The Winter Forecast – Shovel Ready

October 27th, 2011 at 10:15 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

This is going to be a winter, if you get my drift!  The first map is the average North American winter conditions for La Nina. The second map is global sea surface temperatures, with the blue colors indicating areas where the water is colder than average, and yellow/orange where sea surface temperatures are warmer than average – click on the maps to enlarge)  This is the second year in a row that we are heading into winter with La Nina (characterized by colder than average water temperatures along the Equator in the Pacific Ocean west of S. America).  The La Nina this year is not as strong as the La Nina of one year ago.  Here’s a map showing what last winter was like over the U.S. – only two of 48 states were colored warm.   So, the first place to begin a winter forecast is with the general conditions favored by La Nina, shown in the map on the left.   We see colder than average weather from Alaska down through the Pacific Northwest, Northern Rockies and Northern Plains…with warmer than average conditions on the whole from Arizona east across the southern U.S. to the Mid-Atlantic States (though Florida and the Southeast can get some good cold shots in early winter when we have La Nina).  This provides a greater contrast than usual between warm to the south and cold to the north, implying some hefty storms this winter.  The battle zone in between the warm air to the south and the cold air to the north will be the mean storm track for the winter…you can see the tendency for above average winter precipitation from the Pacific Northwest, across the Rockies (Denver’s already had a decent snowstorm this week), into the Ohio Valley.  Areas on the northern edge of the avearge storm track will see above average snowfall, and that’s where the Southern Great Lakes is going to be this winter. (Click on “read on” to continue…).

If you look on the sea surface anomaly map on the right above, you can also see blue color (colder sea surface temperatures) in the shape of a backwards “C” across the northern Pacific, past Alaska and down the West Coast of the U.S. and northwest Mexico. That pattern is called a cold PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation). Look at this graph of the PDO over the past 110 years (side note…the PDO Graph is actually a better fit to U.S. temperatures over the past century than CO2. Note how temperatures tend to go down during extended periods with general cold PDOs like the 50s to 70s and then warmer with the warmer phase of the PDO, like during the 80s, 90s and 2000s). Note this article mentions the tendency for above average precipitation in the Great Lakes during winter when there is a cold PDO.

I’ve looked at so much more…what happened in years when we had both a La Nina and a large number of Atlantic basin hurricanes (we’re already up to the letter “R” this season), the water temperature of the Great Lakes (a little warmer than average) and Hudson Bay, the early season cold across Alaska and Northern Canada (the average temperature for the town of Alert has been -1.9°F for October), the growth of the Arctic icecap (about the same place as this time in 2009 and more ice than 2008 or 2007), the (rather anemic start to the) solar cycle. When all these factors came together, what happened during the following winter?

So, I’m forecasting 89″ of snow for Grand Rapids, 76″ for Kalamazoo, and 98″ for Holland and 100″ for Muskegon.   Above normal snowfall is likely over most all of southern Great Lakes. We have a decent chance of a freezing rain event again this year (the ice storm along I-94 on 2/20/11 was described as the worst in that area in nearly a decade).  We’ll see more than our fair share of challenging driving, as storms bring a lovely combination of fluffier lake-effect and the heavier snow that can come from low pressure centers. Storm systems that come up into Lower Michigan or go just north of us will bring a fun mix of precipitation (snow to freezing rain/sleet to rain and back to snow) I think the overall winter temperature is about 1 degree cooler than average for Grand Rapids and 1-2 degrees below average  for Kalamazoo.  I think this will be a longer winter.  Last year, we didn’t get much snow before Dec. 1, and not much after 2/28.  This year, I think snow starts around mid-November with snow lingering until at least early March.  I think there is an above average chance of a White Christmas (80% for G.R. as opposed to the average 57%) and I think the period from mid-November to early January will, on the whole be colder than average in West Michigan.

This will be a good year to take a southern vacation…after a cool December, temperatures should moderate in Florida during the latter half of winter.  The Pacific Northwest looks cool and wet (could Seattle get snow this winter??) with lots of snow in the Cascades up into southern Alaska and east across the Rockies.  I also think the coming spring will bring an above average number of tornadoes.  La Ninas usually have about 20% more tornadoes than average, and the upper atmosphere is ever so slightly cooler relative to the ground when you look at NASA upper atmosphere temperatures.   The contrast between cold to the north and warm to the south means an above average number of strong to violent tornadoes (which until 2010 had been trending down in the U.S. since the 1970s).  Hopefully, they won’t hit populated cities as much as last year (Joplin, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Springfield MA, Minneapolis).

I’ll continue to add more as we head into the winter. By the way, here’s the Old Farmer’s Almanac Forecast (I don’t agree with their cool and snowy winter in the south or the dry winter in the Ohio Valley/southern Great Lakes). The 90-day forecast from the Climate Prediction Center looks pretty good to me.   Here’s the National Weather Service Winter Forecast and this also looks pretty good.  Again, note the greater contrast of temperatures (colder than average to the north and warmer than average to the south).  That means some big storm systems this winter and spring.   I’ll link to Bill Marino’s forecast when that comes out at the GRR NWS site.  He’s going 85″ for the winter.  Craig James has a forecast of 90″ – so…either brilliant minds think alike, or we’re all mediocre-ologists.

Don’t be afraid to get that season ski pass or to line up a snowplow service for the season.  Save a couple extra dollars for the heating bills this winter.  Remember to observe odd/even parking if that applies, make sure your pets and animals are comfy and keep checking here at Bill’s Blog and on WOOD-TV for the latest winter weather updates.

388 Responses to “The Winter Forecast – Shovel Ready”

  1. ninifere says:

    is it cold enough for us to see sleet/ light snow in GR?

  2. thundercat says:

    Don’t know where that thunder is coming from but last few mins 3 HUGE deep rumbles enough to shake the things on the dresser! Snow flake in the morning thunder at night :) Love Muskegon

    1. Vincent(N.E.Kent CO) says:

      Showing quite a few lightning strikes over the lake now. I could see the flashes from here awhile ago.

  3. Phat (Ionia County) says:

    Bring on the snow!!!! I’m so excited that I can’t wait for it to come–woooohoooo!!!

  4. Dan says:

    Went out this am to referee a soccer tournament, sleet was mixing with the rain at around 7am. It was cold this am, feels much better now even though it has only warmed about 5 or 7 degrees or something

  5. Judi I says:

    HI Bill,

    Do you think this will be as nasty as the one in ’78-’79 when we had the road graders stuck out here too? Those were the days………

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      The Blizzard of ’78 will be hard to top. That’s a lifetime event…15″ in 15 hours, fourteen foot drifts and schools closed for five days in a row.

  6. kendall says:

    Is it going to snow in GR or not? i’m confused.

  7. ryan says:

    Thanks for answering my questions. Bill, when will our first snow fall are we going to have a bad storm?

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      It depends on what you mean by “bad”. First snow probably about the 3rd week of November. December will be a fun month for winter lovers.

      1. chad says:

        a little off on this prediction but maybe we will make up for it next month

  8. Christine (Allegan State Game Area) says:

    Bring on the snow! I hope we avoid the violent tornadoes Bill mentioned for the upcoming Spring, they can stay south of Michigan. Otherwise, I’m very excited about this winter forecast, I will be getting my skiis ready!

  9. Christine (Allegan State Game Area) says:


  10. Paul says:

    Bill, what is the weather in Bora Bora looking like for the months of January and February? I am going there for two months on vacation, thanks.

    1. big Daddy BC says:

      And by Bora Bora, you mean the county lock-up, right?

      1. Paul says:

        What a educated response, then again your pass time of hanging out with cross dressers at gay bars in Grand Rapids must have you confused, lol. Right?

        1. Paul says:

          bdbc, your stupidity has rubbed off. I hope that’s the only thing, lol.

          I meant “pastime”.

        2. big Daddy BC says:

          Did you also mean “AN educated response”? LOL fool

        3. Paul says:

          I think you meant “an educated response”, Stupid. Lol

        4. big Daddy BC says:

          Not really

        5. big Daddy BC says:

          Not according to NOAA (A credible scientific organization).

        6. Bill Steffen says:

          HA! This is from YOUR LINK: “The (Arctic ice) extent was 127,000 square miles (330,000 square kilometers) LARGER than the record low October extent set in 2007. (The Arctic Ice is GROWING!!!)

          On the opposite pole, the October Antarctic monthly average ice extent was 1.2 percent ABOVE the 1979–2000 average, the 12th LARGEST on record.

          Your link also says the “ADJUSTED” temperatures in October were the 8th warmest. That means that 7 other years were warmer. 1934 was the warmest year in the U.S. It’s cooler now that it was 75 years ago!!

    2. Bill Steffen says:

      Bora Bora is a little south of the Equator in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With La Nina, the surrounding water is slightly cooler than average right now. Typical daytime temperatures are in the mid 80s and nighttime temperatures in the mid 70s. In a typical January or February, the high temperature is 88 or 89 and the lowest around 70. Dew point temperatures run in the low 70s, so it is a bit muggy. Have fun, sounds like a great place to head during the heart of a Michigan winter if you’d like to escape the cold and snow.

      1. Paul says:

        Thanks Bill!

  11. Dan says:

    Big Daddy can’t win with any true substance, so he has to again attempt a personal attack. I know, Big Surprise, right?
    Actually, I have heard from people who have traveled to Bora Bora. They have said it is a great place to visit! Plus, you’ll be getting the heck out of dodge during the winter months. Have a great time, Paul!

    1. Paul says:

      Thanks Dan, it should be beautiful there. Bill was nice enough to send some info and links on the climate in Bora Bora. I will not miss the snow, but at least I will be around for some Christmas snow!

      1. big Daddy BC says:

        I had no idea there were trailer parks on Bora Bora. Enjoy your stay, hillbilly.

        1. Paul says:

          bdbc, before you go out tonight with your bevy of cross dressers. Just make sure that they are wearing their Mr. Trojan’s. We don’t need you spreading anything more, lol. You little knob gobbler!

        2. big Daddy BC says:

          More crude homophobic references from the racist…classic

        3. Bill Steffen says:

          And you’re a religious bigot and liar, bigD. Go here: Scroll down and see an example.

        4. big Daddy BC says:

          An interesting thread and interesting choice, since it plainly shows YOU defending a bill passed by the Michigan senate that made it legal for children to bully homosexual children on the grounds that homosexuality is morally offensive. You’re a GIANT hypocrite. Try again.

        5. Bill Steffen says:

          I’ve asked you four times now to define “bullying” and you won’t do it. Yet you libel Mitt Romney by calling him a polygamist. You are a liar…a proven liar. You will lie to promote your political agenda.

  12. Dan says:

    Hey Bill: Do you ever notice how when you completely destroy Big Daddy’s supposed line of reasoning, he always attempts to come back with more of the same Crap and BS? Shall we call that shock and awe?
    Big Daddy continually asks for information, you provide it. In this process, Big Daddy attempts some other “smoking mirrors” technique. Oh and we will also throw in some other spouted drivel during the Big Daddy’s attempts at critical thinking. This is worse than the loser knowing he is beat.

    1. Paul says:

      Dan, it is his technique. He gets turned down by these cross dressers that he hits on all the time and around he goes, lol.

    2. big Daddy BC says:

      For example?

    3. Bill Steffen says:

      Oh my! Even Nature is piling on Gore:

      “The November 2011 edition of Nature Climate Change pans Al Gore’s 24 Hours of ‘Reality’, disputing Gore’s suggestion that global warming is responsible for all extreme weather and noting:

      “Gore may have briefly pumped up his disillusioned environmental base, but it’s hard to imagine such a polarizing figure convincing anybody who has honest doubts about the severity of the problem, let alone the diehard skeptics.”

      I think the “disillusioned environmental base” is down to just “Handcuffs” Hansen and bigD! LOL.

      1. big Daddy BC says:

        Swings In North Atlantic Oscillation Variability Linked To Climate Warming

        A couple years back they linked ocean cycling to climate change. I’m not sure what Al Gore has to do with that or why you’re bringing him back up, but I’ll bite. So?

        1. Bill Steffen says:

          Another failed attempt to “adjust” to reality. The relatively small (compared to the entire atmosphere) increase in CO2 won’t make the ocean colder. The truth is, atmospheric temperatures are at a historic low (at 14,000 feet and 25,000 feet), global surface temperatures are falling, winters are getting colder, the Arctic icecap is growing, the Antarctic icecap is BIGGER than average and your Berkeley group states outright that global temperatures have leveled off. It’s all in my links above. Gore has been screaming about rising sea levels and then he goes and buys oceanfront property. Guess he can’t be too concerned about rising sea levels.

          Here’s more…October snow increasing, US hurricane hits decreasing…exactly the opposite of what you forecast:!/BigJoeBastardi/status/134663529499332608/photo/1

        2. big Daddy BC says:

          October snow increasing? LOL Were you here in October? We just had the number eight warmest October since 1880! Don’t you guys keep records there at WOOD? Here you go.

        3. Bill Steffen says:

          HA That means 7 other Octobers were warmer! And that’s the “adjusted data”. Here’s the U.S. October map: (when you get to the link…under “period” put in “october” and then hit submit) Doesn’t look very scary to me.

  13. Bill Steffen says:

    Last year, General Electric generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing not a penny to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax BENEFIT of $1.1 billion! The CEO of GE is Obama’s Job Czar.

    Exxon is only the 17th biggest oil company in the world. Sixteen are bigger: Oil companies don’t get the tax breaks that GE got. ExxonMobil in its 2009 annual report to the SEC, recorded a larger income tax expense THAN ANY OTHER U.S. COMPANY, some $17.6 billion, or 47% of pretax earnings. Exxon’s peers Chevron and ConocoPhillips likewise recorded similarly high effective tax rates.

    1. big Daddy BC says:

      AND those big oil giants got all that tax money back in subsidies!!! You left that part out, slick. Almost $37 billion!!! Obama tried to end it, but the teabaggers wouldn’t have it! Your party won’t stop until all corporations exist tax free.

      1. Bill Steffen says:

        You are so full of grease it’s coming out your ears. You ought to be cheering the Tea Party. They cost the Republicans a Senate Seat in Delaware and probably Nevada. Your article says 36.5 billion IN TEN YEARS! That’s nothing compared to our 15 TRILLION dollar deficit, which is growing at the rate of 2 TRILLION per year! 36.5 billion over 10 years is 3.65 billion per year. That’s 0.0002433 of the deficit. It’s nothing. The oil companies are mostly international (BP is British Petroleum, Citgo is owned by Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, Shell is Royal DUTCH Shell). They will either sell their oil elsewhere (the Chinese are buying) or pass the extra cost on to consumers (which is right along with your plan to make energy prices “skyrocket”: screwing the poor, the middle class, the elderly, the disabled, those on fixed income, minorities…and children). We just had an 800 BILLION dollar stimulus. Where did the money go? It sure didn’t go to those “shovel ready” jobs:

  14. Joe A Arispe says:

    So much for your long range forecast. Not even remotely close. I wish WOOD could talk Craig James out of retirement. He was the best!!!! Laura Valezquez is is also quite accurate with her forecast. I always try to catch her. Would like to see more of her and Matt Kirkwood and less of Terri Deboer and Kyle Underwood, they over talk the weather. Take a tip from you competion less is more. If you get my drift.

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      FYI – Craig’s season snowfall guess the last year he was here was off by 42″. Mine this year has been off by 38″ and we may not be over yet. But, no hiding the fact that I (and just about everyone else) missed this winter by a mile.

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