Winter is Around the Corner

Although in Wausau we have not yet picked up more than a trace of snowfall through the 10th of November, the odds continue to increase that we will be seeing our first measurable accumulation.  On average Wausau  has it’s first .10” of snow by November 5th and 1” or greater snowfall tally by November 14th.  Along with the chill in the air, this week is Winter Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin and if you tune in to any of our newscasts or our 24/7 Weather Channel, we will be passing along some interesting safety tips and information that should come in handy for the winter ahead.

With the official start of meteorological winter less than a month away, this tends to be the time of year when you hear about the Winter Weather Outlooks.  The Climate Prediction Center (CPC), which is a part of the National Weather Service (NWS) has forecasted a 50% chance of warmer than average temperatures in the Badger State , while there are equal chances of either above or below normal precipitation.  At first glance this sounds like a pretty hallow forecast, but in general the CPC thinks we will have a warmer than usual winter.

Some of the factors that go into these long range outlooks include the North Atlantic Oscillation  (NAO), ocean water temperatures in the western Pacific that relate to warmer than average (El Nino) or cooler than average (La Nina) conditions, and other teleconnections (aka other oscillations) across the Atlantic, Arctic and North America.  Based on some meteorological research, the trends for this winter are for the NAO to be slightly positive and for neutral or near average ocean water temperatures in the western Pacific.  This would at the very least equate to better chances for some mild streaks in the western Great Lakes .  Before I jump into the snowfall category, I looked back at 5 past winter seasons where we had a similar set up to what is predicted for this winter.

During those years, the snowfall was above average in Wausau by about 12”, with the exception of 2001-02 when snowfall was just 5” higher than the average of 58.6”.  Meantime the mean temperatures were generally above average by 2 to 8 degrees as a whole.  So if history repeats itself, we may have some relatively mild air mixed in with our likely arctic cold blasts, but also the possibility of still getting somewhat higher than usual snowfall.  Only time will tell if this works out, and it will be dependent on where the most favorable storm track sets up.

If you remember last year southern Wisconsin had record amounts of snowfall, while Wausau had its 8th snowiest winter on record.  With that in mind, last year the CPC did call for warmer than average temps for the winter along with slightly higher than average precipitation in the Badger State.  The result were temperatures locally that where actually colder than normal, with above average precipitation. So that one was at least half right.  Now to see what comes our way for the winter of 2008-09.  Once again, based on the historical research, it appears it may be warmer and wetter/snowier than usual.  Stay tuned!

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