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Weather watch: a closer look

  • SIMA
- Posted: December 1, 2015

By Brian Marmo

In the October issue of Snow Business, we wrote about our long-range predictions for the coming winter. But given how far out the forecast was, we offered to follow up to see if patterns were tracking as we predicted. Our thoughts have not changed too much over the past couple of months.

With the strong El Niño on track to be a dominant player, a milder than average winter is still expected overall across the northern tier of the country, especially through the end of 2015. While the Northeast has become accustomed to early-season wintry events, the November snowfall mainly has been out west so far. This has been especially true in the Northern Rockies, where plowable snow has already fallen across Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Even Nevada got in on the action, with the Reno-Tahoe Airport measuring 4.2 inches in a storm on November 9-10 — more than it received all of last winter.

Mild first half
Building on November’s warmth, the meteorological winter (December-February) is likely to begin on a warm note, as December is trending quite mild for much of the northern United States and Southern Canada. In fact, many places from the Northern Plains to the East Coast will likely have snowfall deficits during the first half of winter. However, as winter progresses, we expect that to change.

One of the oscillations we will be watching closely, especially for those folks on the East Coast, is the Arctic Oscillation (AO). A negative AO is very favorable for snowfall, as weaker winds in the upper atmosphere allow frigid air from the North Pole to infiltrate the eastern United States. Recent trends suggest that a negative AO could emerge by February, increasing the Eastern Seaboard’s threat for a significant coastal storm. Also, with ample moisture from El Niño, locations across the Southern Rockies and Sierra Nevada Mountains (and to a lesser extent the Southern Appalachians) could be in line for a good amount of snow in 2015-16. In addition, while still not overly encouraging, conditions across the northwest United States and western Canada will likely be more favorable to see snow than the past few seasons.

Forecast breakdown

  • The strong El Niño is still on track to be one of the dominant players during the upcoming winter.
  • A milder-than-average winter is still expected across the northern United States,
    with the highest confidence in above normal temperatures across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest.
  • The Ohio Valley, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are projected to have a warmer than usual winter overall.
  • The southern tier is favored to be cool and soggy for the season.
  • With additional moisture from El Niño, locations across the Southern Rockies and Sierra Nevada could be in line for a good amount of snow in 2015-16.


Brian Marmo is a meteorologist for WeatherWorks Inc. Visit

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