Don Paul

Brief Cooldown, Another Warmup, Another Cooldown…and so on

May 12th, 2015 at 10:38 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

As of this posting–Tuesday night, May 12–we are in the midst of a fairly sharp cooldown from the sultry conditions we had for several consecutive days,  including the 88 degree record highs last Friday and Saturday. There will probably be some patchy inland frost and even some light freeze conditions  Wednesday night, with the freeze confined to areas Well S & SE.  But another gradual warmup will return by Friday into next Monday, followed by another cooldown (probably not quite as sharp as this cooldown). In other words, ups and downs. The downs will tend to be of shorter duration than the ups, and the next few ups do not currently appear to be quite so warm as what occurred late last week and this past weekend.

Until Tuesday of this week, May had been a Much Warmer than average month, with well below average rainfall. The extended range computer guidance suggests after another strong ridge develops Sunday into Monday ahead of the next cold front, the amplitude of the coming ups and downs will be a little flatter over the next couple of weeks. Part of that flatter tendency shows up because what we call ensembles of computer models (many runs of the same model, but each with slightly different initial conditions in each run because we can never “know” the precise initial condition of the atmosphere) tend to smooth the many individual runs of each model into a lower amplitude mean solution. (i.e., the European model ensemble–the most sophisticated of any global model–has 51 runs, compared to 21 runs for the American and Canadian model ensembles…much more supercomputer crunch power.)

Still, if I were a gambling man, I’d bet May will end up warmer than average, as was April. But we may not have as long a stretch of warm days as we had during the first 11 days of May.

El Nino conditions continue, currently showing characteristics of a Moderate el nino. One longer range US model and its ensemble projects a Strong el nino to develop by June-July and into the autumn and early winter. There are a number of meteorological pundits who have been trumpeting that a strong el nino tends to produce a cooler and wetter than average summer in the NE. Yet when I scour the data and climate records, I find only weaker evidence to support this–especially the wetter part. We do know that a moderate to strong el nino tends to disrupt the development of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic. Some experimental longer range models do suggest periods of cooler weather for parts of June and July, along with warmer periods. In other words, more ups and downs. El nino’s main effects are in the cold weather months,  and not nearly so much in the warm weather months.

Not Summery just yet, but some Genuine Improvement is unfolding.

April 27th, 2015 at 10:33 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

Bottom line, if you don’t want to wade through all the esoteric stuff below is this: After a chilly Monday April 27, temperatures will be more seasonable and occasionally warmer than average this week and next week. Cloud cover and precipitation chances are much more uncertain later this week and early next week. But the overall pattern seems to be evolving to one in which colder Canadian air will tend to stay farther north most of the time. Now the esoteric stuff for my fellow weather nerds, and for courageous folks who want to try wading into a semi-technical discussion with model acronyms and the like.

In general, a far from foolproof pattern is in the works for this week, especially later on in the week, as far as cloud cover and minor precipitation goes. Models show fairly poor agreement on seemingly minor features in our region. The operational GFS is hypersensitive to spotty light rainfall in recent runs, and is pessimistic to that extent. The ECMWF has its problematical periods as well, but is not as pessimistic overall as is the GFS, nor is the GEM.

All those smaller uncertainties aside, there is decent agreement of seasonable temperatures (average high is now 60 as of the 27th) and occasionally above average temperatures holding sway most of the time into next week. We’re not yet looking at a return to mid and upper 70s in the near future. But there should be highs of 60 or higher most days, once you get away from the cooler lakeshores. There may be some days where upper 60s could be reached. Cold fronts will usher in only Pacific air with the arctic connection now lost. Ensemble means are showing less persistent ridging in the Canadian west, and less troughing near the Great Lakes, out to 16 days.

In the longer term, the ECMWF 32 day ensemble mean still has some ups and downs, but fewer downs in today’s run than in last week’s runs. The CFS v2 also has more ups than downs.

El Nino showed more strengthening this past week. For the first time this year, key Nino region 3.4 reached a positive anomaly of 1.0 degrees. If the anomaly held at 1.0 over an extended period, what has been classified as weak el nino conditions would be considered moderate conditions. 6 of 24 dynamic and statistical ENSO models now project several months of strong el nino conditions later in the summer. The CFS is the most robust, keep a strong el nino through late summer into the winter, though some weakening increases late in the year. Based on SSTs and near sfc temps (0-300 meters), the structure of the warming does not seem tied so much to the downwelling/warm phase of a Kelvin wave. Wind anomalies seem to be playing more of a role, and Kelvin waves less at this particular time, although the feedback mechanisms into these directional wind anomalies is another topic for another day.

As many of you know, a moderate to strong el nino would increase wind shear over the Atlantic hurricane basin and lessen hurricane probabilities (while east Pacific conditions would be more favorable for hurricanes). A strong el nino has been associated with milder than average temperatures during the late fall and winter in our region, and would likely increase the chances for strong Pacific storms to move into California and the west at that time.

This continues to be VERY speculative on my part, since verification of ENSO phases that far out in time often does not work out well. Please keep that in mind.

“Disappointing” Pattern is One Way to Put It….

April 16th, 2015 at 7:06 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

After a 78 degree Monday and a 71 degree Thursday this week, the pattern which will be evolving by April 21 will be disappointing to most folks, and I say that with no empirical data to support the use of that word. A fairly deep upper level low will be crossing the northern Great Lakes and Ontario bringing progressively cooler temperatures from Tuesday through the remainder of next week. Daytime high temperatures will be running below average, though nighttime cloud cover should keep overnight lows from running too far below average. The W to NW flow will produce some instability showers most days next week behind a cold front, following more numerous showers & a few possible Tshowers ahead of that front Sunday night into Monday. Daytime heating with colder air aloft will make the most favored time for spotty showers during the afternoon Tuesday likely into Friday. We’re not heading into unprecedented chill. It’s more a matter of thermal backsliding with warming and drying redeveloping with a western ridge in the US and cooling over the Great Lakes with a trough redeveloping in the Great Lakes. The pattern will tend to relax somewhat by the end of April.

Still, the mechanisms which have led to the persistent redevelopment of this western ridge/eastern trough have not magically dissipated. Researcher Dr. Judah Cohen and his colleagues in Cambridge MA are somewhat pessimistic about the mid-spring period in much of eastern North America due to this persistence. I’m not quite so pessimistic as these learned scholars are. For the time being, though, the rebuilding of a warm eastern ridge is not showing in the extended range models over the period from April 19th into early May, so we’ll leave it at that and hold off on undue pessimism unless and until I see more evidence than just persistence.

On the matter of el nino, weak el nino conditions persist. A weak el nino in the mid spring and summer is not known by itself as a major contributor to weather patterns in our part of the country. Most models which predict ENSO/El Nino Southern Oscillation trends favor el nino lasting through most or all of the year. One US  model, the Climate Forecast System, more aggressively is tending to show strengthening of el nino to moderate or possibly even strong amplitude by later this summer into the autumn, before weakening toward the tail end of the year and early next year. Depending on the future location of such a warm pool of tropical waters–central vs eastern Pacific equatorial waters–a strong el nino MAY bring a stormier pattern to the Pacific coast and the west, with desperately needed rains (although such storms can also be destructive in parts of CA). MAY is the key word here. And, a stronger el nino might also portend a milder winter in our part of the country than we’ve experienced during the last 2 winters. I want to make it clear that what I’ve written here is highly speculative at best. The prediction of ENSO state more than a few months in advance does not have the best track record even for experts in the field.

I’ll keep you updated, natch.

Ups and Downs over the Next 2 Weeks…but the Downs are Shallower

April 6th, 2015 at 9:47 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

Spring is still unlikely to to produce a genuinely long string of sunny & warm days around here–it seldom does this early in the season. However, conditions will favor seasonable to occasionally above average temperatures much of the time over the next 14-16 days. At the time of this posting, though, a chilly couple of days will be setting up, but a deeper low pressure system will pump up some warmer temperatures Thursday and at least part of Friday along with some showers & possible Tstorms. The low may send some stronger storms toward parts of the Great Lakes after visiting the midwest by later Thursday into Friday AM. A cold front crossing our region late this week will usher in somewhat cooler but dry conditions for the weekend which will also mean abundant sunshine both weekend days. Later in the 8-14 day period, ensemble means are pointing to some troughing returning to the Great Lakes, allowing temps to drop a little below average. Some ridging over the SE will be flattened down for a while, which makes truly warm temps during that period unlikely to show up. On the whole, still undetermined tracks and intensities of short waves will have more to do with our weather than any high amplitude pattern.

El Nino remains weak, but has shown some modest strengthening in recent weeks. Nino region 3.4 now shows a +.7 degree anomaly and the eastern Pacific regions have warmed as well. Some of this has been due to a downwelling Kevin wave, but not all of it. The MJO had been very active and propagating eastward. It’s expected to weaken in week 2 and have less influence in general.

Temperatures Will be Chillier than Average during Most–but Not All–of the next 2 weeks.

March 16th, 2015 at 10:35 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

The long-advertised chillier pattern will be in place from Tuesday the 17th through that late part of the month. But there are going to be some ups and downs within the overall mean pattern, rather than a steady-state chilly pattern day after day. By late this week, high temps should be closer to average (low 40s) for a day or 2 and then take another sharp downward trend  next weekend by later Saturday into Sunday. There will be several days in which even the high temperature stays below freezing. In the mean, there will be more days when the high temperature passes the 32 degree mark. With that in mind, a slow melt should continue on streams, creeks and in the shrinking snowpack. This kind of pattern may continue to reduce the risk of major ice jam flooding, but there can be “no guarantees” on that.

No major storms are currently indicated in the next week for our vicinity. No one should assume we are through with measurable or even significant snow. It is simply too soon for such expectations, and with a colder than average pattern odds of a true snow drought lasting through most of the month are not all that favorable. And on the other hand, on the day of this posting (Monday the 16th) nearby Cleveland and Pittsburgh both passed the 60 degree mark. So any low pressure system could be–albeit briefly–capable of pumping unseasonably mild air for a day. So, “all is not lost”.

There’s No Turning Back to Frigid, but our Moderation will have Ups and Downs

March 9th, 2015 at 10:20 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

As I mentioned last Friday the 6th, we are done with subzero readings, following a new record low and the 12th subzero low of the winter (the 3rd most subzero total days of any winter going back to 1871). Our temperatures will run a bit above average inland from Lake Erie for a few days this week, before cooler and more unsettled conditions arrive for the St Patty’s parade(s). This modest moderation will continue to shelter us from poor drainage flooding or any threat of ice jamming, unless we were to receive unexpectedly heavy rain this coming Saturday. Temperatures may be just cool enough to allow a bit of a mix to accompany the more widespread periods of rain on Saturday, and the occasional showers or drizzle on Sunday. Neither the First Ward nor the Delaware Avenue parades will be basking in sunshine and mild temperatures, but readings should be tolerably cool/chilly without raising the risk of frostbite which has occurred in some parades in the past. As of this posting, Saturday looks wetter than Sunday, but neither day will win any awards. Readings will again moderate on Monday.

However, by the 17th, there are signs a ridge of high pressure will redevelop over western North America, forcing the polar jet stream to go around it over NW Canada where this jet will tap into some modified arctic air, delivering it to the Great Lakes. This means temperatures will again be headed solidly below the average high closer to 40 or 41 at that time. Again, we won’t be returning to a true polar blast for our region but it does currently appear our temperatures will be running more than a couple of degrees below average. Even that colder trend will have some ups and downs within it. In the mean, though, it looks like our daytime highs will be below average most of the time from the 17th through at least the 24th or 25th. At least it can be said this type of pattern will keep the risk of ice jam flooding low.

Some Cold Weather to Come, but “Less Cold”…Come Mid-March, the Pattern Gets Milder

March 2nd, 2015 at 10:01 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

The extreme pattern which dominated February isn’t going to be so extreme through March 12th or so. However, temperatures will still be below average for this time of the year most days (as of this posting, the average high is 37). The huge western ridge of warm high pressure over the west will slowly flatten out and the polar jet stream which has to go around it will lose its true polar connection. That will allow arctic air masses the chance to moderate a little before they drop down into the Great Lakes, rather than drop down our way staight from northern Siberia and the North Pole. This western ridge will retreat more into the NE Pacific, and the long dip in the polar jet stream over the east will lose some of its definition as well. Within this partial relaxation of the pattern, there will be ups and downs, with quick hits of arctic air (such as on Thursday the 5th), followed by partial recovery to near normal temperatures–but still a little below.

Right around the 14th and 15th, all 3 of the extended range tools we use to predict the overall North American temperature pattern agree the pattern will shift to a more West-to-East flow, instead of NW to SE. The kind of flow keep the true arctic air up in its “zone” to the north and allows milder Pacific air to cross the lower 48 more frequently. As you might imagine, a Pacific flow is considerably milder than a polar or arctic flow.

I’m not saying that at that point we’ll be done with winter and the threat of wintry weather. What I am saying is that the extremes in temperatures as far as truly bitter blasts will become much less likely. As in the previous thread, the more gradual this pattern change is, the better off we’ll be. There is thick ice on all streams and creeks and a huge amount of water stored in our deep snow cover. A sudden, strong thaw would virtually guarantee more serious flood potential, both from ice jams and from snowmelt. Nature will deal out what it deals out regardless of what we “wish” for. All we can do is hope the moderation is gentler than it’s been in years past.

February is a Done Deal–Historically FRIGID. March will Gradually Become “Less Harsh”

February 23rd, 2015 at 9:36 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

“Less harsh” does not equate to “mild,” for starters. However, after what could still turn out to be the coldest month in Buffalo record-keeping history (not just coldest February), a trend toward “less harsh” will be noticeable, if not exactly cause for wild celebration.  During February (and for a large part of January), the Polar branch of the jet stream has been riding far north into the Arctic around a warm ridge of high pressure dominating the western states all the way up into Alaska. At the top of that climb north, the jet stream was grabbing onto polar air masses which have their origin in northern Siberia, and then dumping those air masses around parts of the–yes, it exists, Virginia–polar vortex into the Great Lakes and the NE, along with parts of the midwest.

Extended range computer guidance continues to show this strong warm ridge retreating mainly offshore to the Gulf of Alaska and the Aleutians. When that happens, the direct cross polar flow we’ve been receiving will be moderated by some Pacific air blending with the polar air. That would mean, on average, much less chance of the kinds of extremes we’ve suffered during this extraordinary month. That would NOT mean, however, a complete flip-flop to a more springlike pattern. However appealing the latter may sound, a sudden, extensive thaw would almost certainly produce a serious flooding potential from snowmelt and ice jams. While our wishes don’t matter in the least as to how the atmosphere behaves, we will be much better off with a more gradual pattern transition toward more seasonable temperatures (the average high on February 23 is 35).  It will not be a smooth ride. As we get closer to March, it appears in the guidance there will be ups and downs, with temperatures still running below average much of the time out to around March 9-10…just not so MUCH below average. This evolution in the pattern also doesn’t clear us from the threat of any snowstorms. We’re nowhere near that time of year, especially not this winter.

But it probably means fewer dead batteries, a little less misery for outdoor workers, and a little less fuel being burned to heat your homes.

Why It’s so Gosh-Darned Cold, and Why It Will Stay That Way for Some Time to Come

February 5th, 2015 at 8:26 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

After a nearly forgotten very mild and much less snowy than average December, the weather worm turned around January 5th. That’s when we began our downward spiral for most of last month and into this month. A rather persistent western ridge (with minor variations) have keep the west and central US with above average temperatures. An absence of blocking over the North Atlantic has allowed the eastern trough to set up far enough east to restrict most of the really cold weather to the eastern Great Lakes and the NE, into eastern Canada as well.

This high amplitude pattern is going to relax somewhat for a few days, allowing for much less harsh temperatures over the weekend. The price to be paid will be several waves of low pressure moving along a boundary between arctic air to the north and moist Pacific air to the south. Temperatures will be somewhat below average for the first half of next week, but by later in the week, a reamplification of the western ridge/eastern trough will occur. This has been showing up in model ensemble means for quite a while.

With the considerable help of long range forecaster Dr. Judah Cohen, I’m stuck with the unpleasant task of telling people we are nowhere near out of this frigid mess. There is even some chance matters may grow worse. Cohen writes of evidence in the GEFS ensemble and less robust evidence in the ECMWF that the blocking in the North Atlantic which has been absent most of the winter is going to begin to develop. The polar vortex which has been settled lately over the far north of Eurasia is going to drift back toward the north pole. What this favors is a strengthening of the western ridge, which teleconnects with a strengthening of the eastern trough, and more frigid air pouring not only into the NE but retrograding into the central states as well. These teleconnections favor more cross-polar flow. In addition, at about the same time the N Atlantic ridging develops, the MJO will be entering what’s called phase 7 & 8, which correlates with below average temperatures in our part of the country. It’s far from certain that the N Atlantic blocking will become strong, but if it does the NAO would finally go strongly negative–it’s been a nonfactor this winter–and the AO (currently weakly & briefly negative before it goes positive again next week) would go negative as well. The fact that the AO has been positive the majority of the time in the last 4-5 weeks speaks to how poor a predictor in this winter as to cold and snow in the east/NE.

This pattern, with minor variations, is expected to persist into early March in Cohen’s eyes, as I’d speculated the other night on the previous thread. This is a draining, disruptive pattern leading to economic dislocation, high energy costs, and damage to our infrastructure. If we’re correct, this will be one of the longest cold periods in a number of years.

Airport Snow Deficit is Gone…but Not for Long

January 12th, 2015 at 12:41 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

Seasonal snowfall has moved back a little above average over the last few days. After the November lake effect storm(s), the airport (never hit full strength by those events) had gone to 29+ inches with an average to that date of 16+ inches. By midweek last week, the airport had slipped to several inches below average, following an unusually mild December (3.4 degrees above average) and well below average snowfall. We’ve gone back in the other direction this month up to this point. Temperatures have been significantly colder than average, and monthly snowfall has been above average.

Those trends will level off following the arctic shot for Tue-Wed, with temperatures slowly recovering to closer to average later this week (still on the cold side, but nothing like last week or Tue-Wed this week). Readings may head a little above average during the weekend. During the time period from around the 18th into the latter part of the month, there will be more occasion for more Pacific air to cut off the kinds of arctic blasts we’ve endured last week. However, the moderating trend will not be a totally smooth ride, and there will be some ups and downs, just fewer if any extremes. Ensemble means show a very broad ridge in the eastern Pacific at the end of the runs (26th-27th) and very broad troughing over the N Central and Great Lakes states. The amplitude is lower than it is now, to be sure. When ridges and troughs are so broad, it’s often a sign of large spread between the ensemble members which make up the ensemble mean. It doesn’t look as though there will be much phasing between the northern jet stream and the southern stream for awhile. However, large ensemble member spread can mask any individual features even more, so the more moderate pattern (not to be confused with truly mild, as would be the case with a well defined eastern ridge) is a very fuzzy one as depicted. In the next week (through the 20th or so) there are no current signs of any significant synoptic storms putting a hit on the eastern Great Lakes. And because there are no current signs of large lake effect potential, my “but Not for Long” headline is probably a safe bet over the next 7 or 8 days.