Was Our Winter Outlook Right?

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A great question that has a complicated answer.  The answer is both yes and no.  Here is what our thinking was last fall.

Based on the developing El Nino (warmth more basin wide vs 1998 which ended being one of the strongest El Ninos in recent memory), the position of the warm and cool pools in the northern Pacific and Atlantic, our forecast was for a strong, southern jet stream (storm track) for the December-February time period.  My December blend (issued back in September around Labor Day) was created using 1997-98 and other years showing the positions of the highs and lows at 500mB (steering current level). (See my WEATHER BLOG for a more detailed comparison to 1997-98, our last big El Nino)

dec_blend

I believed the southern jet would be a driver early on.

WWO3

Temperatures would be below average in the deep south with above normal temperatures centered in the mid-west and upper Great Plains with slightly above normal temperatures for Ohio and the Ohio Valley.

WWO4

Our snowfall forecast for northern Ohio took this “panhandle storm track” into consideration by calling for snowfall slightly below normal (65″) but higher than the strong El Ninos of 1982-83 (38″) and 1997-98 (56″).
WWO6
Here is how I would grade each element:

  1.  I believed the southern jet would be a driver early on.  This didn’t pan out well at all. Ridge of warmth developed over the eastern 1/2 of the US suppressed this big time.  The southern jet was nullified by the east coast ridge in December.  It stayed well south until January.  Even then, panhandle snow systems stayed close to the east coast and the mid Atlantic. Snowfall was well below normal by the first week of January in northern Ohio with little lake effect.

500mB_dec2015

2. Temperatures would be below average in the deep south with above normal temperatures centered in the mid-west and upper Great Plains with                            slightly above normal temperatures for Ohio and the Ohio Valley.  We were partially right.  Temperatures were above normal to be sure around the Great            Lakes and Ohio.  Without storms, the deep south stayed above normal.  See #1.

USwinter_divisions_temps

3. Our snowfall for northern Ohio took this “panhandle storm track” into consideration by calling for snowfall slightly below normal (65″) but higher than               the strong El Ninos of 1982-83 (38″) and 1997-98 (56″).  We were partially right.  We figured it would take one or two bigger snows to bring this total to                 reality.  The storm track movement (SW to NE) was correct.  The position was not.  Given the lack of a more northerly storm track through the Tennessee                  Valley/Ohio valley (southern jet stayed well south), we dodged several big snows which kept out snow totals much lower.

dec_300mBwind

We forget how close the heavy snow came to northern Ohio in Late January.

2016-DC-snow

ndfd_snow_ohio

This winter’s temperatures were very similar to the winter of 2011-12 (MORE ON THIS COMPARISON FOR NORTHERN OHIO IN PART 2)
temps_dec_feb_winter2015-16

temps_dec_feb_winter2011-12

Much of the Great Lakes had well below normal snowfall. Portions of New England it was the opposite.

snow_tots

In summary, I think our outlook was on the right track.  We underestimated the El Nino influence this winter along with the strength of the ridge across the western US.  This ridge deflected the southern jet further south into Mexico and Florida.  This prevented those east coast/Mid Atlantic snow storms from affecting Ohio et all.

How did our winter compare to last winter and a few others in northern Ohio?  Check out Part II of my winter recap HERE! SCOTT’S WORLD OF WEATHER

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