Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Morning Pattern Update: Spring for Mid-Atlantic

Good morning everyone. Well, spring is certainly in the air. We discussed last week how this would occur and now we are seeing it in full swing along the eastern 1/3 of the country. Birds are chirping, flowers down near the Mason Dixon line are sprouting, and snow is melting. Out west, the mountain regions are seeing and will continue to see the action over the next 2 weeks. Expect multiple episodes of snow for those mountains. That is great for the ski areas.

So is this really it, is winter over? For the mid-Atlantic south I really think so. For New England, I wouldn't make that call yet. I can see March being a active month up there for the ski areas.  Overall it just was not in the cards this year for the Mid-Atlantic region. Most areas are well below normal for snowfall and well above for temps. Up in New England, northern areas have actually done very very well while areas near Boston have been around average. 

The warm pattern continues over the next 10 days...

You can see the trough of cold air/low pressure out west and the warm air in the east in the image above. This has been the theme of the winter and I see no reason why this will not continue into March as the models show. 

Looking at the tropical pacific, a pattern of tropical convection called the MJO also supports this as it may head into its phase 3 as we enter March. Think of the MJO as a cluster of thunderstorms that moves through different regions in the tropics. It influences the jet stream.

This is what phases 3 tends to produce..

Notice the trough hanging west and evidence of ridging of high pressure in the east. This is not far off from what the models shows.

So can this change? Maybe as we head into the 2nd-3rd week of March but I would not count on it. Sure we can get big mid March storms, but my gut tells me its just not that kind of year. Up in New England ski areas I can see a better shot at this. 

It will not be long before we are discussing severe weather season which could be active this year. 

Look guys, no one loves winter more than me. I hate to see a snap like this into early spring, but its just the reality staring us right in the face. I am not going to "search" for cold and deny reality. Mother Nature always have a few surprises up her sleeve so let me be pleasantly surprises. Until then, I will be polishing up my golf clubs for spring. 


  1. Hi Willy, Looks like the towel has been thrown! I had commented that the lack of a big warm water pool between Alaska and Seattle (the blob) must have been part of this "winter that (probably) wasn't", given the big role it played in the more robust winters of 2013-2015. The Eastern PA Weather Authority site also pins a lot of the blame on the QBO. IIRC, you qualified your winter 2017 forecast by saying that the QBO might be a spoiler. I gather that a westerly QBO helps the jet streams overall and keeps things zonal and progressive, which was pretty much the story of this winter. According to EPAWA, a strong westerly QBO has not been seen before with a weak La Nina and a low solar activity cycle. And IIRC, this wasn't supposed to be a westerly QBO year anyway, the whole thing was out of synch with its general cycle (has been + since June 2015). They say that at the moment, the QBO is pretty mysterious, not much skill yet in predicting it. They conclude by saying "the QBO [is] the 'grim reaper' of outlooks, because largely of its unpredictability . . . [it] has the ability to take a perfectly good and well researched Winter outlook and shred it apart. As a result of this, it is clear that seasonal outlooks – namely Winter – are a waste of time and energy." !!!! They also mention the PDO, which pretty much correlates with the end of the NE Pacific blob.

    And where do we go from here? Return to El Nino? The ENSO hasn't exactly been acting very nice of late either, it has been pretty mysterious over the past few years. Hey, I'm not a climate alarmist, but the chaos factor in synoptic weather patterns appears to be going up (wonder if some grad students are working on this idea right now, trying to make it scientific). Kind of like a dripping faucet that goes from a regular drip to a faster and less regular pattern when the water pressure increases. Always interesting !! Jim G

    1. Hey Jim,

      I agree that QBO is a big mystery and there is alot more to study and learn. I think if you combine the W QBO with the cold tongue that inserted itself in the pacific we have our culprit of what drove this winter. In my opinion it wasn't just all la nina but combo of all these factors which as you mentioned have not been lined up like this before. Whats intersting though is that they say in westerly QBO's the heat transport to the poles is weaker yet we did have stratospheric warming. On the flip side we did not have sustained blocking which also is a result of a W qbo. Joe D'Aleo at weatherbell did some very interesting research on ENSO and QBO's and the seasonal snowfall in Boston area. His results are compelling and back up the overall trend of this winter.

      The climate is always changing and I learned that it really is almost impossible to predict a season just like its almost impossible to predict short term moves in the stock market. WE use analogs but since the early is always changing how do 60 years of analogs tell the tale? They don't, its way to short of a sample size. Add to that the poor reliability of seasonal models and you have your problem. We are better of studying the evolution of a pattern through the 1st week of December then trying to make a prediction. At least we can see where things might go.

      As far as ENSO is concerned, the models are starting to show a nino again. A weak nino wouldn't be a bad thing or at least thats what history suggests. I am interested though to see the water profile off the western pacific. Looks like we will see more of a -PDO which could again result in more southeast ridging next year. Time will tell!

      The earth climate is changing but it always has in my opinion. I am not a climate alarmist either and think as humans we just are still struggling to figure it all out.

  2. The resilience of the polar vortex and the AO is also a big part of the mystery this year. Dr. Cohen had big expectations regarding SSW's and a weak vortex, but it looks like the AO forecasts into March are keeping it generally positive. There was that big spike in polar strat temps in late January and early February, Dr. Cohen had some big expectations for it. He kept talking about cold trends in the northeastern USA, but alas . . . the zonal flows just kept flowing. I was just looking at some of the 17 day upper air flows, and they stay pretty dynamic. There will still be some cold shots, and I see a few light snow incidents. But for the most part, that polar vortex is staying put. Whatever was driving the pattern this winter, it sure did a number on the Arctic! All that autumn snow in Siberia, mostly in vain . . . Jim G

  3. BUT . . . I read that some analysts, even the CFS weekly climate runs, are looking for a cold trend from about March 9 thru 21. Temps back in the 20s and 30s here in northern NJ. Perhaps a last hurrah for Winter 2017? Willy, I'm sure that you will put the golf clubs aside and keep us posted, if that starts to evolve! Jim G

    1. Models starting to pick up on the cold trend, but I wonder if it ends up focused more off the coast. Dr. Cohen, who I really like, is def puzzled this year. That QBO must have something to do with this along with the pac cold tongue. There is some really good research I read on QBO's , ENSO and Solar and the effects of each. This westerly QBO had to be a factor considering snow cover and other major factors did not have the expected outcome. This is why we will always be hooked on weather. We have a lot to figure out.