Dave Murray’s Long-Range Winter 2015-2016 Forecast

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-The month of December can bring a variety of weather. The overall patterns get rather active, certainly when compared to the Fall season, and the month can feature non-winter weather, to classic, hard core conditions, to everything in between. The challenge is not so much where the moisture is coming from but how that moisture is delivered over the region and, the toughest part, temperature. In December, we walk a fine line and many times that rain/snow line is cut right over the FOX 2 viewing area. So let’s try to answer some questions: how cold, how much rain, snow and ice, and will there be a white Christmas. Here is my St. Louis weather forecast for December.

December 2015

When looking at the three months of winter, the el Niño effect will be the strongest in December. So what does that mean? It means a very slow start to the Winter season. This is more like the spring training for the real part of winter that will come later on. For the most part temperatures will run above average. Now, that is a December above average. There will be two cold shots from the north but the overall trend will be for chilly to cool weather not flat out cold. So any cold shots will not get established and we’ll see a quick rebound in temperature, much like the Fall season. There are certainly no records and nothing even close to the single digits or near zero. That’s not going to happen this December. When all is said and done, for the first month of winter, temperatures will be pretty easy to take. We should all be happy with our heating costs and the wood piles will stay strong.

That slow start to the winter season will not be good news for the snow bunnies. I see all the ears hanging down right now. The major storm track is the classic el Niño southern run with the core storms tracking from southern California to Texas and rolling over the southeast out into the Atlantic. Not a lot of “cutters.” This track mixed with my temperature ideas will bring mainly rain. If we get a link with the two cold snaps, I’m expecting some of that rain could get sloppy with some sleet, ice and snow. But nothing should get out of hand. The clipper track not a real player, so when we wrap up December rainfall will be slightly above average and snowfall will be near average(limited).

December also brings up my toughest forecast when it comes to the long range: What is the weather for Christmas? Will it be a white or a green Christmas? If you have been following along, you already know where I’m going. I do not see a white Christmas this season.

Things to look for December

  • The great horned owls begin courting...you can hear them hooting on the long winter nights
  • Check out the sky...easy to spot the winter constellation Orion
  • Bald eagles start to arrive in good numbers

The major points of December 2015

  • El Niño is at its peak in December...in fact the peak was about 2 months ago. As a result...a slow start to the winter season
  • Temperatures will be pretty easy to take for a December in St. Louis. Fast and limited cold snaps...no records and nothing even close to zero
  • The focus will be on rain with limited sleet, ice and snow...and ending up with a green Christmas

January 2016

There is no way around it; January is the middle of winter. It’s a hard core month. The holidays are over and most want to settle in for a long winter's nap. Most will agree, even the snow bunnies,  it is one of the toughest months to get through. 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. But with or without the thaw, January is a tough month we just want to plow through

The el Niño is still very much in place but there are some holes showing up in the armor in January. El Niño will want to try to keep things easy to take but the warm waters in the north Pacific and cold waters in the Atlantic will lead to some impressive ridging over central and western Canada. That has my "Spidey" weather senses tingling. Why? This will start to open the door to the deep cold of the Arctic and Canada. I'm expecting several shots of cold from the North Country. The catch here, there is always a catch with the weather, we are going to be on the edge of these cold shots, with the coldest air flowing over the Great Lakes, the Ohio Valley, and the Northeast. As a result, it will be a cold month but it’s not a powerhouse cold month. That brings up the January thaw,  a 3 to 5 days run of mild to even warm weather about the third week of the month of January. It works out more times than not. Since the cold shots will not be consistent and we will be living on the edge, we should get that January thaw.  So when the month is over, temperatures will be slightly below average. I don’t see any records and nothing extreme, but plenty of days and nights that will feel like winter.

On to the moisture patterns and the colder weather and active southern storm track should make for a very interesting month and some really tough forecasting. Forecasting in winter is always tough, but this will be an extra tough and sometimes weird pattern to forecast in the short term. So we’ll see a battle of moist and mild air to the south and living on the edge of the cold air to our northeast and east. I’m expecting three intense systems rolling on that southern track and the combo of temperatures and moisture will have us on the edge of winter weather events. No system will be clear cut for us, that means each will bring a mix of rain, sleet, ice and snow. Keep the ice melt handy and ready to go. I’m thinking rainfall will be near average and snowfall will be near average. With that said, there could be some real ugly forecasting and results in the month of January

Things to look for in January

  • 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 2016

  • it will be more like winter should be in the St. Louis area...but not a clear cut picture...running on the edge of several cold shots from the north
  • I do like the idea of a January thaw this winter
  • We’ll be dealing with an active and tricky storm track...rainfall and snowfall...including ice will be near average

February 2016

It is time for February, the last month of meteorological winter. Of course, cold and snow can happen into April. but in February we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 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 punches to throw our way.

My thinking this month is that the el Niño pattern is still strong but starting to weaken. This is why I say all el Niño’s are not created equal. As a result along with the other features,  like the warmer waters in the gulf of Alaska and the cold air really pooled to the north in Canada, I really think February is all about pure winter from start to finish. The Arctic ice box will open up and it will flow to the south like water. The cold will cover the middle of the nation and all points to the east, including the southeast part of the nation. There will be a little easing of the cold from time to time, but this is a chill that will take us into the start of the spring season. Heating costs will soar and the wood pile will fade away. Temperatures will be below average for the last month of winter.

Moisture in February is a tough question. The southern storm track will stay active but with more and more cold air taking control I’m more concerned with dry cold than active wet cold. We will be walking another fine line when it comes to ice and snow, with the core of that running to our south and east.  But that is a little too close for comfort, especially when looking at the third month of the long range forecast. I’m thinking 3 to 4 weather events will be in play, all of them starting as rain and ice and kicking over to snow. That’s classic southern storm track action. However, I do think there could also be 1 to 2 run-ins with Alberta clippers. When that happens, it will be all about snow. When we are all done with the month, rainfall will be below average and snow and ice will be near average. It won’t be an easy month by any means

Things to look for in the month of 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 February 2016

  • This is the strongest month of the winter season...winter making up for lost time
  • Thinking it’s a pure winter month... cold!
  • The southern storm track will stay active but also have to keep an eye on the northern Alberta clipper track.

The Winter summary

The focus during the winter season will be a very strong el Niño  but with warmer than average water temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska and a few other atmospheric features, this will not be what you would call a classic el Niño. The key not all el Niño’s are created equal. And let’s not get caught in that trap. This will be a winter that builds, saving its best for last and that paints an interesting picture for the spring...but that is for my next long range forecast.​