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Pro Update: About that winter forecast…

I’m sensing some frustration from Southern New Englanders on the way this winter has unfolded. The average temperature so far in December and January has been running about 3° warmer than normal. This cold snap is helping to cut into it, but a quick warm-up on January 29-31 will probably keep the average through the first two months at about 3° above normal. Snowfall-wise, Providence, Worcester, and Hartford are all very close to normal, and Boston is well below normal for the season.

Right Weather - Winter Outlook
Right Weather – Winter Outlook

You can see from the Winter Outlook headlines that this winter appears to not be going exactly as planned. The temperature has been warmer than I thought it would be, but there are a lot of signs pointing to a colder than normal February. It would need to be very cold, about 6° below normal, for the winter outlook to verify. That is unlikely, but not impossible. My forecast is for February to be 2-4° colder than normal, which will leave the average temperature for the winter in Providence about one degree warmer than normal. That’s not right in line with the winter outlook, but it is much colder than last winter which averaged about 4.5° warmer than normal.

The snow forecast, in my opinion, is doing ok – although this is the part of the forecast that I’m hearing the most complaints about. With a bit of snow possible tonight and Monday afternoon, Providence should end January with around 18″ of snow for the season. While 55″ is highly unlikely, I still think there is a strong possibility of reaching 35″ for the season in Providence. Without getting too technical, the atmospheric/oceanic teleconnections that help to drive the weather are entering phases that are favorable for cold and snow in the Northeast through at least mid-February. It’s not a certainty that we’ll get snow, but if the teleconnections were heading the other way, there would be a much lower chance of cold/snow. It’s always good to have those working in your favor.

The chart below is created daily by the Climate Prediction Center. It uses an ensemble forecast centered on Day 8 (2/2/13) and lists some years where similar (analog) weather patterns occurred. I did a little research, and here’s what I came up with.

8-Day 500mb Analog Chart
8-Day 500mb Analog Chart
  • 1994 02/02 – 18″ of snow by February 12
  • 1994 01/17 – Arctic outbreak – seven consecutive days with lows in the single digits in Providence
  • 2003 02/11 – 15″ of snow in surrounding 10 days, four days with lows below 6° in Providence
  • 1994 01/17 – Three days with single digit lows in Providence
  • 1995 02/09 – 7.5″ snow in surrounding 10 days, four days with single digit lows in Providence
  • 2004 01/21 – 7″ snow in surrounding 10 days, 12 of 13 day stretch with below freezing highs in Providence
  • 1955 01/28 – Whole week below normal, average temperature 21° (no snow data)
  • 1965 02/01 – Average temperature 19° in surrounding week (no snow data)

I think you get the idea. We are heading into a cold, potentially snowy, phase in the Northeastern United States in early-February. Some of the longer range models suggest that the pattern holds through Valentine’s Day and possibly longer.

In my opinion, one of the bigger reasons for snow-lovers frustrations has to do with the lack of a big storm. The late-December storm was high-end moderate, but not one that will be remembered by New Englanders. The fact that it came during the school vacation minimized the disruption in most people’s lives. As you can see from my forecast, I thought conditions were favorable for the elusive 12″+ storm at TF Green. Historically, this only occurs once every five years, so my forecast of it happening this year was out on a limb. Even though January is just about over, I’m not sweating out that forecast too much. A large snowstorm can happen at any time, and the fact that we’re heading into a cold/unsettled February only enhances those chances.

When I give that prediction, it’s a 51%/49% kind of forecast. I know better than most what it takes to get 12″+ in the Providence area. I went with it this season because of the overall pattern that I thought we’d be in. We’re finally in it now, and will be in it for a while in February. Most people don’t realize just how close the non-event that will occur tonight is to a big snowstorm. The jet stream didn’t line up just right, and we wind up with next to nothing instead of a Nor’easter. There are a lot of variables that need to come together for it to happen. Here’s hoping they do in the next few weeks.

One aspect of the forecast that I was right about was the half tongue in cheek White Christmas forecast. There was 0.3″ of snow on Christmas, and that’s not enough for an official white Christmas. So, regardless of the way the rest of the winter goes, at least I have that to fall back on!

Fred Campagna

President and Chief Meteorologist - Right Weather LLC AMS Certified Consulting Meteorologist #756 AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist #126

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