Seasonal Outlook: Winter 2022/2023

(Released: October 26, 2022)

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.

THE TOOLS: 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 mid-summer of 2020, the surface water temps in the central and eastern Pacific have been cooler than average and in a La Nina state (Figure 1). Generally speaking, La Nina’s increase the chance for an at least average winter in the Midwest, if no colder and snowier. The opposite is true for El Nino, the warn water event. The strength of the current La Nina during these past 2 years has varied, but has never reached an exceptionally strong state. The duration of this La Nina is also not exceptional, although it should be noted that such events do not typically last much longer than 2 years.

The differing forecast models have their typical differing ideas, but the general idea sees the current La Nina to continue through the winter of 22-23 and then weaken to a neutral state by the spring of 2023. 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 2). This is a pretty good signal for snow lovers in most of the Midwest, as long as the warming does not accelerate to the point where the La Nina ends mid-winter.

There are also several other tools that I have been developing and using 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 6-7 years and last years prediction of a colder and snowier winter for the far northern Midwest verified, as did the idea for IA, southern WI and northern IL to see a less snowy winter than averagew. 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!

  • Good news for much of the SNOWBELTS OF THE US, with the exceptions of the SIERRA MOUNTAINS and the PACIFIC NORTHWEST, where La Nina will continue to cause the main storm track to occur to the north. This is not to say these areas will see no storms occur, but not with the same frequency that is typical and certainly nothing like that which occurs in an El Nino winter.

  • I am looking for the FAR NORTHERN MIDWEST to again see a colder and snowier than average winter. The arrival of true winter weather looks to be fairly close to average for these areas (final week of November to the first week or two of December). These areas could also finish very strong with a series of late season winter storms to bring significant snows in March and perhaps even early April. The LAKE EFFECT SNOW BELTS should see average to above average snowfall occur, with the main determining factor being ice cover for the second half of the season.

  • The REST OF THE NORTHERN ½ OF THE MIDWEST (areas like the Dakotas, central/southern MN, central WI and western lower MI) look to start slow in the snow department. I am figuring more because of a lack of storms, rather than rain vs. snow. Then by the second half of December, theses areas will likely start to see colder than average temps occur in conjunction with a much more active storm track and lead to above average snowfall. That snowier than average weather then has an above average chance of lasting deeper into the months of February and March then is typically does for these areas.

  • The EASTERN GREAT LAKES look to see a mix occur, with above average temps and also above average snowfall. How can a place have above average snow and temps?! Well, the answer is that I believe the storm track will be more active than average and lead to more snowfall than average. However, there will also be warmer than average intervals between these storms. This same setup looks to extend east into much of NEW ENGLAND, with the exception of MAINE, where temps have a good chance of running average to below.

  • Heading out west to the ROCKIES, it looks pretty good as well. Especially for the snow-play areas of MT and ID, where the true winter snows should arrive about on time and continue with average to above average results the rest of the winter. Most of the snow-play areas of WY, CO and UT stand to see a delayed arrival of true winter, but once it arrives, it should continue with average to above average results as well.

I have done away with the “Regional” breakdown to the forecast, as I found that the weather ideas in the outlook did not always align themselves too well with the outlines of the regions. I hope you find this new format easier to read and understand, because I think it will be sticking around for a while! - John