The Autumn extended outlook
As we say goodbye to summer, our thoughts turn to the upcoming winter season. Autumn officially begins, Saturday, Sep. 22 at 7:54 p.m. I don’t know about you, but I love it when the snow begins in the mountains and piles high. Since we live in a desert, a heavy snowpack is our ticket to success and survival during the hot Treasure Valley summer.
As a meteorologist, I focus more on forecasting for the short term. Our models are fairly reliable up to 5 days. Beyond that, there are too many variables that create uncertainty beyond five days. When I mention the seven day forecast on TV, you often hear me say, “seven days down the road is forecasting in La-La land”. That means too much can change and we use the seven day forecast to help figure out what the pattern “looks like”. Not, necessarily what it will be.
Climatologists pay more attention to long range patterns. They’re not so interested in the here and now. They’re more interested in historical accounts, ocean conditions and large scale variables. Needless to say, the long range predictions can be wrong quite a bit. That’s because there is too much we still don’t understand about the atmosphere.
The Climate Prediction Center forecast for the country shows below average precipitation for the extreme northwest. What about Idaho? The graphic above shows a big “EC” across much of the state for the months of October, November and December. The EC means there is an Equal Chance of normal precipitation for our state with above average precipitation for the southwest and Great Basin. This would denote to possibility of an El Nino forming in the equatorial Pacific. During El Nino years, the storm track usually favors the southwest. While I don’t see a full blow El Nino forming right now, the consensus is that we are experiencing the early onset of an El Nino pattern. The funny thing about the ocean is that it drives the atmosphere. To what extent is still being studied.
For right now, we at least have an equal chance of a normal winter. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take those odds.