Problems trying to create winter forecast

Last issue we took a quick look at the different factors that must be taken into account when trying to create a long-range winter weather forecast. For those of you who missed the article, I think it’s easy to summarize it by saying — trying to make a long-range forecast is so complicated that you are almost better off throwing a dart and creating a randomly generated forecast!

Actually, when you come to think about it, the long-range forecasts that are most remembered are the ones that usually make some kind of outrageous claim which then comes true. We like to think that the forecaster had some special power that allowed them to see into the weather future, but in reality, they took a risk and it paid off.

That said, here are some of the current long-range forecasts for this winter.

Old Farmer’s Almanac:

It is calling for a warmer-than-average November with near-average amounts of precipitation. It’s hard to say whether we will see near-average amounts of snow in November, since warmer-than-average conditions will usually result in precipitation falling as rain instead of snow. December will be colder and snowier than average, followed by average conditions in January to start the new year. It is then calling for slightly above-average conditions to end the winter, along with near-average amounts of snow. All in all, not a bad winter forecast!

Canadian Farmers’ Almanac:

This one is always a little tough since it doesn’t ever directly spell out whether it will be warmer or colder than average, or wetter or drier than average. I have to interpret the semi-weekly forecasting descriptions and try to turn it into above- and below-average amounts.

It kind of reminds me of when I was reconstructing temperature records from the mid-1800s from Hudson Bay Company archives, but I digress. According to these good folks, this winter will be cold and snowy, except for December, which will see average temperatures, but will still be snowy. So, I guess if you are hoping for a good old-fashioned winter, or at least what everyone seems to believe is an old-fashioned winter, then this is the forecast for you.

Environment Canada:

Short and right down the middle is Environment Canada’s latest winter forecast. It is currently calling for near-average temperatures and snowfall amounts right through to March.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration):

This is the American equivalent of Environment Canada. While its forecast is only for the U.S., since we live near the border we can extrapolate its forecast northwards to get a pretty good idea of what it is predicting for our region. Well, according to this group we’ll see near-average temperatures over eastern regions, becoming warmer the farther west you go. Precipitation also looks to be around average, with eastern regions being a little drier.

AccuWeather:

I have to admit that I have not been able to look too deeply into how AccuWeather makes its long-range forecasts, nonetheless, here it is. It is predicting slightly cooler-than-average temperatures this winter, along with near-average amounts of precipitation. If you are into outdoor winter weather activities this sounds like a pretty good forecast.

Co-operator:

I guess this leaves me and my forecast. Like I pointed out in last week’s article, long-range forecasting, even with a strong weather background, is still simply guesswork, or as some would like to say, intuition or gut feeling.

So, I will have to rely on exactly that, my gut feeling. Well, it seems that every year around this time the kid in me reignites and I hope for lots of snow — even though I’m the one who has to blow snow and shovel. This means my gut feeling every October-November is that we are going to see lots of snow this winter, but then my logical, weather side kicks in.

It would take me another article or two to go through all of the thoughts going through my head about the factors that might affect this year’s winter weather. Are we actually seeing a fundamental switch in our long-term weather pattern that has been bringing us warmer- and drier-than-average conditions? What effect will the record loss of sea ice have on our weather?

Aw, the heck with it. I’m going to go with two dreams I had last week. Both of them took place during the winter and both of them had record amounts of snow, so I’ll go with above-average snowfall this winter. One dream had average temperatures while in the other dream the snow was melting. It could have been spring but I’ll go with near to slightly above-average temperatures. Talk about taking a risk!

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the U of W. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park.

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