As a youngster in the Northeast U.S., I seem to only remember winter as putting on my jacket in mid-October and taking it off in mid-April. In between there were a few breaks from school in the form of snow days, it seemed to get dark pretty early and my brother and I could sometimes go sledding right in front of our house. But that was about it. Is it just me, or does it seem so much more complicated now?
It is more complicated. There’s more drought, more cold, more rain, more storms, more higher-than-normal, more lower-than-normal and less near-normal. And as I’m looking at our upcoming winter outlook, I can’t help but think of my lawn — hibernating, sure, but more drought even at this time of year is not a good thing. And just when we were bouncing back from last year’s devastating (and record-setting) drought. But my lawn and I are just one small concern in this seasonal picture of wet and dry, warm and cold and never-ending comparisons to the ever-changing normal. So let’s take a look at a few of the key elements our ImpactWeather StormWatch team is identifying.
Once we get past the middle of December, the remainder of the winter season calls for an upper-level trough over the eastern U.S. and high pressure ridging over much of the Rockies and West Coast as a general change in the flow pattern from the current early-December pattern with a trough off the West Coast and an upper flow pattern from the Southwest to the Northeast. The repositioned upper flow will direct storm tracks in a broad track from the northern Rockies to the Deep South, while the trough over the eastern U.S. and Canada should set the stage for enhanced winter weather and colder temperatures over this region. This is not the time for storm-weary East Coasters to let down their guard. Most of the Plains and Mississippi Valley will see a milder and less-stormy pattern during the winter months.
The combination of enhanced cold and higher-than-normal precipitation over southeastern Canada and the eastern U.S. will increase the odds of more numerous winter storm systems while farther west, occasional strong Pacific storm systems will keep the West Coast unsettled with periods of heavy coastal rain and mountain snow from California to British Columbia. Much of the Plains should see drier-than-normal weather with a lower-than-normal risk of severe winter weather. Note the cold bias developing over the Eastern U.S. and much of Canada with extended warmth across much of the West.