Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stick a fork in that La Nina forecast

I spent more than a few sentences in late autumn describing what a mild and dry winter we would have in the Carolinas.

Talk about making a mistake!

Most long-range meteorologists predicted the Southeast would slide through winter with few if any problems. Those forecasts were based on the emergence of La Nina, the Pacific Ocean condition that tends to keep the South mild in winter while sending the nasty weather into the Northwest.

I remember seeing a comment posted under one of my blog entries from someone who took exception with the forecast, saying there are other conditions at work, including the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). That guy, whomever he was, hit the nail on the head.

I noticed an article last week on Accu-Weather's website on this topic. The point of their article: this will be a bitterly cold month in much of the United States, and their long-range specialist, Joe Bastardi, had reversed his earlier forecast of mild conditions in January and February. Their article noted that making long-range weather predictions is still tricky business, because meteorologists are still learning how all the different variables work together.

So far, this winter has been brutal in the Carolinas. December 2010 was the second-coldest in Charlotte history, and while January so far isn't among the coldest, it's well below average -- about 5 degrees below average so far.

The reason for all this cold weather is the negative NAO. Basically, that means high pressure over Greenland has created a ripple in the atmosphere that sends arctic or polar air masses racing southward into the eastern United States. On the other side of the high, the same thing is happening in Europe.

There are signs of another big blast of arctic air moving south, toward the end of next week. We'll deal with this in our next post, but it appears as if very cold air will sweep into the eastern U.S. sometime around Jan. 22 or 23. It's possible the Carolinas will miss the worst of that, but it's a sign that the negative NAO remains locked in place, at least for now.

So I'm ready to stick a fork in the forecast for a mild winter in the Southeast, because it doesn't appear as if a trend back toward less-harsh conditions will take place anytime before the beginning of February ... if it happens then.

For the record, this will be our second straight cold winter -- and the third consecutive winter with significant snowfall.

Remember that when we have three or four straight winters with no snow.


Anonymous said...

We have never had 3 - 4 consecutive winters w/ no snow.

Anonymous said...

Every time I've threatened to dance naked in it if it actually did snow, I've wound up in the yard nude freezing off all eleven digits. So knock it off with all this "forcasting" and just play it straight. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

In other words you and every other source have no clue. What a shocker!

tozmervo said...

Is the La Nina pattern actually occurring and just being overpowered by NAO, or did La Nina fizzle out?

Anonymous said...

Your first problem is getting your forecast from Accuweather, they're notoriously inaccurate.

Anonymous said...

Wx models have become to accessible these days that everyone has their own opinion and forecast. TV and internet meteorologist (paid and amateur) are mostly a bunch of model huggers. The only problem is from year to year we can't tell which model gets it right most often. This winter certainly proves that.

kantstanzya said...

Why would anyone believe a weather forcast in the fall predicting what the weather was going to be like in the winter? Meterologists often can't predict what the weather is going to be next week!

And while we are at it why would we believe forcasts on what the climate is going to be 50 YEARS from now for the same reason?

Stick a fork in your predictions? Can we finally stick a fork in the Global Warming scare?

As Yogi Berra said "It's hard to make predictions....especially about the future."

Anonymous said...

ANd remember kids, global warming is a settled "science".

wiley coyote said...

I think the proper term to describe the fact weather is "unsettled" is - La Gore.

Anonymous said...

I was all happy when I read that forecast last fall. I hope we start having warm winters without snow.

I remember three winters in the 80's when it didn't snow. One year there was some ice the other two we didn't have any frozen precip.

How does the jet stream figure into all this?

One day man will learn how to manipulate it's location.

Anonymous said...

Wonder why people are so quick to believe everything that comes out of the mouths of climatologists/meteorologists when they have proven time and time again to be incaple of predicting what is going to happen any distance into the future? I guess some peoples desire to believe is stronger than their ability to recognize pseudo science when they see it.

Anonymous said...

"Dewey Defeats Truman" - Chicago Tribune

"Mission Accomplished" - George W. Bush

"Subprime is contained" - Ben Bernanke

"Global warming is settled science" - Al Gore

Todd Fuller said...

For the last 120+ years, according to the Farmer's Almanac, Charlotte has averaged 6 inches of snow each year.

Anonymous said...

Paul Said said...
You guys remind me of that old mutt that stays down the road. He'll chase about any old thing that happens by.

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