Forecast news: Looking ahead to winter and El Niño

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From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

Long-term weather prediction is fairly simple, Gratz said. Forecasters look at about 50 years or so worth of data and look at winters with similar patterns, such as El Nino or La Nina, and determine that whatever happened during those winters is what generally happens every winter under similar conditions.

“That’s it,” Gratz said. “What I really trust is that if it’s a really strong La Nina, the Pacific Northwest gets a lot of snow. If it’s a really strong El Nino, the southern states get a lot of precipitation. But, if it’s anything in between, it’s really just a crap shoot.”

The 2012-13 winter is certainly something in between, with El Nino appearing to be very weak or possibly moderate, Gratz said.

The National Weather Service’s long-term forecast shows Colorado in the region where above average temperatures are possible November through January. There are equal chances probability for above average or below average precipitation during that time.

Then, the December through February forecast shows equal chances for above average or below average temperatures and precipitation…

Klaus Wolter, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences Climate Diagnostics Center, won’t comment on the upcoming ski season weather before the end of September at the earliest, he said.

Optimism and dreams aside, the fact remains that August is simply too early to tell whether this winter will deliver the goods in large quantities. The fact that meteorologists even make these long range forecasts annoys Gratz — he said it just perpetuates this idea that meteorologists are just blowing smoke. That’s why he likes to stick to forecasting actual storms when they’re seven days, five days or three days out — those are the forecasts that are going to be most accurate.

“The accuracy of long-range forecasts is so low,” Gratz said. “Basically, you could just throw a couple of darts at a dart board.”

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

Harris’ Farmer’s Almanac — not to be confused with the Old Farmer’s Almanac — has forecast “near normal” or slightly above-normal precipitation for the Rocky Mountain region in November, December, January and February. The publication forecast slightly below-normal precipitation at the end of ski season, in March and April. November will start and conclude with snow, the almanac said, with only the middle part of the month dry. And if the publication’s meteorologists are correct, Aspen-Snowmass won’t be sweating a lack of snow for the holidays. Harris’ Farmer’s Almanac is calling for locally heavy snow in the mountains for most of December starting in the second week of the month. The weather will ease up from Dec. 23 until Dec. 28, which always helps to lure tourists out to the slopes. January will bring “mountain snow showers at any time,” the publication said. February will be the snowiest month of the season, according to its forecast. “Frequent snow showers in the mountains at two- to three- month intervals,” it said…

This winter, Harris’ Farmer’s Almanac is forecasting temperatures “near normal” in December, January, February and April and slightly above normal in November. October and March will be “slightly above normal,” the publication forecast.

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