We are now a little over a month into the winter of 2011, and the comments are pouring in from readers. So far, these have been a mixed bag. Depending on where you live, some of you are pretty happy with us. Others are practically calling for our heads. No one ever said predicting the weather — particularly two years in advance — was fun, and it certainly doesn’t make you many friends much of the time, even (or sometimes, especially) if you get it right.
So, how are we doing so far? At the risk of sounding pollyannaish, I think our forecast has been pretty darn good, overall. Let’s take a look.
So far, the East Coast has been exceptionally cold. This frigidity was expected. In fact, we warned the Eastern half of the country to brace itself for “a cold slap in the face.” We said New England would be “bitterly cold with average snowfall,” and that is exactly whet the region has seen.
Likewise, we accurately predicted that the Great Lakes region would be “very cold and snowy.” Just last week, International Falls, Minnesota, “the Icebox of the Nation,” hit a record low of -46° F.
For the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern States, we called for temperatures to be “very cold,” with average precipitation for Mid-Atlantic states and wet conditions for southern states. Though we correctly predicted that this winter would be brutally cold in these areas — Florida, especially, has seen a series of unseasonable cold snaps that have impacted agriculture in the state — we admittedly dropped the ball on predicting exactly how much snow would fall on these regions. Snowfall has been heavier than expected in the Mid-Atlantic region because the offshore storm track we predicted moved closer to the coast that expected. This is likely due to a La Niña system, as well as a cold, blocking dome of high pressure over Greenland, two short-term phenomena that can’t be properly accounted for in the overall scheme of long-term forecasts.
Toward the West Coast, conditions are milder, just as we said, though La Niña has brought heavy precipitation to California. Our forecast predicted “very wet” weather for the Pacific Northwest, so this storm track shifted south from where our forecast anticipated.
As far as Canada is concerned, overall it’s colder this winter than last year’s record warmth, though still unusually mild over the far northern and western regions (at least “mild” in the sense of normal climatological averages up there). Alaska has had a relatively balmy winter as well.
Over the last few winters, the places that are accustomed to cold and snow have seen milder and less snowy conditions, while places that are normally mild and snow/ice-free have been cold and wintry. Given the upside-down conditions caused by El Niño last year — with warmer-than-normal weather in Canada and the Northern U.S., and heavy snow in typically milder regions — we chose to focus on the return of the cold this year. In that respect, we can stand by our predictions.
Despite any inconsistencies — mainly failing to predict the sheer amounts of snow that would pound the Mid-Atlantic region and Southeast, and being off about the focal point of the wet weather along the West Coast — I still give our outlook a “B/B-” rating for the winter, thus far.
And remember, winter’s not even halfway over, yet!