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SWA Meteorology: Winter Outlook

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Here in Texas, we know the weather won’t cool down (and stay cool) until our State Fair ends.  Other cities follow local weather “folklore” too:  Are the caterpillars extra wooly this year?  Are the pecan and oak trees producing a lot of nuts and acorns? If you split a persimmon seed, do you see a knife (cutting cold with ice), a spoon (digging out of snow), or a fork (a mild winter that provides lots to eat)?  What does a spork mean, then?  Are your pets getting extra furry … or shedding?  What does the Farmer’s Almanac say? Our weather folklore originated in the New England states when the first settlers observed certain occurrences, then related it to the weather of the season.  While some folklore is correct (red sky at night, sailor’s delight, red sky at morning, sailors take warning), a lot of the caterpillar-pecan-acorn-persimmon forecasts have not merited awards for accuracy.  Sorry to say, neither has the Farmer’s Almanac.  And, while the State Fair in Texas has ended, Dallas will still warm to near 90 on Sunday! Last week, the Climate Prediction Center issued the official Winter Weather Outlook.  The outlook is based, among other things, on what is happening in the Pacific Ocean.  Meteorologists are watching for a developing El Niño, when water temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific start warming.  Changes in ocean temperatures in the Pacific influence weather patterns around the world; ocean temperatures in the Atlantic influence global weather too, just not as much.  At this time, there is no El Niño, however, there is a 67 percent chance of a weak El Niño developing by the end of the year. What does that mean for our winter?  The best news of all:  For many of you who suffered a bitterly cold and snowy 2013-2014, this winter is not expected to be a repeat.  For the Northeast and west of the Rockies, a warmer-than-average winter is forecast.  For the southern Plains, Texas, Gulf Coast, Florida, and the Carolinas, temperatures are expected to be cooler than average.  For the Midwest, Great Lakes, Rockies, and Mid-Atlantic states, average temperatures are forecast. Regarding precipitation, because this is a weak El Niño, the California drought is likely to continue, even with a wetter than usual winter expected in the southern parts of the state.  For the desert Southwest, Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas, expect above-average precipitation.  The Mid-Atlantic and coastal areas of the Northeast and New England can expect a slightly wetter than average winter.  The Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes, and upper Midwest can expect a drier than average winter.  Everywhere else from the Central Pacific to the Rockies, Central Plains, and Tennessee Valley can expect an average winter, precipitation-wise. Keep in mind, these forecasts are for winter averages, and, while Chicago is expecting a drier and slightly warmer winter than average, there is always the possibility of a couple of heavy snow days and a few bitterly cold days.  And, in Florida, where they expect a cool and wet winter, there will be some sunny, warm days, as well.  Who knows, maybe travel this winter will be the opposite of last year, with those in the South heading north to “warm up”!