Basic fact to La Nada

Fact: Climate change is REAL and I only feel the need to reiterate such a basic truth thanks to how many times I have heard that there is a hoax of some sort involved over the past couple days as we begin to see fresh political appointments being discussed.  Bottom line, the planet is warming and I will have more locally relevant info on that in the coming months since warm talk is welcome after a few mornings of scraping car windshields.

 Speaking of winter, we released our “Wintercast” the day after the election to a mixed set of reactions.  Truthfully, I’ve never been a fan of these types of outlooks since many people will perceive the season subjectively based on how hard it is for them personally.  Then there is the difficulty of deriving anything useful from a near neutral enso (the combined name of El Niño / La Niña). We are currently in weak La Niña territory with NOAA giving us just barely over a 50/50 chance of remaining there through the end of winter before returning to neutral. Last year’s winter outlook fared really well, though was based on a strong El Niño, which really lived up to its reputation with a measly 55.1″ of snow at KBUF (average is 94.7″).  Following a season like that, I do have some snow enthusiasts questioning how we arrived at the finding that we are in for about average conditions this winter.
 Some of you may have heard of relating cold winters in the northern hemisphere to late fall snowpack in Siberia.  This is a piece of the puzzle for two reasons, snow covered ground reflects much more incoming solar radiation than dirt and rocks do and the larger the area is that is covered with snow, the bigger the source region for cold air just to our north and upstream.  Arctic and near Arctic sea ice works in a similar fashion and while the Siberian snow has been rapidly growing, ice coverage has been slow to expand according to multiple sources.  This puts another of the longer term indicators at about neutral for where our cold air may be carried in from.  Across Canada the snow coverage has been mostly focused across the Canadian Rockies and points west due to a particularly active pattern off the Pacific.  Many signs are in place however that the pattern is far from stagnant including our ever shrinking drought here in WNY with the removal of all mentions of “severe” drought across our counties as of this week.  The longer range euro ensemble model forecast, which goes out to 46 days with at least reasonable success for exploring larger trends had been starting to open up some slightly longer cooling windows for both Canadian snowpack and potential cold blasts over our warm lakes, though this has backed off slightly in the latest run.  This fits the forecast of easing into winter with a below average start to our snow season before the colder air starts really getting pumped in by late Dec through Feb.
  snowpack
  Many of the other indicators (teleconnections) we like to cite for looking out beyond the 7-day like the NAO and AO, which help predict the arrival of colder airmasses, are not showing much to get excited about, though they only look ahead two weeks and our cold is just out of reach of them at the moment. If all of this sounds like a list of ingredients for a moderate to low confidence level in the forecast, you are reading me correctly.  No matter how far we try to look out in the forecast, mother nature is only sometimes showing enough of her cards to allow us a glimpse of an entire season before it arrives.  It should be noted that winters in which weak La Niña conditions existed are all over the map in terms of snowfall with some well above and others well below average. Personally I’m just hoping for enough cold to give a nice boost to our winter sports industry here in WNY, just enough to make us all appreciate living in a legendary winter wonderland.

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