Updated Winter 2009/2010 Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has released the official Outlook for the remainder of the "Winter Season". Despite the cold start to this winter, a moderate El Niño continues in the equitorial Pacific, and is forecast to continue into the spring of 2010. While rare, there have been a few  El Niño winters that started quite cold and ended near to or milder than average. So while the region is experiencing a cold snap, warmer weather is on the way. Click here for the January-March 2010 national temperature outlook, and here for the January-March 2010 national precipitation outlook.

Local research supports the warm up as well. Despite the presence of an El Niño, the winters of 1958/59 and 1976/77 all started out with colder than normal December weather that turned around becoming normal to milder in January and February. There are several similarities in the overall ocean and atmospheric patterns that suggest this winter will turn out in a similar manner. Below is a chart with a couple of El Niño winters that had cool starts similar to this one. There can be a great deal of variability within the regional weather as well during these events.

Fargo Normal 1963/64 1968/69 1976/77
December 12.5 8.5 8.9 6.9
January 6.8 15.5 -1.5 -3.3
February 14.1 18.9 12.8 17.4
DJF 11.1 14.4 6.7 7
UND/NWS Normal 1963/64 1968/69 1976/77
December 11.7 6.3 8.2 5.9
January 6.1 12.9 -3.5 -2
February 13.8 17.2 9.8 18.6
DJF 10.5 12.1 4.8


It is important to remember that the national outlooks presented by the CPC represent the statistically best forecast for the remainder of the winter season. Additionally, the probabilities indicated do not equate to a degree of expected warmth; that is a 60% probability of above normal temperatures does not mean it will be 60% warmer than normal. As the above table indicates, there are other large scale atmospheric forces and influences that can affect the El Niño signal and cause local variability. Further, the CPC outlooks are designed to give a large scale, regional perspective of the average climate over a 3 monthly period. Day to day, or even week to week variability does occur.

Below are the locally created outlooks, based on ongoing research at the Grand Forks NWS. These outlooks are based on the presumption that the months of January and February 2010 will see temperature and precipitation patterns similar to those in previous El Niño events with a cold start. Overall, the January and February periods will be milder than normal, but only by a degree or two. A common theme in El Niño winters is below normal snowfall, but near normal precipitation. This is due to an increase in the occurrence of rain, freezing rain or freezing drizzle events during El Niño years.


Locally generated 'downscaled' outlook of expected departure from normal temperature pattern during January and February 2010. Note the near normal temperature patterns across the far northern Red River Valley and Minnesota Lakes country, with the southern two thirds of the region expected to see temperatures between 0.5 and 1.5 degrees above normal for the period. (Graphic courtesy of the NOAA/ESRL and University of Delaware climate data set)

Locally generated 'downscaled' outlook of expected departure from normal precipitation pattern during January and February 2010. Normal precipitation during January and February ranges from around one inch in the north to nearly 2 inches in the far south. The outlook would suggest about one half to two thirds of the the normal precipitation will occur during the next few months. (Graphic courtesy of the NOAA/ESRL and University of Delaware climate data set)

For additional information contact Mark Ewens, Climate Services Focal Point at the Grand Forks NWS 701.795.5198/701.772.0720 x327 or Mark.Ewens@noaa.gov.

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