I was decorating for Christmas over the weekend and decided that I needed something from my garage. Upon reaching the great outdoors I discovered that it actually felt pretty decent, especially for the final weekend of November. In fact, it was so pleasant that I decided to clean out my garage – a task I generally reserve for that first delightful April or May weekend!
What in the world does my weekend of decorating and cleaning have to do with weather? Well, it got me thinking about what an absolutely boring November this has been from a weather standpoint. Now, I do admit that I’m not like the average individual when it comes to weather – it may have something to do with the enjoyment and challenge of forecasting thunderstorms and winter weather scenarios! However, since the holiday season was officially underway, I started to think about how absolutely disappointing it would be to not have a “white Christmas”.
Thankfully the odds are in our favor, since we have only had two “non-white Christmases” since 2000 (2002 and 2006). The winter outlook, however, would seem to favor this being the third. Blame it on . . . El Nino! I know, I know, this is one of those fancy schmansy weather terms that we throw around from time to time, but it is actually a very relevant term that dictates more often than not what kind of a winter we will see here in the great Northwoods. Take the past couple of winter seasons for example – the global weather pattern has been the not-so-nice sister of El Nino . . . La Nina! Those years generally favor more snow and cold across the upper Midwest. If you don’t recall, the past couple of winters have been particularly brutal in terms of snow across the southern portion of Wisconsin. Even here in the Chippewa Valley, though, we had our snowiest Decembers in years (25″ last year and 22″ in 2007). By the way, that 22″ in December 2007 followed only 0.3″ in November so that is working in our favor. Unfortunately, the last moderate El Nino winter (2002-03) featured a brown Christmas, and only 3.1″ of snow that December. Here is an illustration (courtesy of the National Weather Service) which shows a typical setup during a moderate El Nino year:
This certainly does not doom us to a snow-less winter, nor does it mean it will constantly be above average. What it does mean is that we will still feel the sting of Arctic air every so often, but it won’t last very long (a day or two). In addition, we will still receive some snowfall, but usually it comes in dribs and drabs (an inch here, another couple of inches there). Snowmobile riders will likely have to head well to the north to enjoy that particular winter activity. One item that is especially interesting to me is that the Farmers Almanac predicts a pretty harsh winter for Wisconsinites – fairly cold and snowy. I’m certainly not discounting that forecast, or saying that it won’t come to fruition. I do want to point out, however, that six out of the last seven moderate El Nino years have featured BELOW average snowfall (and in most cases well below average). The average snowfall for those seven years: 34.6″ (or about 15″ BELOW average). Finally, five out of the seven years have featured ABOVE average temperatures (that’s factoring in every single high and low temp for December, January, and February). Here is this years winter outlook (courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center):
The numbers certainly speak for themselves, but only time will tell how this winter will turn out. I personally have faith that we will have a little snow come Christmas Eve. If you’re like me and have the slightest bit of skepticism, though, you may want to purchase that bag of cute artificial snowflakes to sprinkle on your Christmas tree . . . just in case!
Cheers, and have a great week!
Posted under Hometown Weather
This post was written by dmichaels on November 30, 2009