Thursday, January 1, 2015

January: Winter's Most Vengeful Month

It's the dead of winter.  January.  On average it is the coldest month of the entire year and leaves many of us longing for warm summer days ahead.  Last January was the 6th coldest January on record with an average temperature of 16.0° (-9.5° below average) and the most snow in recorded history 40.2" in any calendar month!  Could we withstand another month like that? Will we see another brutal hammering of winter's worst?  Short answer, No.  Before I get into what I think will happen in the month ahead, lets recap my prediction last month:

My December Prediction:  Much WARMER than Average -- Near Normal Precipitation

ACTUAL RESULTS: +3.3° Above Normal Temperature --  Below Normal by 1.59"

My January Prediction:  Slightly COOLER than Average -- Near NORMAL Snowfall

January is set to deliver on some of the coldest weather since last winter by early next week.  It will be a familiar sight with a strong ridge over the West Coast up to Alaska and a deep and persistent trough over the Great Lakes.  This allows colder polar air to drive out of Canada and into the Great Lakes most of next week.  This set up along with an active stream of energy stemming from the Pacific/Gulf of Alaska area will favor the development of Clipper systems that will reinforce colder air and bring regular chances of lighter snows.

GFS -- 500mb Height Anomalies valid 7 PM Tuesday, January 6th

I also looked at the overall climate models for the month of January. Below is a look at the last 25 model runs from the NCEP (National Centers for Environmental Prediction) CFSv2 forecast for the month of January.  Although many model runs indicate a warmer than average January, I don't necessary like the relative inconsistency of the recent model runs.  Ideally, a better degree of consistency would be desired before putting much emphasis on erratic model to model runs.  I'll stick with overall pattern recognition and other global models for now.
CFSv2 Monthly Temperature Anomaly

Finally, the AO -- Arctic Oscillation -- can have stronger correlations to our local weather during the winter months.  While not a tell all indicator, a negative (-AO) would be favorable for colder weather into the Great Lakes and eastern United States.  The monthly prognostication has the AO negative much of the month of January.  This may very well be a signal leading us to a colder month ahead. 

Arctic Oscillation

I honestly believe a month of January like last years would only be experienced once or twice in an entire lifetime in this area.  January of 1978 and 2014 would stand above any other month for harsh winter weather for anyone alive today.