November 19, 2012
Some of the first snows of the 2012-2013 winter have visited Michigan, so it’s probably a good time to have a look at what Old Man Winter might have up his sleeve this winter. The Winter 2013 forecast from “Caleb Weatherbee”* of the Farmer’s Almanac is calling for a split in the nation’s weather with warmer and drier conditions in the West and cold & snow in the East & Midwest. The Freep takes a closer look at the winter forecast saying:
In a forecast sure to delight Michigan’s snow sport industries, the almanac is predicting plenty of snow, with temperatures 2 to 4 degrees colder than average. It estimates the first snow will come Nov. 7 in some parts of the Great Lakes — and a major storm of up to 8 inches will blast the Great Lakes on Jan. 20-23.
So far, so good I guess. While I’m not a meteorologist, it seems like warm, dry air in the west and colder, wetter air in the east could make for some exciting weather for Michigan. Someone who is a meteorologist is Dr. Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground. In his interesting and informative Forecast for Winter 2012-2013, Jeff notes that NOAA’s predictions suggest the same warmer & drier conditions for the west (with a wider area covered). He walks through the many factors that can affect winter weather, ultimately concluding:
I’m often asked by friends and neighbors what my forecast for the coming winter is, but I tell them to flip a coin, or catch some woolley bear caterpillars for me so I can count their stripes and make a woolley bear winter forecast (this year’s Woolley Worm Festival in Banner Elk, North Carolina is this weekend, so we’ll know then what the official Woolley Worm winter forecast is.) Making an accurate winter forecast is very difficult, as the interplay between El Niño, the AO/NAO, the AMO, Arctic sea ice loss, and the 11-year sunspot cycle is complex and poorly understood. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and unprecedented from our weather over the past few winters; perhaps the most unexpected thing would be a very average winter during 2012 – 2013.
*FYI, Caleb Weatherbee is the official forecaster for the Farmers’ Almanac. His name is actually a pseudonym that has been passed down & shared by generations of Almanac prognosticators.