Big Changes Coming

Major weather pattern changes on the way.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year season! Are you ready for some winter? Tired of the warm temperatures? Ready for SNOW and winter weather? 

Back on Dec. 13 I made a post about how stratospheric warming might be getting ready to occur and what implications it might have for us in Georgia for the next several months. As it appears that it has already begun, (see the temps here).  I'd like to expand on this a little more as we move into the heart of the winter season. Bear with me while I try to explain...

If you follow any of the computer models (which I know most of you don't!), you'll know that right now we have "Model Madness". Each run has a different scenario with no consistency between models or runs. When the models start to get "confused", you can almost bet that big changes are in store. The models are great when the atmosphere is relatively stable, but when major changes start to occur, the models will spit out wildly varying solutions as to what they think will happen down the road. Right now, you can't really trust them with details much further out than 4-5 days. I was looking at the model verification numbers and for 5 days (averaged over 30 days) and it is:

  • .881 - GFS
  • .909 - Euro
  • .895 - UK

(see image) - So you can see that even at 5 days they're only about 88-90% accurate and those numbers drop rapidly from there. So details and specifics can be thrown out the window and we have to start looking at long term patterns and pattern changes, in other words, the bigger picture. 

Over the course of the winter so far, we've had a positive AO (Arctic Oscillation)and NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) while what we need to get cold and snow are negative values for both indices. Favorable positioning of the geopotential height anomalies within the negative phase of the NAO appears to enhance snowfall potential in the eastern U.S. When negative NAO anomalies are positioned such that an area of high pressure is located near Greenland and a polar vortex (area of low pressure) is somewhere near 50°N 50°W, we find an increased potential for winter weather along the U.S. east coast. (see image)

  • Atmospheric features in a “west-based” negative NAO disrupt the polar jet stream, causing it to buckle and move southward into the Southeast
  • Allows cold, Arctic air to be transported south and increases the likelihood of interaction between the northern and southern jet streams
  • Jet stream interactions often result in a combining of energy (phasing), which leads to rapid, intense surface cyclogenesis over the southern United States (ie, Storm of The Century 1993).

You can see that we need the pattern to flip in order to take the warmer than average temperatures away and replace those with some cold air. These teleconnection indices are usually very poorly predicted more than a couple of weeks in advance but there are times when other factors come into play and help verify the forecast. There are times when they can rapidly "flip", 1993 was one of those winters (you might remember the Storm of The Century?).

And when they do, it can bring bitterly cold polar air into our part of the country. So there are now some hints of change in the teleconnections in that more cold air should become available for us very soon. The big concern is to whether a strong PNA (Pacific/North American Oscillation) regime sets in, which would focus the cold in the west, or a neutral/somewhat negative PNA regime sets up, allowing for more frequent and longer-duration cold farther east.

It is encouraging to see the GFS ensembles remaining consistent for the past 5-7 days suggesting this change may well be in the works. What remains to be seen is if the pattern allows the cold air that's projected to build across Western Canada to spill south and affect areas in the west and Plains and leave the east coast warm. But there are suggestions of a weak blocking regime (a good thing) in the longer range which we need in order to get cold air into this part of the country. 

But I believe that stratospheric warming holds the key to breaking down the +AO. Right now the models are forecasting a significant warming at all levels of the stratosphere and upper troposphere (which has already started to happen) which will bode well for colder air coming our way. One meteorologist I follow posted this today: 

"*** ALERT **** euro ensembles at day 10 thru day 15 now showing MASSIVE stratospheric warming at the 'TOP" of the Atmosphere... (10 mb30mb and 50 mb for you weather geeks) . The SWW (SIGNIFICANT STRATOSPHERIC WARMING) event is now looking increasingly PROBABLE... over 50% chance for the 1st time. Day 12..13...14...15 euro ensemble MEAN shows HUGE amounts of warming and total destruction of super +AO that has been over far Northeast Canada and Greenland since NOV 1"
This warming is VERY significant for our weather here in Georgia. If we get sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) to take place and the +AO goes negative, get ready for winter in a VERY big way. Here's a great link that will help you better understand all of this "weather geek" I'm speaking. 

So you can see that there are multiple changes beginning to take place, and the signs are falling into place that tell us that winter is far from over. Don't let the mild temperatures that we've experienced over the last 3-4 weeks make you think that winter isn't coming. It's looking like February will be our coldest winter month by far, and we might just experience what it's like to be in the Arctic. We shall see! And if you want to see some seriously cold temperatures, look at this fantasy map.

And by the way... most of the meteorologists have busted on their winter forecast this year and that's an annual occurrence. It's just not practical to forecast weather much more than a month in advance, and even then you're on shaky ground. But it seems that all of them are slowly seeing the changes unfold. 
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This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Karen January 07, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Weather fascinates me, thanks for the blog. I am ready for cooler temps, maybe not arctic, but cooler. I want it to be winter (southern style). :)
North Georgia Weather January 07, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Thank you Karen! I think times like these are the most fascinating simply because there is so much disagreement on what's going to happen. We been through a very long period of warm weather and not always but generally, those periods come to an end with a big flip. Other than seeing a big snow storm on the horizon, trying to put all the pieces together to figure out what's going to happen is intriguing to me. This winter could continue warm, or we could take a dive in the ice box, the next two weeks should hold the answer to that question. I'm leaning toward the ice box.
North Georgia Weather January 07, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Colder air does return toward the end of next week.
North Georgia Weather January 08, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Things are starting to happen... http://www.wxrisk.com/2012/01/historic-pattern-flip-coming/
North Georgia Weather January 08, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Quote from meteorologist Robert Gamble today: "I don't remember the last time we had double blocking. I can however think of one good year we did have DB, but that doesn't look the same as this. All models will continue to shift their storm tracks south, so long as the blocking develops, and it's looking more and more each day that it will. This evacuates the cold in Polar regions (like hurricanes evacuate heat from tropics), this will force 2 main lobes of cold, one in Russia, one in Canada and the US, and our side is so far looking like the bigger chunk of cold. The ECMWF only goes to 10 days, what happens beyond this is a guess of course, but GFS shows blocking continuing for a while, and it handles blocks better in both short and long term, so that has to be encouraging for winter lovers. We shouldn't be looking for small scale systems yet (but they're already showing up in Pineapple Express form). The trend lately is for cold pressing further south, and any southeast ridging to be squelched severely. That means less amplified storms, but more of them, in the form of overrunning possibly, however any system can amplify quite a bit, and this past season so far proves that. But we're entering a new paradigm, so one day at a time. Overall it's hard to imagine some part of the Southern half of the country coming out of the next 2 to 4 weeks without feeling some significant winter precipitation."


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