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NOAA predicting a colder, wetter winter here

By Brad Spakowitz


NOAA predicting a colder, wetter winter here
The much anticipated “official” winter forecast (December, January, February) was released Thursday, Oct. 20 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Their outlook relies heavily on the notion that this winter will be a La Niña winter — the third in a row, and the first “triple-dip La Niña” in two decades.

La Niña occurs when a large, persistent area of cooler-than-normal surface water temperatures develop in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, affecting and altering wind and weather patterns across North America and the globe.

Although every La Niña event plays out differently, there are some general weather patterns that are somewhat predictable: The northern U.S. is typically colder than average; the south is typically warmer and drier; the Pacific northwest and the Ohio-Tennessee valleys are typically wetter than average.

For Wisconsin, most La Niña winters have historically been slightly colder and wetter, but it’s certainly not guaranteed.

Just for the record, here is how the two previous La Niña winters played out here: the 2020-21 winter was 2.5 degrees warmer than the 30-year average; the 2021-22 winter was 0.7 degrees colder than average.

Both winters were quite dry with only 25.6 inches of snow two years ago and 28.1 inches last year — roughly 10 inches less than the 30-year average both years.

A closer look at NOAA’s latest winter forecast for us here in eastern Wisconsin is a “playbook” outlook, consistent with a typical La Niña winter weather pattern, which is colder and wetter than average.

But I have some thoughts…

NOAA’s temperature forecasts the past two years have been somewhat backwards looking — this year they are forecasting a colder winter, just as last winter actually played out, while last year they forecast a warmer winter, just like the previous winter played out.

NOAA has predicted that all three La Niña winters would be wetter than average, and as stated earlier, the past two winters have been somewhat lacking in snowfall.

My hunch is we wind up colder than normal, but snowfall will once again be less than the 30-year average.

But who knows?

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