NOAA’s U.S. Winter Outlook Calls for "Variability"

I don’t know about you but I’m relieved that the weather won’t be “static”. – Anthony

Contact:          Carmeyia Gillis                       FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

301-763-8000, ext 7163          Nov. 20, 2008                                                                      

NOAA’s U.S. Winter Outlook Calls for Variability

In announcing the 2008-2009 U.S. Winter Outlook for meteorological winter from December through February, forecasters at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center are calling for warmer-than-normal temperatures for much of the central part of the nation, and a continuation of drier-than-normal conditions across the Southeast.

With the absence of La Niña and El Niño in the equatorial Pacific Ocean this season (climate patterns that give forecasters clues about potential weather events months in advance), predicting weather patterns on seasonal timescales becomes increasingly challenging. Instead, other climate patterns over the Arctic and North Atlantic regions may play a significant role in influencing U.S. winter weather.

“These patterns are only predictable a week or two in advance and could persist for weeks at a time,” said Michael Halpert, deputy director, Climate Prediction Center. “Therefore, we expect variability, or substantial changes in temperature and precipitation across much of the country.”

Regional Outlooks

· Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic: Equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and precipitation.

· Southeast: Increased chance of above normal temperatures in the central and western parts, along with below-normal precipitation.

· Central Region: Increased chance of warmer-than-normal temperatures, with above- normal precipitation anticipated in parts of the central Plains.

· Western Region: Equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures, and an enhanced likelihood of below-normal precipitation across parts of the Southwest.

· Alaska: Milder-than-normal temperatures except along the southern coast. Equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal precipitation.

· Hawaii: Above- normal temperatures for eastern Hawaii and below-normal temperatures for western Hawaii. There are equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal precipitation throughout the state.

The U.S. Winter Outlook does not include a snowfall forecast. Snow forecasts are heavily dependent upon winter storms and are generally not predictable more than several days in advance.

Prepare for winter weather through NOAA Watch, The site gives you the latest weather patterns, forecasts and warnings issued by NOAA’s National Weather Service. Also, tune in to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards to get your up-to-the-minute local forecast and warnings.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

On the Web:

NOAA’s 2008-2009 U.S. Winter Outlook:

Winter Weather Safety Information:

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November 20, 2008 10:30 am

The climate will fluctuate.

Retired Engineer
November 20, 2008 10:31 am

When asked about the stock market, JP Morgan supposedly said “I believe it will fluctuate.”
My friends in Fairbanks tell me it is much colder than normal for this time of year.
So, it might be warmer. Unless it isn’t.

Patrick Henry
November 20, 2008 10:33 am

Alaska is having one of their coldest years in decades, and temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska have been persistently below normal. One has to wonder what has gotten in to the NCDC water supply for them to make a forecast like that.

November 20, 2008 10:36 am

For “we expect variability” read “we don’t know”.

Harold Ambler
November 20, 2008 10:39 am

I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say they might be slightly off with regard to Alaska. Time will tell.

November 20, 2008 10:42 am

Reminds me of a BBC weather forecaster’s response a few years ago when asked on radio for a prediction about the coming winter.
After a moments thought he replied “Colder, and dark earlier”.

November 20, 2008 10:58 am

They really don’t have a clue do they. Understand what?

November 20, 2008 10:58 am

Some subtle changes from their previous forecast. Although weak, the MEI numbers I last looked at were around -0.70 which is into the weak La Nina category, but close enough to call it neutral I suppose.
In recent years I have rarely seen CPC put any area of the United States in a Below Average category and almost every season there will be below average regions of course. 2/3rd of the lower 48 has been seeing below average temperatures in 2008, yet, rarely any such forecasts and the winter forecast above is yet another example.
I personally lean toward especially the northern tier east of the Rockies to see below average temperatures this winter, especially in January and February, but considering I live in that area. I hope I’m wrong. 😉

November 20, 2008 11:02 am

I wonder what Vegas would make of those odds, especially when there is, for example, “Equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures”
in the western region. Maybe the MGM Grand could add a climate section to the Sportsbook and really make things interesting.

Steven Hill
November 20, 2008 11:05 am

Do we know what average is? The numbers have been changed so much and the collection points are incorrect, what is average?

November 20, 2008 11:16 am

My late granddad use to say: Best of a guesswork is far preferable to the worst of the science.

Craig Moore
November 20, 2008 11:22 am

Sounds like the experts are unable to come to consensus as to which side of the coin is heads and the other side, tails. Continuing flips of the coin seem to require massive federal grants.

April E. Coggins
November 20, 2008 11:24 am
Patrick Henry
November 20, 2008 11:27 am

I was watching the BBC in 1970. During the interlude after Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a strange looking weatherman with buggy eyes came on the screen and gave the UK forecast, which gradually degenerated into a hilarious narrative about “darkness and serpents crawling out of the sea after midnight.” Turned out to be Marty Feldman – first time I ever saw him.
Today the BBC is forecasting heavy snow for London on Sunday. If true, that will be the first time in years.

November 20, 2008 11:28 am

I don’t know about the rest of you but I’ll keep my trust on the old farmers almanac over the NOAA forecast.There’s an excellent article in the 08-09 old farmers almanac on global cooling and the fact that it is A cycle.The old farmers almanac is right 80% which is A lot more than I can say for NOAA. Second NOAA is getting money under the table so to speak and they always show 40% chance of above normal or 33% chance of equal chance.I don’t see how 40% chance of above normal would be more than 60% below normal.The last time I checked 40% was less than 60% and as far as equal chance I could see maybe 40 to 45% but not 33% .Shouldn’t that be 66% chance of below normal temps??????One last thought. I just looked on NOAA site which goes out through dec09 jan10 and there is NO blue on any map next year and if you look at dec09-jan10 it shows above for about 75% of the U.S. what a joke.Noaa keep on dreaming.

Eric Anderson
November 20, 2008 11:36 am

“These patterns are only predictable a week or two in advance . . .”
Since I’m in the West, I focused on the outlook for that area: “Equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures . . .”
Thank goodness we have those long-term climate models to tell us what the temperature will be a century from now. It’s much easier to tolerate a complete lack of certainty about what will happen next month, when we can take comfort that we have the average temperature pinned down for the year 2100.

November 20, 2008 11:46 am

I am increasingly entertained by NOAA’s labeling on the bottom of their reports: “NOAA understands…”

November 20, 2008 11:48 am

Out here in the West too (Calgary)… and every “climate indicator” I’ve seen (berries, animals) indicates to me, personally, in a non-scientific and indefineable way, that this is going to be a cold, cold winter.
The tragedy here is that I’d bet real money on my vague feelings and unscientific method against any “forecasts”, any day of the week.

November 20, 2008 11:50 am

The US forecast map for DJF contrasts quite a bit compared to the Environment Canada projections for the same 3 months as shown here:
The Canadian version shows below normal next to Alaska in a pattern, if extended, would indicate below normal temperatures for Alaska in DJF.
Watts up with that?

J. Peden
November 20, 2008 11:10 am

What the hell does NOAA mean by “normal” – maybe it refers back to only “naturally” perturbed, pre-“AGW” conditions? Pehaps only NOAA “understands”, because I’ll bet no one else does.
– ‘Sorry, the use of “normal” when referring to averages, weather, and climtae just bugs me.

November 20, 2008 11:19 am

“These patterns are only predictable a week or two in advance and could persist for weeks at a time,” said Michael Halpert, deputy director, Climate Prediction Center.
The Deputy Director of the Climate Prediction Center is only willing to go out two weeks?
The juxtaposition is sweet.

Bern Bray
November 20, 2008 11:53 am

“Western Region: Equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures”
Gee! That sounds like the year round forecast in Colorado. If you are leaving the house, pack everything from shorts and sandals to parka and mukluks, you will probably need them all in one day.
70 degrees yesterday, 30 today.

November 20, 2008 11:56 am

J. Peden –
if you look at the NSIDC ice edge picture it shows whats there and what the median is…only it didnt use to say “median ice egde”…it used to say “normal ice edge”…which i found quite amuzing since we only started watching the north pole in 1979

Leon Brozyna
November 20, 2008 11:58 am

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun…
Talk about self-promotion!
And what’s with all those white areas in the U.S. marked “EC”? It looks to me that for those areas, no matter what happens, NOAA cannot be wrong and they can tout how good they are in forecasting the climate, er, I mean weather.

Bill Marsh
November 20, 2008 12:01 pm

Cold winter? Nope. No way. In DC its supposed to be 39F the next 2 days — a mere 20F below the average for DC. Snow TWICE before Thanksgiving is, well, unprecedented.
Early November was warm ,the last half is treating us to Jan like weather.

Jack Simmons
November 20, 2008 12:58 pm

Here in Denver it has been a very pleasant late fall/early winter.
Earlier this week, a record high of 77 was set.
I’m not sure, because of the station siting, whether this is truly a new high or not, but the snapdragons in a sheltered part of the garden were thriving up to yesterday.
Haven’t had a chance to see if they survived last night’s frost. Doubt it. There was a lot of ice on the windows.
Warmer is better than colder.

Jeff L
November 20, 2008 12:59 pm

Any of you who follow Joe Bastardi over on the Accuwx pro site know what he would say about this – this is NOT a forecast – just a probabilty scheme built for easy verification. So look at that map & the “warm” bullseye – 50% chance of what ??? 1 deg above normal ? 10 deg above normal ? what’s the other 50% chance ? average ? below normal ? how far below normal ? This is not what most would call useful information. How about a map that contours a forecasted temp anomaly – may be with a 1 deg contour interval. Easy to understand, easy to verify against observed. Same goes for the NOAA seasonal precip maps – put out some maps with contours as a % of normal precipitation – maybe with 10% contour intervals. Again, easy to understand, easy to verify.
I can hear the cries from NOAA now – “but we can’t forecast that accurately” and behind closed doors – “our errors & lack of expertise will be too obvious with those type of maps”. Yet, we are supposed to believe in temperature forecasts by similar groups 100 years out when a good product can’t even be put forth for 3 months out.
Call me crazy, but this seems like a huge disconnect here. I don’t fault them for not being able to make high quality forecast maps – the weather (& climate) is complicated – but that’s the point. If it’s that complicated, how do expect to get it right in 100 years. I do fault them for not applying the same logic (probability scheme) to longer term climate forecasts. Or at least be consistent – give us simple to verify maps for the seasonal products, just as we have easy to verify temp vs time curves for AGW (which BTW aren’t verifying too well at all over the last several years).

Ron de Haan
November 20, 2008 1:12 pm

Patrick Henry (11:27:13) : Said:
Today the BBC is forecasting heavy snow for London on Sunday. If true, that will be the first time in years.
Patrick, London already received its first snow this year.
“Carbon fools day” in UK
“28th October 2008 will go down in history as ‘carbon fools day,’ a sad day for democracy and science, a day when opposition parties failed to challenge a dangerously unsound policy, devoid of any real scientific basis, without any hope of influencing climate change. Ironically, it was also a day when London saw the first October snow since 1974.

November 20, 2008 1:15 pm

The accuracy of Env. Can seasonal forecast leaves something to be desired, to say the least. 41% accurate. Here is the verification of last winter:

November 20, 2008 1:32 pm

The next (past, present, future) few (more, less, same) months will (won’t, may) be (or not) slightly (greatly) colder (hotter) than (then) normal (abnormal, better, indifferent).

Ed Scott
November 20, 2008 1:49 pm

Behold! The Age of Hope and Change.
The 111th Congress will pass legislation defining comprehensive standards for permissible, seasonable weather and a specification for an ideal climate which will be achieved through social engineering legislation. The climate and weather laws legislated by the Congress will supersede the laws of Nature.
I dare say that any “man off the street” could predict weather that will be ” above-, near-, or below-normal,” free of charge. The “man off the street” would have included “normal” in his prediction in the interest of comprehensiveness, as in “above-, near-, at-, or below normal.”

November 20, 2008 1:56 pm

I think the weather will be just the opposite of their predictions but my prediction may change like revisions to solar cycle 24 predictions and eventually I will be 100% correct.

Steven Hill
November 20, 2008 2:48 pm

Well, what did they show the current weather to be? It’s way be normal here in Ky as I watch the snow fall.

F Rasmin
November 20, 2008 2:56 pm

Here in Brisbane Australia, we have had the worst rainstorms since 1974. Out of the woodwork came the inevitable experts crying ‘All due to climate change’,25197,24683537-11949,00.html
So what was 1974 due to? (Actually cyclones. but 1893 wasn’t, nor 1890). In 1893, ocean going steam ships were washed ashore into the local Botanical gardens when the Brisbane River flooded.. 6/2/1893 The lower part of South Brisbane completely submerged. The flood rose 23’9″ above the mean spring tides and 10 feet above flood mark of 1890; north end of the Victoria Bridge destroyed. Climate change once again?

November 20, 2008 2:57 pm

Interesting, it’s not what Joe D’Aleo discusses in . He uses a graphic from NCEP/NCAR that is closer to his thinking and has only the southeast above average by a little. It has the Dakotas and environs at -4F of average. (1950-1995)
I’m in New Hampshire and am grateful that we had some warm days early this month to finish getting a yurt up because things have sure flipped to the cold here. The storm track is to the south like Joe has been talking about since when he wrote the Old Farmers Almanac article at

November 20, 2008 2:58 pm

My favorite:
“Snow forecasts are heavily dependent upon winter storms……”

November 20, 2008 3:08 pm

NOAA’s long term forecasts tend to exaggerate warm anomalies and play down cold anomalies. Gee, I wonder why? Could it be a “model thing?”

Robert Wood
November 20, 2008 3:13 pm

It sounds like the traditional English weather forecast for a day:
“Sunny periods with scattered showers”.
About covers everything, I think.

November 20, 2008 3:24 pm

It’ll be warmer because they’ll fix the data to make it warmer.

Robert Wood
November 20, 2008 3:29 pm

Norm (11:50:46)
And I don’t buy the “above normal” over the Eastern part of Canada. This November has been BELOW NORMAL , with every likelihood of continuing so through the winter.

November 20, 2008 3:38 pm

That forecast is ignoring the possibility of a return to La Nina conditions. With all of the various models it has at its disposal, I think the forecast is dependent primarily on “Optimal Climate Normals,” basically a trend analysis using 10 years for temperature, and 15 years for precipitation.
For alternate views, read Klaus Wolter, here:
Also, the “official forecast” gives more weight to OCN, and less to the dynamical models, like the CFS Ensemble:

Ron de Haan
November 20, 2008 3:47 pm

We have no choice anymore.
We need Global Warming because to many things depend on it:
Now you know why they cook the books.

November 20, 2008 3:49 pm

That couldn’t be any more different than what Joe D’Aleo’s forecast over at ICECAP:
In fact, Joe’s map is from NOAA:
What’s up with that??!?

David Jones
November 20, 2008 4:02 pm

Last Spring UK Met predicted/forecast a hotter summer than usual; we had a cool wet summer. August this year was among the coolest and wettest on record.
In September they predicted/forecast a milder(warmer) winter than usual. So far London has had snow in Central London in October, the first time since 1934! I’m am told that the temperature in Central London (Leicester Square) on the evening of the London premiere on the new Bond movie was -7 Centigrade.
Quite clearly a mild winter so far…not!

November 20, 2008 4:02 pm

Ric Werme, MattN,
Do either of you know the original source of that “DECMARUS.jpg” map that Joe is using? I’d like to know where it comes from.
There are lots of experimental and unofficial “products” done by NOAA people. As I mentioned earlier, I think the current official long-lead (0.5 to 12.5 months) forecasts are heavily weighted toward simple OCN trend analysis.

November 20, 2008 4:22 pm

Well, they wouldn’t call it “Forecasting” the weather if it weren’t only a step away from reading the entrails of animals or throwing bones to determine the harvest omens.
It certainly seems that the media is putting a lot of weight on the long-term predictions of a group who have a difficult time telling you what the weather is going to be like this weekend.
It has to be the only profession where they go ahead and admit in their name that they really have no idea what is really going to happen. 🙂
In seriousness, though, I’m glad my job doesn’t have the same level of uncertainty.

Douglas DC
November 20, 2008 5:19 pm

Knew an old NOAA guy-he was the office director of Klamath Falls Or.
back in the 80’s.He told me:”You are safe when you say:’partly to mostly
with a chance of…’ then no one is mad at you.”

November 20, 2008 6:07 pm

The technical term to describe NOAA’s forecast is that they are “sh*ting bricks”. They need to keep up the warming forecasts even though it is colder than normal in most places until Waxman and others can “fix” the climate change problem. Just my opinion.

November 20, 2008 7:04 pm

Well, I just happened to be over at the Accuweather site to look at the long range forecast for Thanksgiving and happened to notice that they are having some serious cold back East. Looks like they had lows of 3F (three degrees above zero) in Eastern Tennessee and 5F in Western North Carolina last night. An Alberta Clipper has passed through and some areas of the Great Lakes are expecting up to 3 feet of snow by the end of the weekend. The map shows snow all the way down to Southwestern Virginia. Houston is looking at temperatures topping out in the low-mid 50’s this weekend … which are January/February temperatures, not “week before Thanksgiving” temperatures.
Sounds to me like it will have a “chilling effect” on global warming talk out of Washington for the coming week or so.

November 20, 2008 7:07 pm

This is the URL to the report I was reading on the weather for the coming week in the Southeast.

November 20, 2008 7:35 pm

Looking at how this NOAA forecast has played in the press, I don’t think people understand it very well. These forecasts are relative to 1971-2000 normals. All “above” means is that temperatures are expected to be something like the average of the 10 warmest years in that period. Similarly, “below” means something like the average, or in the range, of the 10 coolest years of that period. And “neutral” is the 10 years in the middle.
The next thing to understand is the way the probabilities work. Take a look at this media representation of the forecast:
I’m pretty sure they have it wrong. The “50” in the center doesn’t mean “50% warmer” but simply “50% probability of warmer than ‘normal.’ That’s a big difference in meaning. There is no way that NOAA is projecting that the winter anywhere is going to be 50% warming than normal! If you understand how to read these charts, then you can also calculate the probability of “neutral” and “cooler.” Where the most likely probability is 50, neutral will be 33, and cooler will be 27. So, where there is a 50 percent chance that temperature will be above normal, there’s also a 50 percent chance that it will be normal, or below normal!
The media doesn’t get it, and I wonder of NOAA cares?

Ranger Joe
November 20, 2008 7:48 pm

There was a study done years ago at a racetrack over who won the most money….the little old lady ‘hunch’ players going with a ‘vibe’ or the scientific systems players with their graphs and charts. The hunch players beat the pants off the ‘experts’. Sounds like some sort of immutable Newtonian law to me. I got a hunch about the coming winter based on the PQ factor (psycho-quotient) of my resident backyard squirrels. They’re insane. See you in April!

November 20, 2008 8:07 pm

Then there is the matter of “skill.” In some parts of the country where there is supposed to be a 50% probability of above normal temperature this winter, the skill is not very good:

November 20, 2008 8:37 pm

The NOAA forecasts are poor, and consistently so. I have been following the NOAA ENSO evolution site for some time.
If you haven’t visited it, and you live on the west coast of the US or like to ski in Washington,Idaho, B.C., or Alberta you should check it out. It is updated weekly and this is my second season following the trend. It is the single largest driver of the quality of my ski season. A weakly negative Index number say between 0 and -0.5 is about right for us. We don’t like a lower that -1.5 index either.
Here is this site’s outlook from Monday of this week. Looks a lot different…

November 20, 2008 8:47 pm

The image is on page 29 of the above PDF. It is the NDJ 3 month temperature outlook. Note the flip flop of temperatures anomalies from the south of Alaska to the north of Alaska for the DJF shown by Anthony above. They predict a warm Alaskan winter…

November 20, 2008 9:46 pm

Basil (16:02:40) :

Ric Werme, MattN,
Do either of you know the original source of that “DECMARUS.jpg” map that Joe is using? I’d like to know where it comes from.

Umm, I don’t know. I sent Joe a note, but when he’s busy he doesn’t reply. If he does, I’ll pass it on.

November 20, 2008 9:58 pm

I really don’t understand that graphic. Exactly how is a 50% probability of being warmer than normal different from an equal chance of being warmer or colder?
And wouldn’t a 33 percent probability of being warmer mean there would be a 66% probability that it will be colder or normal? I think that graphic shows exactly the opposite of what they intended it to show.

Northern Plains Reader
November 20, 2008 9:59 pm

Try making your own seasonal climate predictions for where you live, and you will find out how bad your predictions will be. I live in the Northern Plains and I looked at what happened in the past in my area when the PDO has been strongly negative as it has been all of this year. Since 1935, this has happened about 10 times. For winter temperatures, 5 of the years were well below normal and the other 5 were well above. So which extreme do you chose for a prediction? For Precipitation, half were normal precipitation and the other half where well above normal. (Good news for our drought.)
My point is that it is easy to throw darts at NOAA and their probabilistic outlooks. I admire the fact that they admit that when they go with their “Equal Chances” outlook, they are basically saying that they have no skill in their seasonal prediction. I know that I don’t have much skill. The problem is that some important factors that shape the predominant weather patterns are only at best predictable for two weeks in advance. Madden Jullian Oscillation is an example of such a factor.
I know that CPC, in times of low skill, now prefers to use trends instead of normals. The last 10 years have been warmer than normal during the winter across the Northern Plains. So the last few years, CPC has gone with a higher probability for warmer than normal tempatures. For the most part, this has worked out really well…especially a year in advance. The one problem with using trends is that CPC better have a good feel about what is causing the trend. If I were to ask CPC as to what the cause of the trend is, I suspect most of the staff would say AGW privately. Publicly, I’m not so sure they want to get into that debate. I personally think that part of the trend is caused by PDO/AMO oscillations. In addition, their predictions are verified against temperature data that are not corrected for UHI.
Maybe the NOAA outlooks need a different focus. Maybe they should provide odds for drought/prolonged flooding rainfall. How about odds that winter temperatures will be a standard deviation or more below normal. These are climatic events that impact the public and would be great to give them a heads up. This is done with Hurricanes via Dr. Gray and NHC. They are not perfect, but they help people start preparations.

November 20, 2008 10:16 pm

Well, so far their temperature map sucks. Supposed to be a balmy 15 degrees F here in MO tonight.

November 21, 2008 3:15 am

Basil, go over to ICECAP and send Joe an email. He usually replys to me in a day or two.

November 21, 2008 3:19 am

Well we had a chilly day here in Boise. I think we tied with a year in the 60’s But that really was weather. A big wild wind came through and blew away our California smoke inversion and cooled us down:) Mystified up our weather casters greatly. We havent had snow in the mountains locally yet. The skiers are bummed. Someone may have stole our snow:P But so far the Farmers A. is right on.
Hey…..How long does it take for fire smoke to be taken out of the atmosphere. Could the let it burn policy be a factor in the rising Co2 content? Is that considered manmade? I know many places adopted the practice in the late 60’s early 70’s. Would ya be able to tell the difference between factory and fire emissions?

Arthur Glass
November 21, 2008 4:50 am

‘There’ll be no change if it stays like this.’
By the way, is there any more ignorant and arrogant title for a bureaucracy than one that claims to ‘administer’ the atmosphere and the oceans?

November 21, 2008 5:32 am

Ric, MattN,
I’ll send Joe an email.
My numbers in the example I gave above about how to read these charts didn’t add up correctly, so I’ll try again. Where the most likely probability is 50 percent, the neutral case is 33 percent, and the least likely case is 17 percent (not 27 percent). It is still true, however, that there is a 50 percent chance (33+17) of normal or cooler temperatures.
Maybe a better case would be to call attention to the 40 percent contour. In this case, there’s a 60 percent (33+27) chance of normal or cooler temperatures. Sure, the greatest single chance is (supposedly) for warmer temperatures, but overall the chances are greater for normal or cooler temperatures.
So these charts are not really saying what people are making them out to say.
Then, as I said also, there’s the matter of “skill.” NOAA issues these kinds of forecasts, for 0.5 to 12.5 months out. How often are they right? In the graphic I presented above, the “skill” in eastern Kansas is just 0.05, meaning that one time in 20 these forecasts turn out to be better than what could be obtained just forecasting “EC” (equal chances of above, normal, or below normal temperatures). (I should note that I limited my analysis to forecasts since 2000. The available data goes back to the mid 1990’s, as I recall.)
NOAA prognosticators consider 0.3 to be pretty good “skill.” In other words, if they can “beat” the EC odds thirty percent of the time, they believe that their forecasts have some usefulness or value. But there are lots of times and places where the weather is just too variable for them to achieve that level of skill in their forecasts.
The other thing that really needs to be hammered home in all of this is that these forecasts are all relative to 1971-2000 normals. There are not really any forecasts here of “specific” temperature levels or trends. That’s where that AP graphic I linked to got it all wrong. IOW, they are not like short term meteorological forecasts that temperatures will be such-and-such.
If anyone is interested, there are specific temperature profiles associated with these forecasts at the climate division level here:
Since I live near one of the hot spots in this forecast, I’ve saved one of the detailed forecast profiles (of the Ozark Mountain region) here:
They are projecting a 1.41 degree (warmer) anomaly for this region. I’ll be interested to see how well they do. Everybody around here is stocking up wood like crazy, thinking we are in for the worst winter in a while. And we did tie or break (I haven’t seen official results) the record low last night here locally. Based on their skill in this region, I give them about a 1 in 8 chance of beating an EC forecast. Farmer’s Almanac, anyone?

November 21, 2008 5:59 am

Northern Plains Reader (21:59:31) :
The one problem with using trends is that CPC better have a good feel about what is causing the trend. If I were to ask CPC as to what the cause of the trend is, I suspect most of the staff would say AGW privately. Publicly, I’m not so sure they want to get into that debate.
I think you are right here (that they think the trends are AGW), but because of the sensitivity of something I’m working on here, I will not go into detail. What is important, what I want to emphasize, is how correct you are that these forecasts are presently being driven primarily by trend analysis, specifically so-called “Optimal Climate Normals.”
I personally think that part of the trend is caused by PDO/AMO oscillations.
Exactly. Because of the flipping of the PDO, we’re now seeing a return a jet stream that sweeps across Canada and then down through the midwest and midsouth regions of the US, bring us colder arctic air more often than we saw during the warm phase of the PDO. Like in the bottom half of the following:
It is barely past mid November, and we’ve already had three cold waves bringing subfreezing temperature to my area from this pattern. Assuming it continues, the CPC trend analysis doesn’t stand a chance of getting the forecast right for this coming winter. I think the Old Farmer’s Almanac stands a better chance of being right than the CPC forecast:

Douglas DC
November 21, 2008 8:40 am

25deg.F. this Nice clear Eastern Oregon morn.We are supposed to get our first significant snow in LaGrande(Since April) this Thanksgiving…

Old Coach
November 21, 2008 9:08 am

A month or so ago I posted that the Canada geese that have been wintering in my region of Kansas for the last decade disappeared. They did not bother explaining why they left, or whether they were going north or south, and they left in the night. Earlier this week, they showed back up for one day (enough time to make a serious mess of my sidewalks, I might add) and left again at night – again without saying where they were going.
Now that these forecasts have been made public, it has become clear. The geese read the NOAA and CPC preliminary forecasts for the midwest, and flew up north. During a stay in Minnesota, they picked up a copy of the Farmer’s Almanac, read this more reliable forecast, then quickly ate their fill of fiber and took off for the southlands.

November 21, 2008 9:38 am
November 21, 2008 11:30 am

From Basil (20:07:11) :
Then there is the matter of “skill.”…
end quote
Also notice that the only really blue (accurate) areas are down near the desert areas of Arizona et. al. I once saw a quote from a weatherman there that if you just predicted “hot and sunny” every day you would be 95% accurate. Think about it… notice that they are not the bright blue of 95%, but a little below? This implies that their forecasts subtract accuracy from “desert -> hot sunny”…
From pkatt (03:19:57) :… Would ya be able to tell the difference between factory and fire emissions?
end quote
I think so. C isotopes ought to be different from recent trees vs. coal and oil that have ages a few million years. I would expect it to be hard to do, though, unless it isn’t, but maybe it’s about average difficulty. ;=)

November 21, 2008 11:56 am

This report does not seem to really help my day to day clothing decisions.

The Diatribe Guy
November 21, 2008 12:06 pm

I am interested in the comment about the absence of La Nina.
The two most recent ENSO indices according to read as -0.569 and -0.739.
Perhaps not quite long enough yet to call La Nina, but it seems as if we are on the precipice of another one.
I was curious, so I put some simple charts together that shows how the index looks as you collapse it into longer averages, and I think it’s rather telling. You can find that at if interested.

November 21, 2008 2:37 pm

I’m intrigued by the wording of the article. So forecasters are “calling for warmer-than-normal temperatures…” A sensible request, it seems, but who (or what) do they expect will respond to their plea? :o)
Will let you all know if it does snow in London (again) over the weekend. One forecast is saying light sleet on Sunday morning. We shall see…

November 21, 2008 3:10 pm

Northern Plains Reader (21:59:31) :
I am trying… just lack the motivation. I am trying to get some snowfall records from various ski hills and then relate them to the ENSO data. The short term delivery system(2 weeks heads up) of fluffy stuff comes at us based on convection and wind, driven by ENSO. Don’t confuse that with all the longer term (PDO) and unpredictable (MJO) parts to kick our but. Personally this winter looks a lot like last years… possibly. The wild card is the arctic. It’s cold, and when it gets cold we can sometimes have a monster low develop over Saskatchewan that could last for a month. That sucks for skiing.
I think Temp and Precipitation are uncoupled systems if traveling from distance.

November 21, 2008 7:24 pm

Basil (16:02:40) :

Do either of you know the original source of that “DECMARUS.jpg” map that Joe is using? I’d like to know where it comes from.

Joe replied, saying “It is my forecast using the NOAA CDC tool compositing 1961/62, 1964/65 DJF.” So I think he made a new graph from old data that fit his forecast well.

Brian D
November 21, 2008 7:35 pm

NOAA’s seasonal outlooks aren’t worth the spit to make mud with to sling at such terrible forecasts. IMO

Graeme Rodaughan
November 21, 2008 7:56 pm

NOAA Claims “NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources”.
However I would be far happier if they claimed “NOAA understands effective Data and Configuration Management techniques, and are able to provide 24 hour public access to both current and archived baselines of your data and any software that has been used to process it in accordance with “.
Why “your data” – because the general public has pid for it’s gathering and storage – and if is being used to motivate policies that impact the lives of the general public. Both in themselves are sufficient reasons for an effective data and configuration management system to be in place.
Ref and at Climate Audit discussing the typical data mis-management within the AGW camp.

Graeme Rodaughan
November 21, 2008 7:58 pm

Hmmm… (must note use “” to highlight text…)
Proposed NOAA quote ends in ” …pick any professional Industrial standard”.
Which got scrubbed on the previous post.

November 23, 2008 4:59 am

Basil (05:21:47) :
Interesting. It can be automated too. More interesting.
OT – If you read this, can you send me Email via ?
I have a non-science question about your solar Morlet wavelet transform plots.

Mike Bryant
November 23, 2008 6:44 am

Ric and Basil,
That is a slick tool. The only problem with it, of course, is that the underlying data is subject to adjustments at the whim of the NOAA.
Mike the Plumber

November 23, 2008 6:02 pm

I’ve sent you an email to your “home” account.
Mike, for my use, it’s useful, because it is “official.” I wish the “climatology” choices were fully user selectable, though. I’m glad to see more than just the 1961-1990 or 1971-2000 choices, but it doesn’t seem to me that it would be too hard to make the starting and ending years of the baseline “climatology” fully user selectable.
One thing this tool is good for is to compare seasons. I’ve played around with it, for instance, using winter months for years in which there was La Nina, that kind of thing. Cool.

November 24, 2008 6:18 pm

I’ve only been here 6 years, but this is the longest stretch of cold weather I’ve seen since I’ve been here. It may not represent any huge historic deviation from the norm, but one thing is for sure, it ain’t gettin any warmer.

November 24, 2008 6:24 pm

Oh, and last winter I was in Indianapolis, where on a day when it was below zero several of the locals, who had spent their lives there (40 years or more), said it was the coldest winter they ever had. Anecdotal evidence to be sure, but no less accurate than temperature sensors near bbq grills.

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