WINTER OUTLOOK: Storm Team Winter Outlook 2019-’20

Winter Outlook 2019


The Takeaway…..The NewsChannel 9 Storm Team is forecasting slightly above normal snowfall (125-140”) in Syracuse for the upcoming Winter of 2019-’20 with near normal temperatures December through March. Although temperatures end up near normal, they also forecast one month this winter that ends up with temperatures well below normal

Now here is how we put together the forecast…..

When we make our Winter Outlook, we tend to pay close attention to what is happening in the equatorial region of the Pacific.  When those waters are warmer than normal it is called an El Nino pattern and when it is cooler than normal La Nina rules.

This year, neither has developed and although as of mid November those Pacific waters are slightly above normal it is forecast that an El Nino will not develop putting us in what is known as ‘neutral’ conditions.  That has happened during 20 winters since 1950 or about a third of the time.

Sea Surface temperature anomaly as of November 14th, 2019 (Courtesy Tropical Tidbits)

Unfortunately, that fact on its own is not too helpful.  Seasonal snowfalls in these ‘neutral’ winters are all over the place.  Our biggest winter snowfall, 1921.1” in the Winter of 1992-’93 happened in one of these neutral winters.  Coversley , one of our least snowy winters in 2001-02 also occurred with a similar Pacific pattern.

We needed to dig a bit deeper…..

We know it was also a very wet October this year, the 4th wettest on record. Thanks to our Halloween deluge (almost 2 inches) we ended up at 6.88” for the month

When we’ve ended up with 4 inches or more of rain in October since 1950, 13 out of those 20 years have had more than 130” of snow in the following winter. If you narrow it down to just years with 6” or more of rain October then 8 out of 9 years had more than 124” of seasonal snow.

5 of those 20 wet Octobers also happened with those Pacific ‘neutral’ conditions and 4 out of those 5 ended up with more than 130” of snow.

We are not sure whether these active Octobers are the actual beginnings of a stormy winter season but there seems to be some connection between this wetter than normal Fall weather and the following  snowy winters.

The bottom line is we are thinking odds are greater for above normal snowfall, probably between 125-140” of snow

Temperatures for this winter are a bit trickier.

Our forecast is for temperatures overall to be close to normal over the whole winter season. However, looking back at those same years with wet Octobers and no El Nino or La Nina something else interesting showed up. There were three years that fit that pattern and also ended up with below normal temperatures in November (exactly where we are headed this year)

The interesting thing about those winters (1959-’60, 1981-’82 and 1989-’90) is that all had one month during winter where the average temperature was well below normal! (more than 8 degrees colder than normal) For some perspective, it is usually a big deal if a month is 4 or 5 degrees above or below normal.

So we think there will be an ‘extreme’ cold month in our winter but we don’t know when that will occur. In the three previous years those ‘extreme’ months occurred all over the place: one in December (1989 coldest ever), one in January (1982 6th coldest)  and one in March (1960 coldest ever). Pinpointing this type of extreme cold is beyond what I can put in a seasonal forecast and likely will not show itself to us until a couple of weeks before hand.

So to sum up, the Storm Team Winter Outlook for the Winter of 2019-’20 is calling for slightly above normal snowfall and near normal temperatures with one ‘extreme’ cold month.

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