"The old Man is back and he's gonna cause some trouble
Hey na de nah the Old Man's back..."
to the tune of "My boyfriend's back"


As winter forecasts go, one has to go back many years to find a winter forecast with so much riding on it. I would venture to say that the last time a winter forecast of such import was made occurred back in the late 1970s (though few winter forecasts or any seasonal forecasts were being done back then). And as the cycles of history, economics and politics repeat themselves in subtle but important ways, so it is that this winter forecast is the most important one since 1979.

To put this winter forecast in perspective, the events by alleged government leaders and large petroleum multinational companies have placed many of the western industrial nations in various levels of economic risk as the winter of 2000- 2001 approaches. In the United States importation of foreign Oil is at an all time high exceeding that of the late 1970s. To make a long story short, during the summer months Oil Refineries are suppose to allocate 3% to 5% of their capacity towards the cool season’s need of Heating Oil. Instead, due to High Gasoline prices and political pressure to increase supply and lower prices at the pump, Refinery capacity was never switched over to Heating Oil production. As a result heating Oil supplies are near record low levels. Similarly Natural Gas and Propane supplies & stockpiles are also below normal.

Complicating this forecast is the recent and well known Summer 2000 forecast fiasco. The much publicized and hyped Summer severe Heat/Drought forecast, essentially one of the bigger forecast fiasco in 20 years, never materialized over most of the nation except late in the summer over the Southern Plains. While many commodity traders (mainly GRAIN traders) incurred huge loses by taking trading positions that were based on a Summer of Heat and Drought there were some PWSIPs  (private weather service information providers)  that argued strongly against such the Heat/Drought   forecast  among them DTN/WSC and subscribers to this web's site newsletter  Weather Trader's Edge.

However with this coming winter the opposite effect is likely to develop. Unlike a summer drought, which is an extreme event to take a trading position on, even a NORMAL winter (December January and February) poses significant hardship to the much of the Population. For example, a typical MILD January day in the state of Tennessee still requires the continuous use of heat for Office and Home use. Thus the potential for large gains in the Heating Oil, Natural Gas, and Propane contracts is easily achievable. In the event of much below normal winter or several surges of large scale Arctic air mass outbreak, the gains in these commodities would be HUGE.


WINTER 2000-2001 will feature:

  1. Frequent storminess, frequent periods of Much Below normal temperatures for the USA east of the Mississippi River and Normal to Above Normal rainfall over the southern and central Plains.
  2. The Jet stream pattern for Most of December January and February (DJF) will be one of "Split Flow"  which will keep the southern and central Plains more than adequately moist  and set the stage for some phasing events.  
  3. I believe the NAO will run Neutral or negative for a good portion of the winter, and large pools of cold air will develop over central and eastern Canada. When the NAO turns negative, the interaction between that feature and the Mega persistent North Central Canadian Blocking feature, will  significantly increase the likelihood and strength of Arctic Air mass outbreaks.
  4. There will be at least 2 major Arctic outbreaks that will penetrate into the Gulf Coast and central Florida... increasing the threat of significant FREEZES in the OJ producing areas. (It would also
    be the first  freeze since 1993-94).
  5. There are indications that there will be 2 Ice events over the Deep South and Tennessee valley.
  6. Comparative analogues  FAVOR  at least 2 major winter storms over the eastern third of the US this coming winter. Eastern third   refers to the USA  that is EAST of the 85 Longitude Line.
  7. Preferred analog years 81-82 79-80, 67- 68.

5h WINTER 2000.gif (41540 bytes)   snowrain.gif (67438 bytes)  temp.gif (96694 bytes)


Making a seasonal forecast is one of those odds things that some meteorologists and climatologists try to do but many others have the attitude -- "who knows?"  Since 1950 and the birth of the modern era of forecasting,  this approach has been the wise one to have. However we are now in a sort of "in-between" stage  with the seasonal forecasting where our understanding has increased significantly in terms of seeing longer range climate patterns and we now have access to much better longer range forecasts from the new advanced computer modeling that is now done at places like CPC and the Scripps Institute and LEDO in New York City.

Some forecasters that engage in Seasonal forecasting use "Analog years"  which is making a forecast based upon a certain set of selected parameters of an earlier season that either match or are similar to the upcoming season. Some Forecasters primarily rely on the new advanced and much improved climate models and some use both methods.  There is some debate about how accurate or reliable the use of analog years forecasting is. However  in Washington DC a long time experienced weather observer who runs the IAD LWX and BWI reporting sites, has been making winter and summer forecast for 15 years every equinox and his track record is OUTSTANDING. Many  of his winter and summer forecasts are so good that they are carried by the Washington Post and area radio stations on March 20 and Sept 22.

The decade of the 1990s has been dominated by strong abnormalities in Sea Surface Temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific (commonly refer to as El Nino for warm SSTs and La Nina  for cold SSTs). In fact, the last 15 years there has been only 3 winters with  Neutral SSTs in the Equatorial Pacific  (1985-96, 1989-90,  and 1996-97). Every other season has featured La Nina or El Nino and some of them have been very strong--record levels in fact.  To be sure, some of this is due to the fact the the monitoring system is much better than what it was in the 1950s, 60s and 70s  but there has been a real increase in strong abnormalities in SSTs over the equatorial Pacific.  This can only mean one thing.

The end of the world is coming soon.  Or Not.  

Anyway this coming winter of 2000-2001 will have no warm or cold SSTs in the equatorial Pacific. So a good place to start is with Winters that have had Neutral SSTs to see how many there were, what those winter were like etc etc .So here is a Table of the Historical Record of ENSO.  This data comes from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and  from FSU  wx server which has ENSO 3.4 data since 1900! (which can be found at this URL ).

The WINTERS  with Neutral SSTS I have highlighted in   Aqua-Blue color. The YELLOW  boxes refer to winters that were Milder and less snowy than normal over the eastern and central US  while the Blue Boxes refer to winters that had below normal temps and Normal or Above normal Snowfall. Got it?



  JFM AMJ JAS OND TV= Tennesse Valley GL= Great lakes
MA Mid Atlantic DS =Deep South
NE= Northeast  NG = New England
1950 C C C C  
1951 C     W-  
1952         Mild winter Central & eastern US
1953   W- W-   Mild winter Central & eastern US
1954     C- C  
1955 C C- C- C+  
1956 C C C C-  
1957   W- W- W  
1958 W+ W W- W-  
1959 W-       Cold Central & Eastern US; Normal snowfall  NE; GL. Much Above average SNOW TV & MA
1960         Cold & snowy everywhere especially in Eastern US
1961         Cold & snowy everywhere especially in Eastern US
1962         Cold & snowy everywhere especially in Eastern US
1963     W- W-  
1964     C- C  
1965 C-   W W+  
1966 W W- W-   Cold & snowy everywhere especially in Eastern US
1967         Cold & snowy everywhere
1968       W-  
1969 W W- W- W-  
1970 W-     C  
1971 C C- C- C-  
1972   W- W W+  
1973 W   C- C+  
1974 C+ C C- C-  
1975 C- C- C C+  
1976 C     W-  
1977       W- Bitter cold winter  eastern 2/3 of USA
1978 W-       Colder than Normal; Above average snow in   GL NE MA TV
1979         Normal winter over GL NE Above Ave. Snow over TV & MA
1980         Cold but Dry  eastern . Above Ave snow  central USA
1981         Normal winter GL &NE. MUCH Above Ave snow TV & MA
1982   W- W W+  
1983 W+ W   C-  
1984 C- C-   C-  
1985 C- C-     Below Normal Snow & above Ave. temps Eastern US; Ave. snow/temps Central US
1986     W- W  
1987 W W W+ W  
1988 W-   C- C+  
1989 C+ C-     Mild & much below normal snow central & Eastern US
1990     W- W-  
1991 W- W- W W  
1992 W+ W+ W- W-  
1993 W- W W W-  
1994     W W  
1995 W     C-  
1996 C-       Mild & dry eastern US severe winter GL and Plains regions
1997   W W+ W+  
1998 W+ W C- C  
1999 C+ C C- C  
2000 C C-      


So what did our table tell us?  There have been 15 winters since 1949-50   that have had Neutral SSTs, which is similar to the current conditions and which will continue through the winter into early Spring 2001.  This is the list of winter seasons to consider. The most remarkable thing about these 15 winters is that there were 3 "Mild" winters (1952-53  53-54  and 96-97)  1 near "Normal" winter  (1985-86)  and   9  harsh to sever winters  ( 1959-60, 60-61,  61-62,  62-63,   66-67,  67-68,  78-79,  79-80, and 81-82). 


1952-1953,   1953-1954 ,    1959-1960,     1960- 1961,   1961-1962,  
1962 -1963,   1966-67,   1967-68    1978-79,     1979-80,    1980-81,
  1981-82,    1985-86,    1989-90,     1996-97


It is assumed that the reader has a basic understanding of the NAO climate pattern. If not  then I can recommend two web sites for further understanding.  Basically since the middle 1980s research has 'discovered" that there are specific patterns in the Jet stream configurations around the global and more of these climate patterns are being realized all the time. Currently over the northern Hemisphere there are 13 recognized climate patterns. These patterns are Important and much overlooked aspect of long ( 10 days to 90 days) and medium range (48 hrs to 10 days)  forecasting. So lets say the pattern is a Positive NAO and some of the medium range models are forecasting an East coast Low pressure area to develop in 7 days. Such a model depiction should be viewed with high caution since a Positive NAO does not favor the development of a Large East coast Low pressure area.   Here are some graphics for you to consider....  and the URLs I can recommend:     and this one

naoschem_both.gif (23987 bytes) naominus.gif (28250 bytes) naoplus.gif (30827 bytes)

 This next table comes from the NAO site in the UK  (see this URL  and the great Tim Osborn and Phil Jones)The year 2000 has  set a RECORD for the most extreme  values, positive and negative, in a year.  I have been searching the NAO records  dating back to 1900  and have yet to find one year with such "volatility".  Hey... I have to do something between innings when I am watching the World Series!


   + numbers refer to Positive Phase while - values to Neg Phase.
Any value at or over 2.6  EITHER +/- IS CONSIDERED TO BE EXTREME.
--OCT 2000 value is estimated

1997 -1.8 +5.4 +2.1 -1.0 -1.6 -4.5 +0.4 +1.4 -0.7 -2.2 -0.8 -0.0
1998 -0.1 +2.5 +1.3 -0.4 -1.5 -1.4 -1.2 +1.4 -3.6 +1.4 +1.2 +2.1
1999 +1.1 +1.9 -0.7 +0.4 +0.8 +0.8 -2.3 -4.1 -0.6 -0.6 +0.4 +2.3
2000 +0.5 +4.5 +0.6 -3.4 +0.1 +0.3 -3.5 -3.4 -2.2 3.0 est



As you can see there has been an  amazing amount of variability  this year with the NAO as it has reached extreme values ( >2.6 either +/-) and I have not seen any year since 1900 with this much variability in the NAO. It has been argued by some at Lamont Doherty Observatory (where they do a lot of NAO research) that the NAO which has been running with a strong tendency towards the Positive Phase may be about to change.

Looking at our 15 selected Winters I have blocked off the months with values above or below 2.6.  And as you can see there seem to be no months with anything like what we have seen since January  2000 in terms of similar periods and similar phases or a period of such extreme variability. The only years which come close as 1952-5, 1978-79, and 1989-90. I am not sure what  all these extreme values in the NAO mean ...  But I think on it some.



1952 - 1953 0.0 -1.2 2.8 2.8 -0.8 -0.4 -0.9 -3.0 +4.0 -1.6 -0.4 +0.8 +0.5
1953 - 1954 0.5 1.2 -1.6 -0.6 -2.5 0.5 3.5 0.8 +0.7 +3.1 +.01 +0.0 +0.5
1959 - 1960 2.4 1.8 1.5 -2.0 1.7 0.7 0.2 -1.8 +1.5 -0.9 +1.9 -0.8 -1.0
1960 - 1961 -1.0 -0.9 1.9 0.2 -0.1 0.6 -1.6 0.3 -3.0 +1.3 0.4 +1.4 +4.0
1961 - 1962 4.0 2.0 0.7 -0.8 2.4 0.9 3.6 2.0 +1.0 -2.1 -1.8 +2.8 +0.7
1962 - 1963 0.7 -3.8 0.8 0.0 1.6 -1.7 2.5 0.0 -0.4 -2.2 -0.8 -4.2 -2.0
1966 - 1967