As we push toward December, and the unofficial start of the winter season, the most common question right now is, “What does this winter look like?” Each year we try to answer that question with our ‘HVW Winter Outlook’. Our winter outlook is compiled by doing extensive research on a variety of atmospheric and oceanic factors that have been shown to influence our weather patterns. These trends, teleconnections, and indicators can give us some insight into the possible weather patterns for the upcoming winter season. We’ve compared our current and projected indicators for the 2020-2021 winter, to all the winters since 1960. We’ve identified several years where the patterns and trends look very similar to our current year, and use those analogs for our winter outlook. Using that data, lets take a look at what we expect for the coming winter season.
Winter Temperatures : Near Average (-1.0° to +1.0° vs. Average)
Winter temperatures are likely to be near normal across the Hudson Valley and northeast. A moderate La Nina has set set up in the tropical Pacific Ocean. This, combined with the overall sea surface temperatures (SSTs) suggest that we will see a winter with the potential to have several fluctuations between warm and cold patterns. Historically, winters with a similar SST pattern have turned out colder than normal, so the potential for a colder than average winter is certainly there. However, winters in recent years have been trending more mild, so we also factored that into our projection. Based off our analogs, December is likely to be colder than average, followed by a milder January and first half of February, before colder than average temperatures return for the back end of February on into March.
Winter Snowfall : Near to Above Average (100% – 133% of Average) 42″ to 56″
Based on the analog years we have identified, we come up with the map shown above, which indicates above average snowfall for the Hudson Valley. However, snowfall can be quite unpredictable. A difference of 50 to 100 miles in the track of 2 or 3 coastal storms, can make or break your season in terms of snowfall. So to account for the randomization of ‘luck’ with regard to winter storms and snowfall… we’re projecting anywhere from near average snowfall to above average snowfall… or 100% to 133% of average. Since 1991, the average annual snowfall in Poughkeepsie is 42.8″, so that would me anywhere from 42″ to 56″ of snow in the Poughkeepsie area. We’ll have to see if this year follows the expectations from the analogs more closely than recent years.
Methodology / Discussion
In previous years, we’ve spent considerable time digging into the methodology behind our winter outlook. If you have viewed any of our previous outlooks, you have a good starting point for how we utilize Sea Surface Temperatures SSTs to infer their likely influence on weather patterns for the coming winter season. You also know that we get quite technical in these discussions. In the interest of saving time, this year we’re going to have a more direct approach. But if you wish to review last year’s outlook for full context of how we develop the winter outlook, please check out the 19-20 HVW Winter Outlook. If you’re a casual viewer, you may want to skip the in depth analysis… the choice is entirely yours.
Otherwise, lets start by looking at the actual SSTs.
This map represents the entire globe’s SSTs compared to average. The blues and greens are waters that are much cooler than average… while orange and red are ocean waters much warmer than average. We have placed an A, B and C over three (3) areas that we like to focus on.
A – Northeast Pacific , B – Tropical Pacific (la nina), C – NW Atlantic Ocean
These three areas all go a long way into helping determine the general jet stream pattern is likely to unfold. The quick rationale is SSTs influence the air above. The air above either rises or falls depending on whether it’s become more or less dense due to the influence of the ocean water below. Those pressure changes then influence upper air patterns, and in effect determine our weather patterns through the winter.
So we’ve seen the actual SSTs… what does the CFSv2 computer model forecast look like for the winter…
Notice the similar pattern of SSTs between the actual SSTs and the computer model projected SSTs for the winter. So if we want to try and predict what the coming winter might hold, we need to locate winters that had similar SST patterns to what we have, and what is projected. Here is what we came up with.
Notice the pattern setup when we combine our analog years, looks very similar to the actual and projected SSTs for this winter. The analog winters that combine to give us the SST patterns you see here, are:
1995-1996 , 1996-1997 , 2005-2006 , 2013-2014 , 2017-2018
These analog years then combine to give us the winter outlook temperature projection and snowfall projection seen at the beginning of the outlook.
Active Tropics : NW Atlantic Ocean
By now, everyone probably remembers that we’ve had a record active Atlantic Hurricane season. The number of named storms has reached 30… with 13 hurricanes, and 6 of those becoming major hurricanes. In trying to pinpoint trends to analyze for the winter outlook, we like to utilize the tropics as much as possible, and have found an interesting trend…
This graphic shows Atlantic Ocean ACE (accumulated cyclonic energy) for the hurricane season, for every year from 1851 to 2020. ACE is effectively a measurement of the total energy output of a tropical system. While the number of storms is important… a more detailed measurement is the combined strength of those storms. An average hurricane season sees an ACE index of around 100. This year, we’ve seen North Atlantic Ocean ACE of around 178, which is well above average. However, if you look at the right side of the graphic, you’ll see the years with ACE over 150… the most active seasons on record. One thing that jumps out to us, is that 3 of the 4 most active seasons since 1950 are:
– 2005, 1995, and 2017… 2020 ranks roughly 8th.
What’s the big deal? of the 5 winters we identified using the Sea Surface Temperature (SST) method… 2005-2006, 1995-1996, and 2017-2018 are three of those winters! So we have strong overlap between the hyper active tropical seasons and the SST pattern that is in place. This simply helps strengthen our winter outlook confidence. When we can look at 2 separate data sets, that compare 2020 to historical trends… and those two different data sets notice the same years being similar… we feel confident that we have a strong analog set for our winter outlook.
Month By Month
When we use the analog data from the 5 winters we’ve identified, here are the monthly temperatures compared to average that result.
The winters suggest that December starts off colder than recent years, with early chances at winter weather events. January remains near average, with slight moderation, but still a similar trend to what we see in December. February would appear likely to be the mildest month of winter, with some ridging in the eastern US trying to pull warmer air into the HV and northeast. But March looks to try and close out the winter in cold and stormy fashion. We’ll have to see if these historical monthly trends continue for the 2020-2021 winter.
Forecasting or projecting 3 to 5 months into the future is a serious challenge. In fact, there are so many variables… the winter outlook becomes a forecast based on a forecast. We assume certain conditions for SSTs, in anticipation that the maps shown earlier will be correct. If certain areas of the ocean are notably warmer or colder than projected… the resulting forecast will be incorrect as well. We’ve seen this several times in the past few years. Where we put together the winter outlook, only to see areas of the ocean be much cooler than expected… and the result was actual temperatures that were much warmer than we anticipated. So while the outlook is based in science, it’s still subject to considerable error. We look forward to seeing if our ideas for this winter begin to unfold as expected, or if we start to see some extra curveballs thrown our way. Either way, we hope you’ll be here with us… along for the ride… as we begin the month of December and unofficial winter season. We thank you tremendously… for all your continued support of HVW. You are what makes the HVW community so much fun to be a part of. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy! “Keep calm, and weather on…”
-Bill & Alex-
Clouds have been surprisingly stubborn and spoiled Friday’s weather and continue to be a drag this morning. Clearing skies will make their late entrance by this afternoon and evening as high pressure gets its grip on the region, so what should of been three days of decent weather will be only about a day and a half with tomorrow looking like the best day in the last several days with wall to wall sunshine. Unfortunately short lived, a powerful storm system will be passing to our west to start the work week with heavy rainfall and gusty winds impacting the region. The southerly flow on the eastern side of this system will pump warm moist air into the region, with enough instability developing for a few embedded thunderstorms to develop, as the storm passes early Tuesday, colder air will wrap into the region with some wet snow flakes possible across the highest peaks of the Catskills. We will further detail the impacts of this system later today.
Early on Monday we saw the cold front push through, and temps tumbled into the 40s behind it. Now we’ve got a trough over the eastern US that will exit the region just as quickly as it arrived. Before it leaves, it will serve as a reminder of potential changes coming down the pike.
One more day of NW winds will keep the chill locked into the Hudson Valley and northeast. That wind shifts Tuesday night, and by Wednesday we’re watching temps climb back into the low 50s for highs by the tail end of the week. Our next chance of rain comes on Wednesday night and Thursday, as a weak frontal system approaches from the west. It doesn’t appear to be a washout, but it will give us a chance of showers early on Thursday, so make sure you plan for that potential.
We hope everyone has a wonderful Tuesday.
Early morning showers will taper off as a cold front pushes through the Hudson Valley from west to east. By mid morning, much of the region should be drying out, and find the mild showers replaced with blustery NW winds…
Early temperatures will be in the low 50s for the Hudson Valley (40s in the Catskills). That will be as warm as it gets on Monday, as the cold front causes the temperatures to tumble into the 40s around the region (30s in the Catskills). The day will be markedly chillier in the afternoon than in the morning. So make sure you’re not caught off guard by the mild morning… and are dressed properly for the afternoon.
Tuesday looks similar in many ways to the conditions we expect to see Monday afternoon. A trough over the eastern US won’t last long… but while it does, we expect colder than average conditions in the region. Highs on Tuesday will struggle into the low 40s, which is about 5 degrees below average for this time of the year. But beginning on Wednesday, the winds will shift around to the east/southeast… and that should allow temperatures to begin to moderate once more by mid week. Right now, it looks like our next round of rain showers will be on Thursday, as another system pushes into the Hudson Valley. We’ll monitor the conditions as we go… but the good news is that the weather shouldn’t be a major issue for Hudson Valley residents this week. We’ll continue to track a potential pattern change as we head into December. But for now… we hope your week gets off to a good start.
An approaching storm system from the Ohio Valley will push clouds into the region early on Sunday, and give us a chilly and damp end to the weekend.
Futurecast Radar : Sunday 6am to 7pm
The front edge of the moisture likely reaches the Hudson Valley and Catskills between 9am and 12pm. It could be cold enough at that point so the moisture falls in the form of wet snow and sleet… especially in the Catskills. Temps will be above freezing, so we don’t expect any issues… but if you see some wet snow flakes or sleet pellets late Sunday morning, don’t be surprised.
As we move through the afternoon, the chance for patchy drizzle and spot showers will increase. You can see on the futurecast, that the main area of moisture is over western PA, but there is patchy moisture out ahead of the cold front, that will likely lead to areas of drizzle and spot showers. It won’t be until after dark that the main area of precipitation arrives… which will give us a soggy Sunday night around the Hudson Valley.
Futurecast Radar : Sunday 8pm through 12pm Monday
Temperatures will start out in the 30s on Sunday… and hold there for much of the morning and into the afternoon hours, before temps slowly rise Sunday night into the low 50s. The front pushes through early Monday morning, and that will bring an end to the showers Monday morning. Behind the front, temps will tumble back into the 40s, and a blustery NW wind will restore the chill to the Hudson Valley for Monday afternoon.
Have a great Sunday everyone, we hope you enjoy the day!
We’re at the point in the season where the seasons battle each other repeatedly. The clashing air masses leads to a wide variety of weather, and in some cases, we see severe weather like we saw on Sunday evening. Now that the mild air mass has been pushed out of the region, strong NW winds have been ushering in more seasonable air into the region….
In the morning on Tuesday, with a strong WNW wind, it’s possible that scattered wet snow showers and flurries make their way all the way to the valley areas. With afternoon wind chills projected above in the upper 30s and low 40s, conditions will feel very much like winter around the valley. So don’t be surprised if we see a few snow flakes around the region…. mixed with rain near the Hudson Valley.
The cold will hold on for the next few days, with highs on Wednesday not climbing out of the 30s. The winds will slowly shift around to the South by the end of the week, which sets up a milder weekend around the region, with highs in the mid to upper 50s expected. For now, bundle up and enjoy your Tuesday.
On Sunday, we saw what the clashing of seasons is capable of. A sharp cold front pushing into a mild air mass, generated strong, locally damaging wind gusts. We even tracked a likely tornado across eastern Putnam County, into Connecticut. With the front now passed east of the region, we’ll see a more blustery feel to our Monday around the Hudson Valley.
Sunshine and blustery winds will be with us through the day. Highs will struggle into the mid and upper 40s. Winds at 10 to 15mph, will make it feel like the 30s for much of the day. The chilly conditions will be with us through the start of the week, as chilly air invades the northeast. Winds will shift as we reach the end of the week, and we should see temps moderate a bit by the weekend. But after a very warm start to the month of November… a chilly week likely lies ahead.
Have a great start to your week!
Radar Loop : 1pm to 2pm Sunday
You can see on the radar loop, that the shower activity we’ve been waiting for, is approaching the region from the west. The first round of showers should arrive between 3pm and 6pm from west to east. Showers during that time should be rather light and spotty. The line of showers furthest west near Pittsburgh is the line that we’re anticipating to strengthen this afternoon, and bring a chance of downpours, possibly some rumbles of thunder, and strong wind gusts. The timing looks to be between 6pm and 9pm from west to east across the Hudson Valley… so we will keep our eyes on this as we go through the afternoon.