Winter 2022/2023 snowfall predictions show a global climate signal from the La Nina, now active for a third consecutive year. From Canada to the United States and across the Atlantic to Europe, we will look at the snowfall forecast and trends for the upcoming Winter.
First, we will look at the leading global weather driver in the upcoming weather seasons, the La Nina. What does the latest ocean analysis data show, and what are the expectations?
Then, looking at the global long-range weather forecasting systems and historical data analysis, you will see the first snowfall predictions for the upcoming Winter.
LARGE-SCALE SEASONAL WEATHER INFLUENCE
ENSO is short for “El Niño Southern Oscillation.” This region of the equatorial Pacific Ocean changes between warm and cold phases. Typically there is a phase change around every 1-3 years.
The cold phase is called La Nina, and the warm phase is called El Nino. We are currently in a La Nina phase, entering its 3rd year, a rare occurrence.
ENSO significantly influences tropical rainfall, pressure patterns, and the complex exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere. We observe large-scale pressure changes in the tropics with each new developing phase. These changes affect circulation over the rest of the world with some delay.
This way, ENSO significantly impacts tropical rainfall and pressure patterns. This way, it significantly alters the atmosphere-ocean feedback system. Through this feedback system, the ENSO influence spreads globally, especially the Winter temperature and snowfall patterns.
Below we have the latest surface analysis of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Cold ocean anomalies cover most of the ENSO regions in the tropical Pacific. This is the currently active La Nina, strengthening at the moment.
La Nina usually forms during strong trade winds, which can tell us much about the state of global circulation. This way, we can use these anomalies as an “indicator” to know the current state of the global climate system.
Below, you can see the last two years of ocean anomalies in the ENSO region. You can see the first La Nina event in 2020 and a second-year La Nina in late 2021. A third-year event is now developing and is forecast to mature for Winter 2022/2023.
ENSO WINTER FORECAST
Below we have an analysis/forecast graphic by ECMWF, which shows the long-range forecast of the central ENSO region. As forecasted, the La Nina conditions will last over the Fall and Winter. A weakening of the La Nina is expected for early next year, with a warm phase possible later in the year.
To better understand the ENSO changes, we produced a video showing the La Nina anomalies from late spring over the summer.
The video below shows the cold ocean anomalies in the equatorial Pacific developing as we move closer to the start of Fall.
So what exactly does this mean for the winter weather patterns and snowfall potential? First, we will take a closer look at the weather influence that La Nina usually shows over North America.
Europe is not known to have any specific/direct influences, as it is too far from the source. But that does not mean it has no impact.
La Nina does change the weather globally, but apart from the direct influence over North America, places like Europe have many other factors at play before any direct La Nina influence gets this far.
NORTH AMERICA WINTER WEATHER PATTERNS
Typically, the first influence of these ocean anomalies can be seen in the changing jet stream. The jet stream is a large and powerful stream of air (wind) at around 8-11km (5-7mi) altitude.
Historically, a strong blocking high-pressure system in the North Pacific is the most typical effect of a cold ENSO phase (La Nina). That usually redirects the polar jet stream down over the northern United States.
The image below shows the average pressure pattern during the last few La Nina winters. We can see a strong high-pressure system in the North Pacific and a low-pressure area over Canada and the northern United States. Images by NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL).
The circulation of the strong high-pressure system promotes the development of a low-pressure region over Alaska and western Canada. It curves the jet stream downwards between the two pressure systems, marked by the blue lines.
You can see that jet stream redirection in the image below. The image shows the average position of the jet stream during La Nina winters and the resulting weather patterns over the United States and Canada.
The displaced jet stream brings colder temperatures and storms from the polar regions down into northern and the northwestern United States and warmer and drier weather to the southern parts.
Looking at the temperature analysis for the same winters as above, we can see the cold anomaly area under the jet stream in western Canada and the northwestern United States. A cool area extends over the Midwest and down into the south-central plains.
Warmer than normal weather and mild winter conditions are typically over the southwestern United States, eastern United States, and Canada. The main winter weather “battle zones” are usually in the Midwest and the central United States.
Precipitation-wise, drier La Nina winters are usually over the southwestern United States and Canada. Drier conditions are also found in the southeastern United States, as La Nina means a weaker subtropical jet stream and less moisture for the east. More precipitation is typical over the northwestern United States, the Great Lakes, and parts of the northeast.
But speaking of precipitation, what about snowfall? The data shows that the La Nina jet stream also changes the snowfall potential over North America as the pressure systems take a different path.
The colder air is more easily accessible to the northern United States, which increases the snowfall potential if moisture is available. In the graphic below by NOAA-Climate. You can see the average snowfall pattern for weak La Nina years, as expected this Winter season.
Besides the northwestern United States and the Midwest, we can see more snowfall potential over the northeastern United States and eastern Canada.
But now, we will look at some early Winter snowfall predictions from actual forecast models. We know what to expect now from historical data.
WINTER 2022/2023 SNOWFALL PREDICTIONS
The format will be straightforward. We will look at two well-established seasonal weather forecasting systems. First is the ECMWF, and then it is the UKMO.
You will see the average snowfall forecast for the November-December-January period, and then we will do a monthly breakdown. There are a lot of details in the monthly forecast that the whole seasonal average does not show.
In this first snowfall prediction, we will not look yet at February, as some of the data is not yet available. And besides that, February is also at a long lead time. But we will include it in all future updates.
ECMWF WINTER 2022/2023 SNOWFALL FORECAST
We will start with the ECMWF, the most often used and highly regarded seasonal forecasting system.
First, looking at the average image for Europe, we can see quite a weak snowfall forecast. Most of the continent is forecast to have less snowfall than normal.
The November forecast shows some potential for increased snowfall in central Europe. But most of the other parts are forecast with less snowfall than normal for this month.
The December snowfall forecast shows stronger negative anomalies. The pattern seems under the influence of a high-pressure system, as the forecast does not permit a lot of widespread snowfall scenarios.
In the January forecast, there is no real improvement. Most of Europe is forecast to have less snowfall by mid-winter, apart from some smaller areas.
NORTH AMERICA ECMWF SNOWFALL PREDICTION
Starting with the average image for the United States and Canada, we can see more snowfall over western Canada and the eastern United States. Surprisingly, we can see less snowfall forecast over the western United States.
The November snowfall forecast shows some increased snowfall potential over the higher elevations of the western United States and Canada. However, in late Fall, less snowfall is seen over much of central and eastern Canada and the Midwestern United States.
The December snowfall forecast shows the potential increase over the south-central United States, expanding over parts of the Midwest into the Great Lakes. Less snowfall is shown in this forecast run over the western United States.
January snowfall forecast shows an even stronger pattern, with more snowfall in the same regions as the previous month. But the lack of snowfall over the upper Midwest and the northwestern United States is surprising in a La Nina winter. This is likely to be corrected in future runs.
UKMO WINTER 2022/2023 SNOWFALL FORECAST
Long-range weather forecasting is not easy by any means. We are only looking at trends and probabilities, but still, the variation is key. The more forecast data you can look at, the better idea you can get where the aim is. Or you can get even more confused.
As you can never trust a single forecast model, we decided to use the UKMO long-range forecasting system along the ECMWF. It is developed by the United Kingdom Met Office, which is where the initials UKMO come from.
First, looking at the seasonal average for Europe, we can see another weak snowfall forecast identical to the ECMWF. Most of the continent is forecast to have less snowfall than normal. UKMO uses a different parameter than the ECMWF but correlates directly with snowfall also.
The November forecast indicates some potential over the northern parts of Europe. But otherwise, the rest of the continent shows less snowfall than normal for this month.
The December snowfall forecast shows stronger negative anomalies, just like the ECMWF. This agreement in both models gives more confidence for this scenario.
No major improvement can be seen in January except for the higher elevations. This shows that precipitation is available, but the temperatures are not cold enough for snow accumulation in the lowlands.
NORTH AMERICA UKMO SNOWFALL PREDICTION
The average seasonal forecast for the United States and Canada shows a much more typical La Nina snowfall pattern. We see more snowfall over the northwest and the Great Lakes. As a result, more snowfall could be expected across the northern United States, but it still looks closer to a La Nina than the ECMWF.
The November snowfall forecast shows widespread reduced snowfall. This is mainly a result of warmer than normal temperatures expected throughout Fall. It takes more cooling in the later parts of the year to provide ample snowfall patterns.
The December snowfall forecast shows this snowfall increase, especially over the northwestern United States. More snowfall can also be seen in the upper Midwest and the Great Lakes. The rest of the United States is forecast to receive less snowfall than normal this month.
January snowfall forecast shows an even stronger pattern, with more snowfall over much of the northern United States. This looks much closer to an expected snowfall pattern in a La Nina winter. However, the Western And southern United States show less snowfall, as typical in such jet stream positioning.
NOAA WINTER 2022/2023 FORECAST
This is also captured in the NOAA’s official Winter 2022/2023 temperature forecast for the United States. It shows colder to equal temperature probabilities in the northern United States. The southern half of the country and the northeast have a higher probability of warmer than normal weather, as seen in the models above.
But take note of the trough of “average” temperatures probability extending into the lower Midwest. That can be interpreted as a potential route of winter cold air outbreaks and increased snowfall potential.
The UKMO snowfall forecast shows that scenario also hinted in the historical data as a weather “battle zone” under the jet stream.
The official precipitation forecast is similar to the UKMO and the historical data. We see an equal-to-higher probability for more precipitation (and snowfall) over the northern half of the United States. The southern United States is forecast to have a drier than normal winter season.
We will release our extended Winter 2022/2023 forecast update later in September with new data, so check back with us.
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