Climate Facts: Winter 2012-2013 Outlook

NOAA has issued its 2012-2013 Winter Weather Outlook for the United States. Read below for details on the outlook for your area and a description of how the outlook is made.

Resources:

ENSO and the AO/NAO
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is useful for seasonal prediction because it evolves relatively slowly and because its phases have noticeable influences on global scale circulation systems. The ENSO-neutral-weak El Niño conditions present as of mid-October 2012 and lack of any strong trend in the oscillation means this year’s winter outlook has a relatively large amount of uncertainty.

The Arctic Oscillation (AO) and the related North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), considered by some meteorologists to be a regional subset of the AO, is much less predictable than ENSO making it the “wild card” of winter weather. The eastern United States can have a relatively warm winter overall, in part due to the ENSO conditions, but can have a few weeks of extreme winter weather with enhanced chances of snowfall if the AO/NAO is negative.

Resources:

Arctic Sea Ice
This year’s record melting of the Arctic sea ice left large areas of open water, allowing for much more heat to move from the ocean into the atmosphere after the Sun has set for the year, raising Arctic surface temperatures and likely affecting global circulation patterns. Differences in Arctic Sea ice influence mid-latitude weather, although little research has focused on precisely how. Because the lack of Arctic sea ice is, at least in modern times, a new phenomenon, there is no track record of connecting open water in the Arctic Ocean to weather conditions in the United States. It is likely that seasonal outlooks, particularly winter outlooks, now have more uncertainty because of this.


Regional Outlooks

Southwestern Midwest Winter Outlook: For winter 2012-2013, much of the southwestern Midwest has between a 33 to 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of experiencing below normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, there is a 33.3 to 40 percent chance of below normal precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of normal precipitation levels and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of above normal precipitation. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Eastern United States Winter Outlook: For winter 2012-2013 temperature and precipitation across most of the eastern United States, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3% for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Desert Southwest Winter Outlook: For winter 2012-2013, most of the desert Southwest has between a 33 to 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of experiencing below normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Southeast United States: For winter 2012-2013, much of the Southeast has between a 33 to 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal precipitation, and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of experiencing below normal precipitation. For average 3-month temperatures, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Great Plains: For winter 2012-2013, most of the Great Plains has between a 33 to 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of experiencing below normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Billings, Montana: For winter 2012-2013, the Billings area has between a 33 to 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of experiencing below normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Colorado: For winter 2012-2013, Colorado has a greater than 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and less than a 26.7 percent chance of experiencing below normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Upper Midwest (Cedar Rapids, IA; Davenport, IA; Dubuque, IA; Eau Claire, WI; Lynnville, IA: Madison, WI; Muscatine, IA; Quincy, IL; Rockford, IL; Waterloo, IA): For winter 2012-2013, parts of the upper Midwest have between a 33 to 40 percent chance of experiencing below normal average 3-month precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal precipitation, and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of experiencing above normal precipitation. For average 3-month temperatures, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Upper Midwest (Chanhassen, MN; Duluth, MN; La Crosse, WI; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN): For winter 2012-2013, parts of the upper Midwest have between a greater than 40 percent chance of experiencing below normal average 3-month precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal precipitation and a less than 26.7 percent chance of experiencing above normal precipitation. For average 3-month temperatures, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Northern Florida: For winter 2012-2013, northern Florida has between a 33 to 40 percent chance of experiencing below normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of experiencing above normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, there is a 33.3 to 40 percent chance of above normal precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of normal precipitation levels and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of below normal precipitation. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Elko, Nevada: For winter 2012-2013, the Elko area has a greater than 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and a less than 26.7 percent chance of experiencing below normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, there is a 33.3 to 40 percent chance of below normal precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of normal precipitation levels and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of above normal precipitation. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Intermountain West: For winter 2012-2013, much of the Intermountain West has a 33 to 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and a 26.7 to 33 percent chance of experiencing below normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, there is a 33.3 to 40 percent chance of below normal precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of normal precipitation levels and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of above normal precipitation. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Southern California: For winter 2012-2013 temperature and precipitation across southern California, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3% for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Central Gulf Coast: For winter 2012-2013, the central Gulf Coast has a greater than 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal precipitation, and a less than 26.7 percent chance of experiencing below normal precipitation. For average 3-month temperatures, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

The Southeast: For winter 2012-2013, much of the Southeast has between a 33 to 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and a 26.7 to 33.3 percent chance of experiencing below normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Southern Florida: For winter 2012-2013, southern Florida has a greater than 40 percent chance of experiencing below normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and a less than 26.7 percent chance of experiencing above normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Northwest: For winter 2012-2013, much of the Northwest has a 33 to 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month temperatures, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and a 26.7 to 33 percent chance of experiencing below normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, there is a greater than 40 percent chance of below normal precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of normal precipitation levels and a less than 26.7 percent chance of above normal precipitation. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Pacific Northwest: For winter 2012-2013, much of the Pacific Northwest has a greater than 40 percent chance of experiencing below normal average 3-month precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal precipitation, and a less than 26.7 percent chance of experiencing below normal precipitation. For average 3-month temperatures, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Northern California: For winter 2012-2013, much of northern California has a between 33 and 40 percent chance of experiencing below normal average 3-month precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal precipitation, and a 26.7 to 33 percent chance of experiencing below normal precipitation. For average 3-month temperatures, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3 percent for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Salt Lake City: For winter 2012-2013, the Salt Lake City area has greater than 40 percent chance of experiencing above normal average 3-month temperatures, 33.3 percent chance of experiencing near normal temperatures, and less than 26.7 percent chance of experiencing below normal temperatures. For total winter precipitation, there is a 33 to 40 percent chance of below normal precipitation levels, a 33.3 percent chance of normal precipitation levels, and a 26.7 to 33 percent chance of above normal precipitation. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

Southern Texas: For winter 2012-2013 temperature and precipitation in the southern Texas Coast area, forecasters have not shifted the climatological probabilities of 33.3% for each category of above, near and below normal due to a lack of sufficiently strong associated climate signals. “Above” and “below” normal are defined by NOAA as conditions falling into the top or bottom third of climate conditions observed during the 1980 to 2010 period.

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