Monday, October 27, 2014

Some winter thoughts and a remembrance for a meteorologist friend who passed away..

I'll do a more detailed winter outlooks, but outside the NOAA outlook which was rather interesting, I think 2 out of 3 or greater of the private forecasters (aka, the ones who give more detail and stick their neck out) will end up going cold and snowy compared to normal. One KEY tell has been the snow increase in Eurasia. (Which I've mentioned for years now)

With that, Long range forecasting is hard and I mean, last year I went warm and snowless and while snowfall was slightly above normal-- cold or cold coming was the theme last year. Enjoyable winter from a tracking stand point where I had one event after another. While the kid in me still enjoys playing in the snow, the fun is really in the chase now-- getting the storm right.

With that, my inclination is that temps this winter run 1-3 degrees below normal. I think the coldest 30 day period relative to normal will be Mid Jan to Mid Feb and snowfall will be normal to 25% above normal. Lynchburg averages 17 inches a year (Comment about that in a moment) So range of 17-23 inches? More "breaks" in the action where the Arctic Oscillation will be our driver for cold, that often breaks down for 1-2 weeks stretches even in negative phase dominated winters. IF we get a more robust sub tropical jet, snowfall could be more. Snowfall at some levels is just an educated guess because timing short waves is not something we know. It's a linear guess on the facts at hand. If we get one 15 inch snowfall, the other 8 inches would be really easy to come by.

More details later in the week, but that's the jist of where I am.

Touching on LYH snowfall-- I've seen FAR too many graphs showing Lynchburg 30 year mean at 13 inches. It's wrong. Way wrong- Huge data gaps where they just averaged in 0 for years they didn't keep records. The NWS had a consolidation in the mid 90's and observations didn't get done. Sean Sublette over at WSET does them now, but we had some huge gaps that were counted as zeros in the average. I've pointed this out to several mets and even reached out to the CLIMO center and was told I was wrong, and or my data didnt' count. Well, first-- Hello, this is science. It matters. It matters a lot. Second, isn't some data based on an education guessed combined with local obs (we've always had temps, winds and rainfall because it's automated. We just need someone to stick the ruler in the ground) And lastly, I'm just right. I can't do this now, but when I was about 25, I could name about every snowfall at my house as a child from ages 5 till I moved away from college. I can still piece together most winters and tell you if it was good or bad, and any "signature" snow events--etc. I do have a freakish memory, but I get this is a bit much.  I did keep records of the snowfalls here and have it documented. If you remove the missing years OR add my data you get a 30 year average of 16.9 to 17 inches.

RIP Rich Hitchens

Wanted to give a quick word about a meteorologist friend who passed away. He spent his career at the NWS and worked the DC area for a long while, ending as their Hydrologist. One of the cool things to me was on the documentaries on SuperStorm 93, they did a reenactment of DC office and I think he was in the footage as the met in charge of that office at the time. He was a great guy, good friend and helped the people who launched the weather board where I hang out connect with more meteorologists.

BUT, I was honestly star struck when I met Rich because as a kid all I had for weather information was local news, cable tv station that scrolled the forecast, a weather radio and the local NWS number that was a recording from the mets at the old ILG office (Wilmington, DE) Anyways, once Rich disclosed that he worked there in the mid to late 80's and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Can't tell you how many times my Dad and I called that number for temperature updates, updated forecasts..etc. The short term forecast was 322-5151 and I've likely dialed that number thousands of time on an old rotary phone. They also had an extended forecast number which I believe was 322-7596 and it gave an extended outlook of 3-5 days and 2x a week it gave a 6-10 day outlook. If you called in business hours you could ask a met a question. My Dad and I use to call and fake like we were travelling to get more information (Like, knowing what happened down here in VA could impact our weather --etc) Rich told me he had no memories of "fake" calls but I always assumed it was transparent we were just idiots wanting to know if it was going to snow or not. Great memories with my Dad and likely Rich fielded a call or two. :)

So, just like as a kid I loved wrestling and would still think it's cool to meet my favorite wrestler -- Randy Macho Man Savage (Rip to that dude too), Meeting Rich was cool because of the connection to my childhood and I'm glad I got to know him because he was a good man. Tragic, Such a young guy at age 51..  322-5151 forever.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pushing towards winter...

Winter is approaching quickly and while we have some general ideas about how it will play out, October has some key data that needs to e considered before my winte outlook (Yes, the snow cover in Eurasia).

Update for Keith Allen who does a DC centered outlook, but I extrapolate what he does locally and he's had some good sucess in the past but he has some very off years too(Like we do)

This is a direct snip from a friend of his that knows his outlook. A DC radio station use to do a big deal when he released his outlook...

Temperatures:Above Average
Rainfall:Above Average

Seasonal Temps:+1.3 to +1.7
Monthly: Dec:0 to +1
Snowfall DCA:15"

Analog years:1974(5),1984(5), 1992(3)1997(8),2001(2)

Believes there will be a major ice storm around 1/15/15

Some friends in the met world think he does well the conditions are neutral- this year the El Nino is close to low end but the issues I see is that he has a STRONG El NINO, strongest on record and some La Nina too.

Other factors:

The El Nino has not gotten up to low end level yet, but it should peak between .5 and 1 over the winter but it may not be a huge driver of the winter pattern.

The PDO (Warm and cold water pools in the pacific outside the El Nino region) looks to be positive for the winter. This is a good signal if you like colder weather.

Eurasian snow cover is the last factor and we need October to grow. Much of the data circulates around how much snow cover grows in Siberia region. So far, so good-- but we need to let the data fill out. The growth has been good and growth has a strong correlation to - AO. This is usually a sign of cooler winter in our region of the world.

So, my thoughts are leaning colder than normal winter, but not as cold as last winter. Snowfall we didn't really get above normal until that last snow on March 25, so as of now, near normal is a fair call-- which is 17 in LYH and about 20 in ROA (Give or take) As in any winter, a fluke big event could skew that strongly.