Seasonal Outlook: Winter 2019/2020

(Released: October 28, 2019)


I am sure that close to all of you are familiar with my feelings on seasonal weather forecasting, but for those of you that have not done so already, you might want to check out my "Soap Box Speech on Seasonal Weather Forecasting". The bottom line is, no one should be making any serious decisions, such as buying/not buying a sled or gear based on this or any outlook.

With the usual disclaimer over, it is time to get down to the nuts and bolts.

As usual, my first tool to dig out when producing this outlook is to take a look at the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) levels and predictions. For over a year, the sea surface temps in the ENSO region have been in the neutral range, with some warmer than average waters in the central Pacific, but below in the east (figure 1).

The forecast sees the sea surface temps to remain neutral through the upcoming winter and spring at least (figure 1). This is a good signal for snow lovers in the Midwest.

I do have a small handful of other tools that I have been developing over the years to produce my seasonal outlooks and each year they do seem to get more refined and more useful. I am still not even close to dismissing my Soap Box Speech, but the degree of errors in my seasonal outlooks has been on a down trend for several years. Knock on wood!

So, with that said, let’s get to the outlook!

As usual, I am going to let the graphic do most of the talking and use the text to fill in the details or speak about things that cannot be represented on the map. The bottom line is that the other tools I use to produce my outlook are mixed. None of them are exceptionally strong and all have also been fluctuating from one thinking to the next over the past several months.

Thus, I see no strong reason to call for an exceptionally cold and snowy winter, nor do I see a reason to call for an exceptionally warm and lower than average snow winter.

I think for most of the northcentral US, it will be a winter that provides close to average temps and snowfall. The NW and NE look to be warmer than average with close to average snowfall.

Before I get into the regional breakdown, I would like to make a point. One note that I want to make about “average” is that it does not mean average for all of the season, but rather average for the season as a whole. It may mean the first half is warmer with less snow than average and the second half is colder and snowier than average. Or it could be the opposite. It could also be a period of very cold and snowy, with the rest of the season less snowy and warmer than average…or some combination there-as.

Finally…Here is the breakdown by region:

REGION 1 – The Northwest Midwest: The news for this region is good. This may not be a standout year for snow, but overall, it looks like most of the region will see close to average temps and snowfall occur for the season as a whole. The further to the NW one goes in this region, the better the chances for a colder than average winter. This should lead to a fairly decent season for snow-play.

REGION 2The Southeast Midwest: The news for this region is fairly similar to that of the neighbors to the NW. The main difference will be the absence of any colder than average temperature anomaly. My only other note to make is that folks should keep in mind what is actually average for their locale. Areas like northern IL, southern WI and southern MI see an 45-55” of snow fall on average. This does not typically lead to deep and lasting snowpack. Rather, it leads to having enough snow to play in during the second half of January and first half of February, sometimes longer if no major thaws occur.

REGION 3The Northeast US: The forecast for this region is OK to the optimist and poor to the pessimist. It looks like snowfall for the season as a whole will run near average. The bad news is that temps look to run above. I do not expect temps to run well above average, just a bit for the season as a whole.

REGION 4The Northern Rockies: Most of this region looks to see above average snowfall and below average temps occur for the winter as a whole. Like the NW Midwest, it may not be a record year, but folks living and visiting this region should not be disappointed for most of the winter.

REGION 5The Central Rockies: This majority of the region looks to see temps and snowfall run near average for the winter as a whole. The exceptions would be in the far north and west, where areas like northern Utah could see above average snows and below average temps.

REGION 6The Pacific NW and Sierra Range: Most of this region will likely see above average snowfall and above average temps. Like the other mountainous regions, most of the snow-play is done in the higher terrain, so the above average temps should  not lead to much melting and there will likely be plenty of snow fall to allow snow-play.

REGION 7Eastern Canada: The story for eastern Ontario, most of Quebec and the Maritime Provinces is pretty similar to the Northeast US. Thus, I believe snowfall will be close to average for most areas and temps will run above average.