2018 - 2019 WINTER OUTLOOK
Good Monday Morning. It is time for the much anticipated Winter Outlook. Without further stalling here we go!
Starting off with the headlines....
1) Near normal temperatures are expected this Winter Season.
2) Above normal precipitation is expected this season
3) Winter could have an early start
4) There is a risk of ice storms this winter across the entire coverage area.
5) Signs that a positive Pacific North American Oscillation will develop early Winter.
6) Weak El Nino is expected to develop
7) Sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic are above normal.
Number 1. Temperatures across our forecast area are likely to see large fluctuations. This means temps one week could be cold but the next week we may be in short sleeves. By the time Meteorological Winter ends March 1st the overall average temp for the three month period will be near normal. For the 20 year period 1991 - 2011 here are the average Meteorological Winter (December 1st - February 28/29th) temps from around the area....
(Some Counties Don't Report)
Hickory Regional: 41.4 degrees
Lenoir: 39.9 degrees
Lincolnton: 41.9 degrees
Marion: 39.7 degrees
Morganton: (Broughton Hospital Location): 39.9 degrees
Number 2, 4, 6, and 7: Above Normal Precipitation is expected across the forecast area. This is due to a weak El Nino that is forecast to develop. El Nino years mean that the waters in the Pacific Ocean, along the Equator, are running warmer than normal. This usually means a more amplified and moist southern jet stream that we like to call The Pineapple Express. Why, well because transports energy and moisture from the land of pineapples, Hawaii. As the swings in temperatures continue, expect a real battleground to setup between air masses. Moisture is expected to surge North from the Gulf of Mexico time and time again through at least the first half of Meteorological Winter. This means there will be plenty of moisture for that battleground to tap. I believe that this could be a fun winter for snow lovers. It could be a destructive winter too for power crews because I think a lot of the snows we get this winter will yield a higher moisture content. Heavy wet snows accumulate to trees and power lines and if enough falls at one time then big issues can quickly arise. I however keep the mountains in an average forecast for snow this winter because I think the winter weather events this season will primarily come from the south and east. Now that doesn't mean the foothills get more snow than the mountains, their yearly snowfall average is much higher than the foothills. It just means that the foothills will stand an equal opportunity to see higher precipitation totals.
Unfortunately I also believe that a major ice storm is possible this season. We haven't had a huge crippling ice storm across the region since 2004 and lets hope that doesn't change this year. It appears that high pressure will set up across the Northeast United States this season and drive that shallow and dense colder air down the eastern side of the Appalachians for extended amounts of time. When we see those high pressure ridges to the north set up we like them to be transient across the Northeast and out to sea. When they are their shot of sustaining sub-freezing air is usually short lived. This year there could be a couple of times when this high over the Northeast gets locked into place, delivering a sustainable sub-freezing air mass to the region. Then with the higher than normal precipitation amounts expected, one has to believe that there is a good chance the two systems could impact the area at the same time creating a icy mess.
5) Oscillations around the earth drive weather patterns. There are several we watch in the US. The biggest are the Arctic Oscillation (AO), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Pacific North American Teleconnection PNA, and the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). I personally like to watch the Madden-Julian Oscillation too.
Now these oscillations can be very tricky to predict even two weeks out but I like to watch for patterns that develop in the models guidance. One of which is what drives the Pacific North American Oscillation during early and sometimes late Winter, The Western Pacific Typhoon Season. To date there have been 32 named systems. Now the number of systems is only one part of this equation, but how much latitude these storms gain once is another part of it. The Pacific North American is influenced a lot by the ENSO. When the PNA is positive it directly impacts weather over the Southeast United States. When the PNA is positive pieces of energy are pushed out into the Southeastern US and these can become high impact weather systems for our area. When positive it also dislodges the cold air from Siberia down into the Southeastern United States.
I see signs that the PNA could be positive a lot during the first part of Winter but it is something we will have to watch and forecast down the road.
In summary we believe that this could be a winter for the ages across our forecast area. We expect that multiple systems will meet up with sub-freezing air to produce snow and ice storm(s) across the area. We also believe that there will be large temperature fluctuations in our area. This could allow rounds of severe weather and flash flooding threats to continue deep into the Winter Season. Remember those hurricane kits you put together ahead of Florence? Now is a great time to change out perishables and dump any unused water out. Making a plan well ahead of time could cause you a lot less panic come time to react.
Thanks for reading and I will be glad to take any questions you may have. Also, thank you for joining the new Foothills Weather Network!
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Graphics: (2018-2019 Winter Snowfall Forecast on Snowman's Posterboard)