Dave Murray’s 2014-2015 Winter Long-Range Forecast

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(KTVI)-The fall brought some wild temperature rides and a spin between plenty of wet and lots of dry times. It is the three month period that gets us ready for the big three months of weather forecasting, the winter season. The questions are how cold, how much snow, and will there be a white Christmas?

December 2014:

I'm expecting a classic St. Louis winter, like the old days and like last winter. December will be the month to get things going, but I think it’s a slow start as a series of colder shots pour down from western and central Canada. Think a progressive pattern, each shot paving the way for colder and colder temperatures. However let’s think this December is more of the pre-season warm-up for the rest of the winter season. The weak el Nino not much of a player but the pool of warm water in the Gulf of Alaska is. So temperatures will be on a bit of roller coaster. We’ll see some pleasant December days for the first quarter of the month. But for the last 75 percent, I’m looking for three rather impressive December shots of cold air. This will start the winter slide. I think the month will see temperatures near to slightly below average. I don't see any records and nothing below zero in December, but the end of the month will be very cold. Make sure the heating equipment is in good shape

Let’s move on to the moisture patterns for the 12th month of the year. I’m watching the two major storm tracks of our winter. The first is the Alberta Clipper track, the track that will pave the way for colder and colder weather. Alberta Clippers have limited moisture to work with because the Gulf of Mexico is shut off. There should be 3 clippers in December offering the best shot of snow. Snow will mainly be on the light side. But clippers can also bite you. Watch for one of these to take little more of a southern track and that would be more of a snow maker. The other track is the classic southwest push, resulting in the Texas panhandle storm. I don't see this track really coming alive in December. Also, I’m not overly concerned about ice. So when it’s all done, rainfall will be below average and snowfall a little above average. December can bring the big snows, but that is more the exception rather than the rule.

December also brings up my toughest forecast: what is the weather for Christmas. Will it be a white or a green Christmas? Of course any one day forecast in a long range outlook is more than tough but with the building cold coming in by the end of the month and a few clippers in play, let’s go out on the limb and go with a white Christmas this December.

Things to look for in December:

  • The great horned owls begin courting. You can hear them hooting on the long winter nights.
  • Check out the sky. It’s easy to spot the winter constellation, Orion
  • The bald eagles start to arrive in good numbers

The major points of December 2014:

  • The first 8 to 10 days will be okay by December standards...then a steady step down to cold will be in gear.
  • No records...nothing below zero...however the last 10 days of the month will be very cold.
  • Limited rain with a few shots of snow mid to late month leading to the shot of a white Christmas.



January 2015:

January typically starts the real hard core weather of the winter. Most will agree, even the snow bunnies, that it is one of the toughest months to get through. The holidays are over, the nights are long and the days are short and we typically deal with a fair share of wind, rain, ice and snow. But Mother Nature many times will toss us a bone in the form of a January thaw, a nice mid-winters break. But with or without the thaw, January is the prime time for cabin fever.

The weak el Niño in play this month, weak being the key word. But that pool of warm water in the Gulf of Alaska will be the big-time player. This ridging in the atmosphere will open the door, a consistent door, to the deep cold of Canada and the Arctic. Have the woolies warmed up and ready to go. I'm expecting several shots of cold from the North Country, each one building the cold as we go through the month. From start to finish, this is shaping up to be a rather extreme month for cold weather. That brings up the January thaw, a 3 to 5 days stretch of mild to even warm weather about the third week of the month of January. It works out more times than not. But I have to go with "not" this month. The cold shots will be just too strong. So when the month is over, temperatures will be below average and, though record cold is really extreme in January, I cannot rule out a record of two falling this January.

As for the moisture patterns, there may be a few Alberta Clipper type system but with the cold they will be moisture starved and bring limited snowfall amounts. The main storm track will be the southwest flow, but I’m thinking the strength of the cold will force this storm track well to the south, focued over south Texas, the lower Mississippi valley into the Ohio valley into the Northeast. There will be two to three monster storms on this track. It looks like the core energy and moisture will stay away from St. Louis but each one will have to be watched and forecasted with care. The back-edges will be the concern. If we get nicked, it would be in the form of wind and snow.  Because of this pattern of temperature and storm track, I’m thinking rain and snow will be below average for January. It is almost a winter drought pattern, but perfect for making big time snow out at Hidden Valley.

Things to look for in January:

  • The red-tailed hawks are perched along the area highways looking for food
  • Watch for chickadees feeding up and down the trees
  • Beavers begin breeding this month

The major points for January 2015:

  • The cold conveyer belt from the North Pole is wide open the bulk of the month...building intense cold at times
  • Records are tough to come by but can't rule out one or two falling.
  • The core storm track will be a little too far south, so rain and snow will tend to be below average



February 2015:

Time for February, the last month of the three months of winter that I am focusing on. Of course, cold and snow can happen into April, but in February we start to think we have turned the corner. Not so fast my friend, this is a month that can quickly knock those thoughts into the ground and reminder us winter still has plenty of action up its sleeve. Strap in, let’s take a look at the month of February.

This will be an interesting month over the St. Louis area. There are some conflicting signs and the bust potential is a little higher than what makes me comfortable. With that in mind, I’m thinking the month carries over the cold I’m expecting in January for the first 8 to 10 days. However, it is looking like there will be a break in the arctic ice box for the next 10 to 15 days. Still cold, but temperatures will ease a little. Very cold air returns late in the month and taking us into the first part of the spring season. Overall the heating costs will continue to soar, an expensive winter on the way.

The expectation of flipping temperatures will result in a little stronger el Niño to close out the third month of the winter forecast. The northern storm track will be in force for the first 10 days resulting in any moisture being in the form of light, dry snow. Then the southern branch will take over and the storm forecasting becomes tricky at best. It will be the classic St. Louis headache with 2 maybe 3 systems in play during a very active pattern between the 10th and the 25th of February. These shots from the southwest will bring rain and ice with any snow on the very backend of the system. By the month’s end let go with near average rainfall and a little above average with the snowfall. It will not an easy month by any means.

Things to look for in February:

  • The red flowers of the silver maples swell with the first warm spell
  • The chickadees begin to sing...the first bird songs of the year
  • Look for robins returning in large flocks

The major points for the month of February:

  • A topsy-turvy month with a roller coaster temperature ride
  • The month starts cold, and then we get into an easing of the cold, ending with another solid cold shot.
  • The northern track with mainly snow in play the first 10 days then the southern track gets cooking resulting in 2 to 3 active storms with the mix of rain, sleet, ice and snow and the short term forecasting headaches

The 2014-2015 winter summary:

The focus during the winter season will be a light to moderate el Niño but I’m more concerned with warmer than average water temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska and right along the west coast. This means the dominate features of an el Niño winter will be tossed out at least for the bulk of the winter season. The key not all el Niño’s are created equal and let’s not get caught in that trap. I do think this up-coming winter will be close to the powerhouse winter of last season. There is a high bust potential but thinking the bust potential is on the colder and snowier side. The snow bunnies should be happy. Everyone else hang in there. Spring is around the corner, but that is for my next long range forecast.