Normality Returns to Winter Forecast

Cliff Bennett

Boulder, CO, Oct. 19, 2000--The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.) recently announced their winter weather outlook for the United States, and it appears that Mother Nature's not fooling around anymore. After a string of record warm winters, normal (as defined by the period from 1961-1990) winter weather conditions will likely return.

Winters in the 1990's have been the warmest on record, with the last three among the warmest. These forecasts are made relative to the 1961-1990 climatology, or the average winters for that period. Hence even an above normal temperature forecast may actually be cooler than previous wintertime temperatures.

Research shows that unusual weather patterns over the past three years were a result of ocean temperatures primarily related to La Niña and El Niño weather effects. With the disappearance of these havoc-causing siblings comes the return of near normal temperatures in the tropical Pacific, and thus the return of a gratifying snow-filled winter. Amen.

This chart from N.O.A.A. shows that average winter temperatures forecast for the 2000-2001 winter will be anywhere from zero degrees to six degrees Fahrenheit or more below the average 1998-2000 winter observations, depending on location.

It's important to remember that there is never 100% accuracy in weather forecasts and uncertainty is always present. "As we enter a period without the strong influences of El Niño or La Niña, long-term seasonal outlooks become more challenging to produce," said N.O.A.A. Administrator D. James Baker.

Check back with SkiNet in the future for an updated forecast after the N.O.A.A. updates their winter outlook on November 16.