Thursday, November 13, 2008
Squirrely Weather, Skinny Squirrels, & Squirrel Monkeys Oh My!
Here was Earl the Squirrel last year. He was strong and robust and forecasted a snowy winter. You see one of our viewers favorite weather proverbs that I have used here in Lafayette over the past several years. The squirrels were right on top of the forecast last year and did a great job. We ended up with a top five snowfall year last year with over 40 inches of snow. This year some are already asking what the squirrels are thinking. There are more question marks in the forecast this year than in any year I can remember. Here was a memo I received from my friends yesterday at the National Weather Service in Indianapolis. Here is a brief excerpt:
Each autumn, the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service issues a winter outlook, covering the period of December through February. And this year, the outlook for Indiana features a higher likelihood of winter temperatures above normal. This means that while there is still a chance for winter temperatures to be near or below normal, the greatest likelihood will be for above normal temperatures.
At the same time, without a clear or strong forecasting signal in any direction, the winter precipitation outlook shows an equal chance of values that are above, below, or near normal. While the overall winter average temperature is most likely to be above normal, this does not indicate that each and every day will be warmer than normal.
The winter season is 90 days long and very warm weather one week could be balanced out by cold weather the next month. “This year the big factor will be the absence of El Nino or La Nina to start the winter,” said Logan Johnson, Climate Services Focal Point at National Weather Service, Indianapolis."
There are still a lot of ifs, cans, and buts and the reason is there is not a strong signal from the Pacific Ocean this year. I have been focusing more on the Atlantic Ocean this year and looking more closely at the Arctic Oscillation (see the weather blog earlier this week for an explanation), the North Atlantic Oscillation which tends to work closely with the Arctic Oscillation during the winter, and the QB0 or the quasi-biennial oscillation which is a measure of the winds in the equatorial regions of the stratosphere. The QBO tends to work in cycles ranging from about 29 months to as much as just over two years. This year the QBO is in a weakening phase and with a cold La Nada I am forecasting this winter it may help bring an unusually warm January and February to much of the country. Do the squirrels agree with this? Well this picture below is an example of what I am hearing and seeing out there.
Many of the squirrels this year have been less active and not nearly as robust. Last year it looked like the squirrels were lifting weights and they were into everything. This year they are less active and look like they have gone on the Atkins diet. This would indicate a much warmer and less snowy winter. What about the squirrel monkey that was apparently spotted in Lafayette a few weeks back?
I am not sure if the person really saw one of these but if they did I could not find any correlation between their appearance and what it may mean for our upcoming winter. :)
So do I agree with the squirrels again this year? Are they on to something?
Remember I did cut the snowfall from last year's totals just over 40 inches to a snowfall forecast for this year of 24 to 28 inches. My temperature forecast did average out a little above average but it came out a little colder than last year.
In a nutshell, no pun intended, the squirrels may be onto something. I turned a ghastly white color in front of my wife last night after crunching some new numbers in my weather office at home with the newest data. This is not good news for snow-lovers. I felt like I was punched in the gut. Here is a new winter map I built with the help from the Climate Center database after plugging in some analog years or years that have similar characteristics to this year. No! The temperature map is not on fire! OUCH!
You see we come in at least a degree above average for the December through February time period and this includes a cold, snowy December when I expect temperatures to run about 3 degrees below average. It looks like this may be the year we could see some 60s and 70s in January and February. The best chance of real winter weather may be out West and in northern New England. Precipitation looks near average to slightly below average. Does this mean I am cancelling most of this winter? Check back to find out. I had better sleep on it. Those dang squirrels!! I will probably have night sweats tonight caused by squirrel nightmares.