WINTER FORECAST 2000-01
CLICK HERE TO SEE SUMMER 2000 FORECAST
"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 seasons 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:
METEOROLOGICAL REASONING (Such as it is...)
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 ftp://www.coaps.fsu.edu/pub/JMA_SST_Index/jmasst1868-today.filter-5 ).
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?
HISTORICAL RECORD OF ENSO REGION 3.4 1950-2000
|JFM||AMJ||JAS||OND||TV= Tennesse Valley GL= Great lakes
MA Mid Atlantic DS =Deep South
NE= Northeast NG = New England
|1952||Mild winter Central & eastern US|
|1953||W-||W-||Mild winter Central & eastern US|
|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|
|1966||W||W-||W-||Cold & snowy everywhere especially in Eastern US|
|1967||Cold & snowy everywhere|
|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|
|1985||C-||C-||Below Normal Snow & above Ave. temps Eastern US; Ave. snow/temps Central US|
|1989||C+||C-||Mild & much below normal snow central & Eastern US|
|1996||C-||Mild & dry eastern US severe winter GL and Plains regions|
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).
WINTER SEASONS WITH NEUTRAL SSTs in Equatorial Pacific
|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
This next table comes from the NAO site in the UK (see this URL http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/~timo/projpages/nao_update.htm 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!
MONTHLY NAO FROM JAN 1997 TO PRESENT
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.
TABLE OF NAO PHASES REGARDING 15 SELECTED WINTERS ( neutral SSTs Winters)
|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|