Although it may not feel like it, summer has come to an end and fall is taking over, and after that…winter.
For some winter stirs up feels of dread, of cold and snow, and months without sunshine. For others it’s their favorite time of the year!
Whether you love it or hate it, one thing most folks agree on is that the last few winters have been very mild. And they aren’t wrong.
The last two consecutive winters in Flint and Saginaw both ranked in the top ten warmest winters on record.
The winter of 2015-2016 was the second warmest winter ever for both Saginaw and Flint. The 2016-2017 year was the eighth warmest winter in Flint and the ninth warmest winter in Saginaw.
So what does the upcoming winter season look like for this year?
Well signs this year are beginning to point to a colder winter or at least a more normal Mid-West winter.
The last two years, Michigan has been under an El Nino pattern which normally brings warmer and drier winters to our region.
Now we are beginning to see signs of a La Nina pattern setting up. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued a La Nina watch for the upcoming 2017-2018 winter season. A La Nina watch is issued when conditions are favorable for the development of La Nina within the next six months. NOAA says there is a 55-60 percent chance of a La Nina developing for the upcoming fall and winter.
What does La Nina mean for the winter season?
A La Nina pattern is characterized by a cooling of the seas surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean. When those ocean temps show a below average or lower-than-normal trend it is classified as a La Nina pattern just like El Nino it has global impacts on the weather.
For us here in Michigan a La Nina pattern may mean a colder and wetter winter.
La Nina puts an emphasis on the northern jet stream during the colder winter months which funnels moisture in the northern U.S. making it colder and snowier.
Right now NOAA says signs are pointing toward the development of a La Nina, but it looks like if one does develop it will be weak. That means that our winter may be more of a “normal” Michigan winter.
The picture below shows an equal chance for above or below chances for colder than average temperatures and the precipitation chart next to that shows the same. This does not guarantee a normal winter of course, but as of now based of the current data that if what is expected.
What is a normal winter?
Looking at the historical averages for temps and snowfall in Flint, an average winter will see about 47.4” of snow for the whole year. For the winter months of December, January, and February Flint sees an average temp of about 32.1 degrees.
Average winter for Saginaw means of 41.7” of snow per year, and an average temperature of about 31.3 degrees for December, January, and February combined.
As of now the NOAA is saying we have an equal chance of a normal or average winter, but if the La Nina pattern persists we may be just slightly colder and snowier than normal.
Another winter outlook will be released at the end of September and again in October.
So snow lovers rejoice and snow haters prepare. Winter may be making a comeback this year.
Copyright 2017 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you. The 2016 Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasts an unusually harsh winter this year for most of the nation.
The almanac, which is published annually and uses a secret forecasting formula it says is traditionally 80 percent accurate, has been in use since 1792 and remains one of the oldest and one of the most popular reference guides in the U.S.
The 2016 almanac, out today, warns the U.S. should prepare for extremely cold temperatures and lots of snow this winter. It says the Northeast can expect below-normal temperatures, the South will have above-average snowfall, and the Midwest will have less snowfall, but temperatures will be below-normal. The Pacific Northwest will see their biggest snowfall in mid-December, early to mid-January and mid to late February.
The secret forecasting formula, now locked in a black box in New Hampshire, was devised by the founder, Robert B. Thomas, who believed the weather was influenced by the magnetic storms on the surface of the sun, or sunspots.
The formula has been updated over the years. Predictions employ the study of solar activity, prevailing weather patterns and the atmosphere. The almanac also looks at weather trends and events by comparing past weather conditions with current solar activity.
However, many meteorologists question the almanac’s predictions and the validity of their methods. For one, the almanac’s secrecy means their methods can’t be compared with modern techniques that employ physics, math and atmospheric readings to simulate weather patterns. Such tools are used by agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to build the weather reports that you see on the news or on a smartphone app on a daily basis.
Akin to the almanac, NOAA also creates seasonal outlooks on a regular basis, and it’s findings contradict the almanac. For instance, they predict below average precipitation for the Pacific Northwest and for rainfall to coat California for most of the winter. The almanac also claims a high degree of accuracy on an annual basis without releasing evidence to back the claim.
Although originally created for recording and predicting astronomical events, today the Old Farmer’s Almanac does more than predict weather patterns. Readers can also learn about gardening, recipes, the best days to fish, among other helpful tips.
For more details about this coming winter, check out the almanac’s long ranging predictions.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to clarify that methods used by the Old Farmer’s Almanac to calculate its forecast are not considered to be scientific.