December was the Undecember; January Won’t Mirror December

After going through the warmest December on record with incredibly low snowfall as well, some may expect the bottom to fall out in January. The bottom will sag and stretch, but not fall out. El Nino is still quite strong, but it is beginning to weaken now. Another kind of an oscillating pattern which stretches from the Indian Ocean into the Pacific is also sending a signal which will eventually weaken El Nino’s influence. What this is likely to mean is that we will have more seasonable temperatures in January than we had in December. That may not be earth-shaking news, but the overall alignment of the polar jet stream will bring more building high pressure over western Canada and the NW U.S. That “ridging” will force the polar jet upward over NW Canada where it will more frequently tap arctic air and deliver it to the Great Lakes, parts of the midwest, and the NE. A southern branch of the jetstream has already energized storm systems and will continue to do so. Some of these storms may head up the east coast, and some may reach the Great Lakes. There will be more variability in our weather, with more traditional “ups and downs.” But the “ups” are unlikely to match the extreme “ups” we had in a record December. On the other hand, while we will be colder in the mean pattern, I’m not seeing signs of ridging over Greenland which typically forces the polar jet to dig REALLY deep in the east, and drag in true polar air on a regular basis. That’s why I’m saying I don’t think the bottom is going to fall out, or that we’re headed back to where we were the last 2 winters. I can’t touch snowfall as readily as temperature trends, but it’s probably a good assumption that with more frequent incursions of arctic air we can expect more snow…another understatement. But it remains to be seen if that southern branch of the jet brings more nor’easters to the east coast (which often leave us high and dry) versus storm systems crossing the Great Lakes which can bring lake effect snow in their wake.

Winter is going to make something of a comeback. I’ll have more technical information for those more technically oriented in comments below.

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