Updated 2013 Winter Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has updated the winter outlook which continues the trend for a cooler weather pattern than we've seen in recent weeks. The tropical Pacific Ocean remains neutral - neither El Niño nor La Niña. The central to eastern Pacific has cooled somewhat over the past month, with sea surface temperatures (SSTs) now at to a little below the long-term average. With the lack of a strong ENSO signal, the weather across our region will be subject to short-term climate forcing mechanisms including the Arctic Oscillation, Pacific North-American and North Atlantic Oscillations.

The images below are the official outlook as of December 20th 2012. They suggest an increased likelihood that, regionally January will favor colder than median temperatures with above median precipitation, particularly from the Red River Valley east.

CPC Temperature Outlook for January 2013

CPC Precipitation Outlook January 2013

As indicated this winter season is expected to be dominated by a weak El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) type pattern, where temperatures in the equatorial Pacific vary a few tenths of a degree above or below normal. La Niña, and its warm counterpart El Niño are regular fluctuations in the Pacific that affect the weather on a global scale. Historically, La Niña conditions in the Pacific tend to produce colder and wetter winters across the Northern Plains, while El Niño tends to favor warmer and drier. The Arctic Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation and the Pacific-North American patterns can intensify or weaken the effects of the ENSO signal, and are often the cause of tremendous variability during the winter season. For example,  the 2009/2010 El Niño was strongly impacted by a negative Arctic Oscillation. That winter the Arctic Oscillation reached historic low levels, which in part resulted in a relatively snowy winter, with temperatures ending up near median values. Predictions of the Arctic, Pacific-North American or North Atlantic Oscillations are not possible on a seasonal scale, making this a wild card in the outlook process.

Basically, the 2012/13 cold season will continue to be one of tremendous variability. The coldest month, that is the one with the greatest departure from normal, is expected to be January; February should experience climatologically average weather. Total snow is expected to be close to or a bit below average through the winter. Statistically, the range of snowfall in a 'normal' winter is 30 to 50 inches. So far this fall and early winter, previous years that most closely mimic this year include 1953/54, 1969/70, 1987/88 and 1993/94. This does not imply that the remainder of the winter or spring will continue to be similar to the average of those years. However, using the historical record [analogs] is a tool that helps put the current and recent climate in perspective.

For the bulk of the January - March time period, the outlook from CPC calls for the highest likelihood of sub-median temperatures shifting west, with equal chances for Above, Below and Median precipitation.

CPC Temperature Outlook for January - March 2013

CPC Precipitation Outlook January - March 2013

Below is a table with the January to March monthly average temperatures, precipitation and snowfall for the Fargo Area and the University Of North Dakota/National Weather Service Climate Station (UND/NWS). These data are provided by the Applied Climate Information System (Acis) system.

For more information contact the NWS in Grand Forks at 701.795.5198 or Mark Ewens, Climate Services Focal Point.

Additional information may be found by searching for the key words "Arctic Oscillation", "North Atlantic Oscillation" etc. There are numerous web sites, many non NOAA / NWS that explain how these ocean-atmospheric signals and modes of climate interact. Some are quite technical, some more basic, but a few excellent examples include Colorado State University,  Teleconnections, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Fargo

Jan

Feb

Mar

Avg. Max Temp

18.1

23.3

36.0

Avg. Min Temp

0.1

5.6

19.4

Avg. Temp

9.1

14.4

27.7

Precipitation

0.74

0.61

1.29

Snowfall

11.9

7.1

9.7

UND/NWS

Jan

Feb

Mar

Avg. Max Temp

16.7

22.9

35.0

Avg. Min Temp

-0.4

5.3

18.4

Avg. Temp

8.1

14.2

26.7

Precipitation

0.71

0.59

1.04

Snowfall

10.6

6.0

7.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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