Seasonal Outlook: Winter 2021/2022

(Released: October 15, 2021)

For those of you that have not viewed my outlooks, I strongly suggest you 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, the first and most important thing I look at when producing this outlook is to take a look at the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) levels and predictions. Since spring of 2020, the surface water temps in the central and eastern Pacific have been cooler than average an in a La Nina state (figure 1). The strength of the La Nina at this time is not as strong as it was last year at this time (figure 2).

The differing forecast models have their typical differing ideas, but the general idea sees the sea surface temps to cool a bit further for the next few months and then begin to warm during the second half of the winter (figure 3). This is a pretty good signal for snow lovers in most of the Midwest, as long as the cooling does not get as aggressive as last winter.

I also have a 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 the past 5-6 years, with last year having an up tick, due to failures in the northern Plains and northern Midwest. I do like to keep these other tools close to my chest, as they are proprietary. So please do not inquire about them!

With that said, let’s get to the outlook!

In general, I am looking for the north central US to see a colder than average winter and snowier than average winter. Average temps are seen for the rest of the Midwest and just about all of the rest of the outlook areas on my map. A band of below average snowfall is seen for the California Sierra Mountains, into Colorado, KS, southern NE, northern MO, southern IA and much of IL.

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.

Here is the breakdown by region:

REGION 1 – The Northwest Midwest: The news for the northern ˝ of this region is good. It is earmarked for the best chances for below average temps and above average snowfall this season. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions and every spot in the blue shaded area might now see a colder and snowier winter. I also believe that the best chances for above average snowfall are in the lake effect regions of the northern upper peninsula. Lake surface temps are currently very much above average and although it is only the top 15-25 feet that is that warm, we are getting very close to the beginning of the lake effect snow season and the warmer temps could lead to heavier than usual early season snow. The news for the southern ˝ is not as good. I see average temps as the best likelihood, but below average snowfall.

REGION 2 – The Southeast Midwest: The news for this region is not bad in the east, with average temps and average snowfall, but the western ˝ looks to see below average snowfall, coupled with average temps. These areas have actually seen better than average snowfall in the past few years, so I guess it is time to balance things out a bit. The only other point I always like to make for this region is that a lot of people over estimate the averages for their locale. Areas like northern IL, southern WI and southern MI see an 45-55” of snow fall on average, not 60-70” as some think! Also, there are typically at least a few warm-ups that occur and damage if not destroy the snow on the ground.

REGION 3 – The Northeast US: The forecast for this region is OK. It looks like snowfall for the season as a whole will run near average. Temps also look to run close to average as a whole. I wish I could be more detailed for this region, but there are just not that many tool available to produce any kind of reliable seasonal prediction.

REGION 4 – The Northern Rockies: Most of this region looks to see above average snowfall and below average temps occur for the winter as a whole. Snows have already begun to fall and are sticking around in the highest of terrain and it will not be long before the ground is white for the season in many of the traditional snow-play areas.

REGION 5 – The Central Rockies: This majority of the region looks to see temps run near average for the winter as a whole, with Colorado, southern UT and northern AZ seeing less than average snowfall.

REGION 6 – The Pacific NW and Sierra Range: This region is split in half as far as my ideas for this snow season goes. For the north, places like WA and OR, I see it as a pretty good winter for both snow and temps. Further south, I fear that the La Nina will cause the Pacific storms to by-pass CA for the most part, leaving them with a drier than average snow season. Not that it will be bone dry, but I am just not very optimistic about this region. I also think there could be the chance for above average temps during much of the snow season. I am not confident enough to put it on the map, but do have a fear it could happen.

REGION 7 – Eastern Canada: The story northern and western Ontario, northern Quebec and the Canadian Maritime Provinces of Newfoundland looks good. I feel plenty of cold air will be in place and the storm track will also be active enough to produce above average snowfall. The story for the rest of eastern Canada is not bad, with close to average temps and snowfall.