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Will We Have Winter This Year?

Read what local climatology statistics tell us about this winter.

Football has started and fall is right around the corner and people are already asking about this winter. Will it be cold, will it snow... will we even have a winter this year? After the non-existent winter last year, any winter would be welcome for me. Some forecasters and meteorologist have started making their winter forecast and so far most are predicting a return to winter this year.  

There is a gentleman in Savannah known as GaWx (he prefers to keep it that way!) that keeps very detailed climate records for Georgia and the southeast. As some of you may know, we are headed toward (or slightly in) a weak El Nino, as opposed to the La Nina that we've been in for the last several years. GaWx compiled some very interesting statistics regarding Atlanta winters during weak El Nino's, and he has given me permission to reprint those here. My comments are italicized. If you like winter... read on!

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"As we move along and get closer, the chances for there being a weak El Nino this fall/winter (ONI peak of +0.5 to +1.0 and five trimonths in a row of +0.5+) continue to increase. The weak El Nino has historically lead to the coldest winters on average by a good margin for KATL and much of the SE of any of the ENSO phases. One additional key is to attain a -NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) for DJF (Dec-Jan-Feb) to go along with it although that isn't 100% necessary as the very cold 1904-5 would indicate. It also helps very much to have a +PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) for DJF, even during a -PDO regime although it seems as if there may be a chicken-egg issue with it (the +PDO may tend to follow from the +PNA pattern bringing the cold). All of the coldest winters had at least a neutral PDO and most had a +PDO. 1968-9 was a pretty rare cold winter, though not one of the coldest, that actually had a -PDO in DJF. Also, the chances of a cold winter seem to be enhanced when El Nino follows La Nina. Well, that would be the case this year, which is quite encouraging for cold chances. 

Weak El Nino winters following La Nina's for KATL (Atlanta in chronological order): 

1) 1904-05 (3rd coldest winter on record; 1" S/IP and 2 major ZR's )
2) 1911-02 (cold winter; 5.2" S/IP and a major ZR )
3) 1939-40 (7th coldest winter on record; 8.3" S/IP and a major ZR )
4) 1951-02 (only warm winter (warmest of 16 weak Nino's by far though 3.9" of S/IP still fell; most -PDO of weak Nino's by good margin and NAO was +)
5) 1963-04 (6th coldest winter on record; 3.6" S/IP )
6) 1968-09 (cold winter; 2.2" S/IP)
7) 1976-07 (COLDEST winter on record; 1.0" S/IP)
9) 2009-10 (I added this one since it was the 9th coldest and most recent cold winter here)

So, a very impressive 4 of the 7 coldest winters were in this little group of 7! By the way, what isn't shown are weak Nino's that didn't follow La Nina. The 2nd, 10th, and 11th coldest winter spots were taken up by those. So, weak El Ninos as a whole took up a very impressive 7 of the 11 coldest spots!! There have been only 16 weak Ninos in the last 133 years, the total length of records for ATL, or about one of every eight winters. So, only about 1-2 of the 11 coldest would be the “expected value” if there were no bias of weak Nino’s toward either warm or cold versus the 7 on the list! To better put this stat in perspective, 2009-10 was the 9th coldest Atlanta winter. 

Regarding S/IP (Snow/Sleet), 25.2" fell for the 7 winters, which is 3.6"/winter or nearly double the long term avg. of ~2"/winter. Regarding ZR (Freezing Rain/Ice) events, there were 4 of them in the 7 listed winters versus only 1 every 4.4 winters overall, or about double the longterm average frequency. 

In summary, ASSUMING WE GET A WEAK NINO PEAK THIS FALL/WINTER (looking increasingly likely), the stats strongly suggest that things are looking up for a very interesting SE winter in 2012-3 (whether it's cold, above normal wintry precipitation, or both), especially since it would be following La Nina . Out of the 7 listed, 6 were cold and 4 were very cold. The only warm one still had major S/IP at KATL (twice the norm). Only one had below normal for both S/IP and ZR and that was the coldest of all time! Although we obviously could still have another boring winter in terms of both temperature's and wintry precipitation, even with a weak Nino following a La Nina, since nothing is set in stone. I'm about as optimistic as I can possibly be in August that that won't occur in 2012-2013 for the SE as a whole. We'll see!"
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Kristi Reed (Editor) August 21, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Ha! You forget there are those of us who don't get to take off just because it snows and, in fact, end up with more work when it does!! I vote NO!
Crystal Huskey (Editor) August 21, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Haha Kristi, so true! Then we just have children with cabin fever running around the house while we work because there's no school!
North Georgia Weather August 21, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I'm sorry, which number are you asking about?
North Georgia Weather August 21, 2012 at 04:38 PM
:-) That's one reason you're so popular! And you can work at home anyway! :-))
North Georgia Weather August 21, 2012 at 04:40 PM
The INI/CPC ENSO outlook has recently been updated. Sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the NINO 3.4 region are currently around +0.5 degrees (C). The forecast calls for a peak of El Niño conditions this fall or winter before trending back towards neutral by spring. Just what we want...
Mitch August 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM
My hand is raised high and frantically waving while singing "Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!" Hey, if stores can already have Halloween stuff out, then I can sing a Christmas song in August! By the way, isn't it time that El Nino and La Nina grow up? I mean, can't we call them El Chico or La Chica by now? I guess when they are El Hombre and La Mujer we are all doomed!?!
Karen August 21, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I hope we have a cold winter. I love to look at snow but will be okay with just cold weather, I missed it last year. I work from home so no snow days for me unless the power is out, but it is sure nice to look out the window at it while working.
North Georgia Weather August 21, 2012 at 06:20 PM
1) 1904-05 (3rd coldest winter on record; 1" S/IP and 2 major ZR's ) Using the first item as an example: After the year is the ranking out of all of Atlanta's winters followed by any snow/ice pellets (S/IP) (like sleet) and/or ice/freezing rain (ZR).
North Georgia Weather August 21, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Over the course of those weak El Nino winters, Atlanta had 25.2" of snow/sleet over those 7 winters, which is 3.6"/winter or nearly DOUBLE the long term average of ~2"/winter.
Jimmy Orr August 21, 2012 at 07:14 PM
First of all, let me say that I don't relish the thought of either ice or snow. However, it "ain't" my call as we need seasonal weather to balance out nature. Thus the need for a cold winter to, as MDG says, kill off the bugs. Matter of fact, due to our mild winter I believe I recall NGW writing that we could expect an influx of ticks. He was right. The first time I was in the woods in early spring a tick bit me behind my ear lobe. Was able to extract the little devil before he burrowed beneath the skin. Thumbing through the 2013 Farmer's Almanac it seems that we will have a cold winter in the Southeast. I remember back in the 50's when coon hunting in November or rabbit hunting on Thanksgiving Day, you would freeze your bippy off. I leave weather forecasting up to the experts like NGW. All I know about the weather is you are suppose to play baseball when it's hot and football when it's cold.
Jimmy Orr August 21, 2012 at 07:49 PM
@Sharon, delighted you mentioned cell phones. This gives me an opportunity to sahre with those that use a cell phone as their primary source of telecommunications that it is imperative to have a car adapter to charge your cell phone with. That way if you lose power, you can go outside or into your garage (raise the garage door first) crank up yor vehicle and charge up your cell phone. Although I have a cell phone, the main reason that I continue to maintain my land line service with AT&T is that if I lose power, I still have telecommunications with the "outside" world. My AT&T land land derives its power from within the central office (switch) and will function even when I lose power. There is one winkle though. If you use coredless phones, forget it. If you lose power, the base unit for your cordless phones associated with your land line will not work. You must have a telephone set that is "hard wired' to your land line circuit. I do not know if land line service provided via CATV will continue to function or not if you lose power but as I surmise Sharon is saying, when you are apprised of impending inclement weather, be prepared.
Cynthia Montgomery August 22, 2012 at 01:17 AM
A COLD WINTERY SEASON is a winter wonderland for a photo bug like myself! I tire of having to get up at 6pm to get my winter wonderland shots before the sun comes out and MELTS it all away before noon. Right of the bat let me say to all the new northern and midwest transplants that if we have even an 2 inch forecast PLAY ALONG! We all take off, run to the stores to by ice cream, bread eggs, and raid the RED BOX and settle in for some family fun time off of work and school. YES, we can drive in the snow but WHY1 It is winter in the south and that means fun for all and all for fun! It is OUR SECRET!!!
Jerry August 22, 2012 at 01:56 AM
I know what you mean. I also tire of having to get up at 6pm. But if I don't, the soup kitchen closes and I'm out of luck for dinner. Been this way since Obama got elected.
Cynthia Montgomery August 22, 2012 at 05:09 AM
TRUE THAT Jerry!
Melodie Davis August 22, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Had to read the article twice+. Guess I need to learn weathermans' lingo, lol I think he said it will be cold...
North Georgia Weather August 22, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Yes, to put it simply... The setup that we are about to enter this fall and winter means that we are extremely likely to have a very cold winter and potentially TWICE the normal snowfall depth that we would have on average. 7 of the last 11 scenarios like this one have been cold to very cold with 4 of those in the top ten coldest ever here.
North Georgia Weather October 05, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Added an update to the top of the original post. Good stuff.
North Georgia Weather October 05, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Oh... much colder for early next week too. Maybe 15 degrees below normal which is currently around 77/52 degrees. There maybe some frost on the pumpkin! We need a record low for the month... see the original blog post for the update!
North Georgia Weather October 05, 2012 at 12:50 PM
The cold advection is impressive with this next system for this time of the year, with 0º at 850mb (roughly 5000 feet) reaching all the way to northern Arkansas and northern Tennessee by Sunday…for October, that's record territory, especially so early in the month. The lows on Sunday morning could be in the 30′s for the Tennessee Valley and possibly around 40 for parts of Georgia and the Piedmont of the Carolina's by Monday morning.
North Georgia Weather October 05, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Accuweather's winter snow forecast... hint... don't look if you hate snow. :-) http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/winter-forecast-snow-northeast-nyc/80787
North Georgia Weather October 05, 2012 at 04:20 PM
A very good analysis of how the ENSO effects winter across the US. http://ionlyusethegfs.blogspot.com/2012/09/why-are-winter-outlooks-for-el-nino-so.html?showComment=1349453918362#c5376144679147605252
North Georgia Weather October 08, 2012 at 02:27 PM
UPDATE... /ISSUED AT 611 AM EDT MON OCT 8 2012/ THE WEDGE OF COOL AIR WILL HOLD TEMPERATURES DOWN TO NEAR RECORD LOW HIGHS ACROSS PARTS OF NE GA TODAY. IF THE CURRENT FORECASTED HIGH OF 58 DEGREES AT ATHENS OCCURS TODAY... IT WOULD TIE THE RECORD LOW HIGH TEMPERATURE THERE. CLIMATE... RECORDS FOR 10-08 MAX TEMPERATURE MIN TEMPERATURE STATION HIGH LOW HIGH LOW ------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- KAHN 92 2007 58 2000 72 1936 35 1935 1941 KATL 90 1941 56 2000 72 1884 36 1935 KCSG 91 1990 61 2000 72 1982 40 1991 KMCN 93 1941 64 1952 73 1936 34 1991
Rick johnson October 29, 2012 at 07:03 PM
If I am reading this right, you expect more snow in the norcross georgia area this year?
North Georgia Weather November 17, 2012 at 10:34 AM
Follow up from my buddy Larry... things weren't looking great for a while but have recently changed. "Weak Nino winters have been the coldest on average by a wide margin for much of the E US and especially for the SE US (an incredible 7 of 11 coldest Atlanta winters were during weak Ninos such as 1976-7 and 1977-8) ...colder than neutral positive on average (which is actually close to normal). The weak Ninos that followed Ninas have been especially cold on average. So, if we get a -NAO/-AO and a +PDO, look out below! Even if we don't get the +PDO but do get the -NAO, cold prospects would still be good. Just not as good chance wise and intensity wise. Look at it this way. If you tell me that there's going to be a -NAO/-AO and +PDO, that's quite good for cold prospects (as one might expect) for the E US absent a really strong Nina or Nino. Now, if you then say there's a weak Nino to go along with the -NAO/-AO and +PDO, that's even better. If you then say that this weak Nino just followed a Nina and there still is the -NAO/-AO and +PDO, that's the best combo to have for the best chance at a cold winter and even possibly a historically cold one in parts of the eastern US (examples: 1976-7, 1939-40, and 1904-5). That's like 7-7-7 on a slot machine for cold winters. ... continued
North Georgia Weather November 17, 2012 at 10:35 AM
... continued "So, for the purpose of establishing the probablity of what kind of winter we'll have, it really is worth following and this is the thread for it. This is just like when people speculate on whether the NAO, AO, and PDO will be - or + and also with what magnitude. Furthermore, the recent warming has been VERY impressive and, therefore, worthy of discussion since it could very well make a significant difference for the upcoming winter. This is about as impressive a warming as has been seen within a week's time during oncoming Ninos of any strength. Very much newsworthy for ENSO geeks!"
North Georgia Weather November 17, 2012 at 10:40 AM
Here are the Nino graphs. http://www.daculaweather.com/4_nino_graphs.php
North Georgia Weather November 18, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Another Larry update: "Folks, Eyeballing the latest map's anomalies for 3.4 (for 11/16), I see some cooling back vs. yesterday's +1.50. However, I'm roughly estimating that it is still up at ~+1.30-5. Based on Harry's SV #'s, my estimates for today and Sunday 11/11, and my guess that tomorrow will be a little cooler than today (say ~+1.15), I'm estimating that StormVista's weekly average for 11-17 will be ~+1.10 to 1.15. Assuming that the released NOAA 3.4 weekly will be a little below that (based on precedent), I'm thinking that Monday's 3.4 release may be as warm as +1.0! IF that were to occur, it would mean a warming of 0.6 in just one week from +0.4, which would be a larger weekly warming than that for any that occurred during the seven oncoming Ninos between 1991 and 2009 and it would tie for the strongest weekly warming of ANY week since records began in1990! The current largest is 0.5. At the very least, I'd think it would be 0.8 and likely at least 0.9. Even just a +0.8 would be a big game changer for Nino chances compared to how it looked only one week ago. That would mean that only an average of +0.7 would be needed for the subsequent two Monday reports to get the weekies to average +0.5 for SON and keep the +0.5+ streak going at four trimonths in a row with Dec. still to go to see what the fifth trimonth does." ...continued
North Georgia Weather November 18, 2012 at 01:08 AM
...continued " If Monday's weekly turns out to be a +1.0, it would be the warmest week of the year to date, the warmest week since 3/24/2010, warmer than ANY week of the 2004-5 weak Nino, only 0.1 cooler than the same weeks both in 1994 (oncoming moderate Nino) and 1991(oncoming strong Nino), and only 0.2 cooler than the same week in 2006 (oncoming borderline moderate/weak Nino). So, if Monday's release were to be +1.0, I'd probably raise the odds for a Nino to at least 60%. As it stands now, I'm already raising it from 40% to 50%. This week has represented such a huge move toward a Nino."
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew November 18, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Jeez I haven't seen this many Xs, Os and #s since I was at an AMWAY presentation... I'm going back to RF design now, its easier to follow... (shaking head in awe of those who really can follow this) Summary take away sheet: Snow fun if stocked up on milk, bread and the beverage of your choice and you don't drive with fellow Georgians on roadways. Note to neighbors out there, don't park your car on the street before the storm hits, other drivers like to bounce off them when the brakes stop working ...
Racer X November 18, 2012 at 01:23 PM
NGW- I don't need any weather charts to forecast our Winter. The election results mean this Winter will be cold and dreary as we watch our Country's future go down the tubes and our real workers become little more than slaves to the government and it's dependent population.

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