Both of the "farmers" almanacs are out and both are calling for another "COLD and SNOWY" winter season ahead.
The Farmers' Almanac, which has been published annually since 1818, is predicting a winter that is "Snow Filled and Frigid" for the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes.
This forecast is not to be confused with the one recently released by The Old Farmers Alamanac (published since 1792) which coincidentally is also calling for a "Cold and Snowy" winter here locally.
So are we destined for ANOTHER bad winter?
While both almanacs claim to have developed a "secret formula" for producing winter forecasts over the years, both have shown little actual skill and tend to rely on general or generic wording to justify their forecasts.
In addition, there certainly seems to be a tendency for these almanacs to use hyperbole and more often than not call for "bad" winters in an attempt to sell more almanacs.
I'm not saying there is no science behind these forecasts, I'm only saying there seems to be tendencies that support my above stated opinion.
What does science say?
Beyond secret formulas and folklore there is a more scientific method for seasonal forecast prediction.
The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) uses a number of "indicators" when it comes to putting together it's long range forecasts.
These indicators include such things as the current state and forecated state of sea surface temperatures over the Eastern Equatorial Pacific (known as El Nino/La Nina), the tropical 30-60 day oscillation known as the Madden Julian Oscillation or the MJO, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the Pacific North Amercian Oscillation (PNO) and current climatological trends.
Among these indicators, the most important are the forecasted state of El Nino/La Nina and current climate trends.
El Nino/La Nina is a preferred indicator because it's predictability is higher than the other climate patterns and can be a very strong signal when either a strong El Nino or La Nina is present.
The 800 lb Gorilla - El Nino!
In case you've missed the memo, a hugely impactful El Nino event is on going across the Equatorial Pacific with sea surface temperatures as warm as they have been in nearly two decades.
Current sea surface temps are running 2 to 3 degrees C above normal over parts of the Eastern Pacific and these conditions are projected to persist through the winter months.
So what does this mean?
According to the folks at CPC, we are probably looking at near normal to slightly above normal temperatures this coming winter. (A stark contrast to the forecast currently being advertised by the above mentioned "farmers" almanacs)
CPC is predicting above normal temps for much of the Northern Tier and below normal temps for much of the South.
Precipitation-wise, CPC is expecting drier than normal conditions across our area, the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies with wetter than normal conditions for much of the South.
So what do I think?
I think it is highly unlikely that we will see a repeat of the last two winters.
As mentioned above, El Nino is completely driving the CPC forecast and for good reason, because of the high correlation between winter seasonal forecasting and strong El Nino/La Nina events.
Because this one is so strong, it will have a significant influence on our weather during the approaching cold season.
Something to watch for...
One of the chief characteristics of a strong El Nino winter is a dominate southern branch of the jet stream which can help to produce strong storm systems that develop over the Southern US.
When these storms "couple" with the northern branch of the jet, they can create big snow makers for the Eastern US and sometimes into our region too.
It's not just El Nino
When it comes to Pacific Warmth right now, it's not just the waters along the equator. Notice the plumes of warmth off the Baja of California and also further north into the Bay of Alaska.
This massive area of warm ocean water was a major influence on our weather over the last two seasons causing a semi-permanent upper level ridge to form along the West Coast which had a cascading effect on our weather here locally as shot after shot of cold air was able to dig into the Eastern US out of the Arctic.
While I don't see this winter as being as persistently cold and snowy and the past two, the interaction between a still potent northern and now a much stronger southern branch of the jet could give birth to infrequent, but powerful winter storms this season.
It is interesting to note that the largest snowfall in Louisville history occurred during the last strong El Nino during the winter of 1997-'98.
We'll have a more complete winter outlook posted once we get into the fall months.
In the meantime, be sure to enjoy this late season summer warmth.
WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org