FOX 21 2016 Winter Outlook

The FOX 21 Weather Team Forecasts This Upcoming Winter Season

Our winter season last year was quite abnormal. It all stemmed from the oceanic water temperatures. The strong trade winds that normally push warm waters to the Western Pacific weakened, allowing those warm waters to move to the Eastern Pacific. This causes drought and fishing shortages to those regions.

Here in the United States, those water temperatures impacted the trajectory of both the polar jet stream that brings cold air, and the subtropical jet stream, that brings the moisture needed for storms. A large majority of the United States saw very warm temperatures last winter, including here in the Northland.

Duluth saw almost double the amount of rainfall during the last winter season, making it the 10th wettest winter on record. Snowfall was near normal, only three tenths of an inch below average, but the temperatures were way above normal. These high temperatures prevented much lake ice from forming during the heart of the winter season. And it ended up being the 9th warmest winter on record for the Northland.

While El Nino seasons might be a bit more famous for severe weather and tropical seasons, La Nina is still part of the same index.

It’s known as the El Nino Southern Oscillation, or “ENSO.”

We look at pressure differences and sea surface temperatures out in the Pacific Ocean, and typically during a La Nina, those ocean temperatures are a bit cooler than average.

While anticipating a La Nina on the way for the upcoming winter season, the Climate Prediction Center released its own outlook, proclaiming a higher likelihood for this winter to be colder and snowier than average.

“To predict what will happen this La Nina, we looked at records for the past 60 years.”

Mike Stewart from the National Weather Service in Duluth says if this La Nina gets stronger, like it appears it will, Northlanders should brace for a winter like we haven’t seen in a couple years with more cold and snow.

“What we do is we look at the current patterns and we also look at patterns from the past and how maybe a weather pattern over Asia will affect the weather here in North America.”

We’ve had 11 years of weak La Nina’s since 1950 and almost every time this happens the pattern is below average temperatures and above normal snowfall. In fact, when we are in a weak La Nina, the Northland typically sees the highest snowfall for the area.

On the contrary, in a moderate La Nina, which is stronger, we see slightly below average snow totals. So with a weak La Nina in place this winter, you can historically expect 20% more snowfall than average.

After much collaboration, the weather team here at FOX 21 is forecasting a colder and snowier winter ahead. The average amount of snowfall in Duluth for Meteorological winter is 50.1” based on the 30 year average from 1980 to 2010.

With historical weak La Nina’s leading to 73% more snow, this winter should also see more snow falling around the Northland. Based on our research, the FOX 21 weather team is expecting around 60 inches of snowfall over the next three months.

In terms of temperatures, last year was very warm and prevented much lake ice from developing on Lake Superior. This year’s weak la Nina will most likely bring much cooler temperatures to the Northland. We will see periodic cold snaps, and although we have had a very mild autumn this winter is setting up to remain near to below average for temperatures. If enough cold air filters through, ice fishing conditions should be excellent.  

With Meteorologists Brittney Merlot and William Seay, Chief Meteorologist Gino Recchia, KQDS FOX 21.

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