After an exceptional year for weather extremes, all eyes are now turning toward weather as we head into the cold winter months with hopes that things might begin differently this time around – something not seen for quite some time now. Now is one of the rare times since El Nino emerged in 2015 that we will be heading toward winter with El Nino present and unabated. Once winter sets in, a stronger El Nino could cause even more extreme weather than is already projected by NOAA; they have described 2014 as being one of the costliest years with billions spent in weather incidents and extremely high temperatures. Municipalities and businesses need to keep a keen eye on winter forecasts as El Nino could bring an unpleasant surprise for this season.
Strong El Ninos tend to bring warmer U.S. winters while moderate to weak El Ninos can bring snowy and cold conditions. If a strong El Nino occurs this year, temperatures across Northern U.S. could experience temperatures above average while some areas in southern U.S. could experience lower than usual temperatures this winter. With a robust El Nino present December has the greatest likelihood of widespread warmth; should it weaken, or peak early it could increase widespread cold.
As you traverse across the nation, it becomes evident that more warm than average temperatures tend to predominate in the northern tier and most western states within the U.S. Between South Central Rockies and Southern Plains regions will experience temperatures close to normal throughout the year – and all regions could potentially have lower, near average or above average seasonal temperatures depending on where they’re situated in America.
Forecasts call for above-normal precipitation across most of the Western U.S. as well as Southern Plains, Southeast, Gulf Coast and lower mid-Atlantic region; which is typical of El Nino conditions. It is likely that northern tier regions in particular (Nordic Rockies/High Plains near Great Lakes/Great Plains regions) may experience dryer than average conditions due to El Nino effects; with an equal probability for below average total annual precipitation amounts or even above-average total annual precipitation totals.
While it can be exciting to anticipate what the weather may hold over the coming months, examining seasonal forecasts can also offer valuable insight into their implications for various industries – such as aviation, energy utilities and retailers.
As this forecast informs utilities, which serve as their first line of defense against extreme winter weather, utilities can use this forecast to educate themselves as their first defense against it. Many utilities have been proactive about replacing older equipment and strengthening infrastructure to better withstand frigid temperatures this winter season. Utilities should also prepare plans for dealing with outages due to melting ice or high winds damaging power lines during this season.
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) conducts extensive analysis on winter weather forecasts in order to predict fuel price trends and their consequences, and expects natural gas prices this winter to be significantly less than last year for 50% of homes using natural gas for heating, according to their predictions.
Transportation agencies may find the weather outlook useful; winter can often present challenges when it comes to transportation due to ice and snow. Forecasts can help them in selecting staff as well as buying brine or salt as needed. Higher than expected precipitation levels in the southern region may exacerbate winter road maintenance needs in terms of slippery roads, yet most areas should still experience normal temperatures. As with last winter’s Southwest US winter season, transitions between moderate air and more cold tracks require careful observation and adjustments as temperatures move from warmer to colder and back again. Rain choices and transitions between them must also be monitored closely. Furthermore, several extremely humid storms could strike parts of this region of the Southwest US that cause flooding or mudslides – as happened earlier in 2018.
El Nino and other potential extreme weather events in this record-setting year is making more informed decisions about weather necessary to safeguard citizens and increase operational efficiencies for businesses and municipalities alike.