four years for the past few decades. It did not support a large event last year, but that pattern was broken with our January super-storm.
*No huge storms this year:
Needless to day, it would be well out of the norm to expect an event over 10 inches in Baltimore this winter. But that only speaks to individual events…
La Nina Storm Track
The norther jet stream should be the dominant feature this winter. This also does not support large events since the flow is cross continental. We could still get a decent storm, and this plays into the hands of a lot of Lake Effect Snow for the mountains to our west.
Storm Track Types
1 ) Clippers– Fast moving storms that arrive form the northwest. These often come in groups and can be frequent, but drop light to moderate snow amounts. Usually a few inches at a time. They can be much more beneficial to the mountains and Great Lakes.
2) Ohio Valley Lows – These can run to our west and leave our region on the warm side, only to be followed by cold or arctic outbreaks. The specific track of these systems might be the make or break of reaching our full potential or just missing many events.
Tropical Storm and Hurricane Paths
I follow the theory of atmospheric memory and that patterns that set up with the tropics can be an indication of the winter ahead. Many storms did jump off of the southeast coast and miss us. There was Hermine that did a loop around, and I think we have a chance of a closed off Low in January or February to follow a similar path. But for the most part, major Nor’easters do not seem to be in the cards for us. In fact I was be hesitant should one appear to be developing as we have seen other systems get nudged farther east that expected already.
This pattern identified by Dr. Judah Cohen tracks Autumn snowfall in Russia. If the snow is above normal, the ‘real’ polar vortex can warm, resulting in a shift of the colder air that can direct the jet stream. If that heavier snow in far northeastern Russia’s Siberia, that that favors the eastern US with a cold and snowy winter storm track.
This October’s Snowfall- Increased rapidly in Siberia
How Siberian snow relates to our winter. This year seems to fit on the right side of the chart.
This October Has Different Top Snow Zone:
Last autumn the heavy snow was concentrated in Europe and eastern Canada… We had a very warm start to winter then.
Arctic Sea Ice
While not a record, the sea ice this summer and autumn has been well below average. That could ironically be a good thing for colder winters in the eastern US.
Compare the white shade to the orange outline… This shows how much ice was missing compared to average
North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) And The Greenland Block
Less sea ice and resulting warmer air in northeastern Canada and Greenland can impact large scale pressure systems and the jet stream.
This NAO is a valuable measure of air pressure in the north Atlantic and Greenland (between 60N and 40N) that itself can shift the jet stream more directly for the eastern US. A negative value relates to a ‘block’ that can send arctic air to the eastern US and favors coastal snow. That is what winter lovers look for as the most beneficial pattern for arctic blasts and coastal storms that can give the big cities their top snow.
Early Siberian snow
Lower than normal arctic sea
Weak Polar Vortex
Atlantic Oscillation neutral but supports a trend to a negative phase and more cold outbreaks for us.
My Call For Snowfall
Jack says “Yes” to this winter outlook and wants to reward you for it. We will be announcing a snowfall contest on Friday. Look for it on my Facebook page…
Near Average for BWI 21″ (range 18″ to 23″)
Above Average for mountain ski resorts like Snowshoe, Wisp, and 7 Springs due to Lake Effect and Clippers.
Spread out through December to February
Most active will be mid January to early February
Colder Than Average
Colder than average December =1°F to 2°F below average
Very Cold January = 3°F to 5°F colder than average
Cold start but warming February = near average
Faith in the Flakes Online Store Now Open
We’ve added Flannel PJ Pants that will be printed inside out. They have to be, to make it snow 🙂
Free Personal Delivery for orders of 20 items or more to schools and businesses.
Get the award winning Kid Weather App I made with my oldest son and support our love for science, weather, and technology. Our 3 year anniversary of the release and our contribution to STEM education is this November. It has been downloaded in 60 countries, and works in both temperature scales. With your support we can expand on the fun introduction to science and real weather.