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2011-2012 Winter Forecasts

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I'm a meteorologist, but I'm no long-range weather forecasting expert, so I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the early prognostications for the 2011-2012 winter from sources that specialize in long-range forecasting.

I'll highlight three forecasts today, and I expect that I'll have more forecasts to highlight in the future. I've included a few highlights from each, with links to the complete forecast information.

NOAA
The Climate Prediction Center is the division of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that issues the official long-range government forecasts, and the official winter forecast will be released in October.

NOAA did, however, issue initial thoughts about the upcoming winter, based largely on the return of La Nina. A La Nina is a cooling of sea-surface temperatures in the tropical region of the Pacific Ocean, and it influences global weather patterns. There was a La Nina last year as well, but it's not expected that this winter's La Nina will be quite as intense as last winter's.

The early-season forecast emphasizes the likelihood of a continuation of the dry weather pattern in the Southwest and southern Plains, a region devastated by a multi-billion-dollar drought.

Farmers' Almanac

The Farmers' Almanac warns us to get ready for a wet, wild winter in 2012.

Highlights include:
  • Very stormy and wet conditions in the mid-Atlantic region and southern New England
  • Very snowy conditions in the Midwest, northern New England, and upstate New York
  • Very wet conditions in the southern Plains and Southeast (which would be great news because of the ongoing drought)
  • Very cold in the northern Plains
  • Dry in the Southwest

I'm not saying that the forecast lacks validity, but since the forecast does not include the reasoning behind the forecast, it's hard to have any opinion about its possible accuracy.

The Weather Centre
You may never had heard of the Weather Centre (neither did I before I started to research this article), but when I found out that they've been providing quality forecasts for the United States since April 26, 2010, I knew I had to include them!

Sarcasm aside, I wanted to include their forecast since the forecast information was just released (Weather Centre Winter Forecast), and the forecast is accompanied by a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind their forecast. It's clear that a significant amount of meteorology is behind the forecast.

Two of the factors mentioned are the La Nina, but rather than a broad-brushed La Nina forecast, the forecast was also based on the specific position of the La Nina, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and past winter seasons with similar climatological factors.

I'm not saying the forecast is right, but the reasoning behind the forecast seems sound.

Highlights include:
  • Above-average snowfall in mid-Atlantic region, Northeast, Midwest, and eastern Plains
  • A continuation of the drought in much of the southern U.S.
  • More precipitation than normal along the West Coast
  • Colder-than-normal conditions across much of the northern tier of the country, including bitterly cold conditions in the northern Plains.
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