Monday, November 1, 2010

2010-2011 Composite Winter Forecast

I have thought about my 2010-2011 Winter Composite Outlook for several months.  Over this time I have reviewed so many other winter outlooks that I lost count.  However it is over three dozen of not more.  These forecasts shared a few common themes.

The most common and something I fully agree with is that Indiana will be the bulls-eye for above average precipitation.  This drought we have suffered through will be a memory with it likely completely erased by mid spring.

Many forecasters use analogs to do both short and long term forecasts.  With long term seasonal forecasts, this method involves looking for years which have had a similar weather pattern and then looking how those years turned out.  The more matching analogs with similar results, the more easily it is to forecast with confidence.  This brings us to the second common theme.  There are very few matching analogs.  The few that do match don’t really show a common winter pattern. 

So what is a forecaster to do?

Some took the easy way out and saw a La Niña weather pattern and then issued the typical La Niña forecast.  The National Weather Service did this.  The problem is this La Niña is not like many/any others.  I think anyone who went this route will be wrong.  However they might be right enough with some of generalities that they could declare themselves victorious in their forecast.

A few forecasters just went with their gut and ignored science (or the science which didn’t support their forecast) and made sometimes bold or sometimes just plain stupid predictions. 

A fair majority dug down deep into science and looked at the subtleties and came up with a forecast which was based upon science.  The only problem is there are dozens of variables involved and not everyone believes which variable is the most significant.

This makes coming up with my composite forecast a chore.  I have gone back and forth on which way on how I think our winter will end up.  I so want to do a bold call predicting record breaking snow and bone chilling cold.  Of course I can also see this being a torch (warm) with the drought continuing on and on and on…

So before I make the reveal for this year’s forecast, let’s go back and review 2009-2010.  My snow forecast was 30” or slight above average.  Measured snow was 32”.  The NWS cooperative observer was showed a couple of inches more.  Overall the snow forecast total was correct but we nickel and dimed our way all winter to get there.  I really expected a big snow and thought it was necessary to get my final numbers.  In the end the biggest snow was 5.5” after several hours of a dry slot lowered the snow totals a couple of inches.

One hard lesson from last year is snow can be fickle and the cut off can be rather sharp when looking at snow totals.  One storm last year dropped 7” on Tipton, only 4” here and a mere 2” in Logansport.  We saw a lot of the better snows go south of us.  The good news was that kept us from those awful mixing events where we see slop rather than snow.

Temperatures for 2009-2010 were just slightly below average and I called for slight above.  What really stunk was there were several good cold shots which were wasted without precipitation/snow. 

My 2009-2010 forecast ended up being pretty good.  I made a few great calls including nailing the early January clipper which I forecast on November 1.  While the forecast was good, the winter didn’t set well with me or most others who love winter in Indiana.  We never really had a good storm and much of the nation got record breaking snows.  Many will never see snow totals like that in their lifetime.
While many forecasters do national or regional forecasts, I focus on a microcast for Kokomo, Indiana and Howard County.  The composite portion of the forecast is generally taken from ideas presented by other forecasters.  This includes trained and skilled professionals to other enthusiasts and hobbyist like me. 

As a winter lover, I always am looking for ways to make my forecast cold and snowy.  This includes both short range and long range.  But I must also remain honest when looking at everything presented and acknowledge the facts presented and what is actually happening.  With that said, I present the…

2010-2011 Composite Winter Forecast

I do think Indiana will see a lot of precipitation between now and spring.  However it will not be a snowy winter.  Last winter we saw many good snows go south and east.  This year will put the snow back to our north.  I-80 and north will do well.  We will see a lot of slop with sleet being common.  It will be a winter of heartbreaks. 

Our best shots for snow will be from the middle of November through December.  It will be bleak in January and beyond.  Some snow will fall but it will be smaller systems, likely clippers that will deliver 2-3” snows every 7 to 10 days.  The threat of an ice storm is high this winter.

November and December will likely be the two months with below normal temperatures.  While I don’t see significant above normal temperatures for the 2011 portion of winter, there will be a several warm spells between the cold to push it to the plus side of normal. 

The flip between warm to cold will likely trigger a couple of severe weather episodes.  We have seen these scenarios in the past so it shouldn’t be any shocker. 

The snow total will be just below average with around 22-24”.  Sorry to all of my snow lovers.

Snow Day Prediction

The best threat for significant snow will come over the winter break for area schools.  Another good time for a threat comes over Thanksgiving break.  Neither of those times will create snow days for schools.  The smaller snows from clippers in January and February will create 2 hour delays but will not generate cancellations. 

With the lower than average snowfall total and smaller snows and the best threats coming during natural breaks in the school year, I fear there will be zero snow days for 2010-2011.  So there is the ugly prediction.  No snow days for area schools.  I wished it were better news. 

I suspect the superintendents and transportation directors are the only ones happy my prediction.  My apologies to everyone else.  With that sour news, I will conclude with the forecast and prediction.  I hope to expand a bit more as time allows but I wanted to get the forecast and prediction out there.

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