Dave Murray’s 2016-2017 Long Range Winter Forecast

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- Every season is fun and tough to forecast in the St. Louis area, but the challenge really steps up to the plate in December, a month that typically brings a wide variety of weather. The weather patterns get busy, especially when compared to Fall.  It is a month that can be rather mild at times to featuring flat out classic hard core conditions. It is a ride. The challenge is not the supply of moisture but what form it is going to take. And while moisture is important, the number one factor is temperature, both day and night. It’s all about the fine line of rain, ice, and snow. Of, and of course, what about a white Christmas. Strap in and let’s get this forecast started with the month of December.

December 2016

You have to love the challenge of December, both in the long term like this and in the short term. I think we get off to a slow start this winter season.  El Niño is long gone and la Nina continues to be "la no-no,”  a no show. The area of warm water in the northwest Pacific Ocean will also be slow to take over weather patterns, but it is there and is a factor.  As a result, December will kick off the winter on the mild side for December. The tough cold will hang just to our north. It is a little too close for comfort, but let’s keep it to the north the bulk of the time. Of course, there will be some quick pushes from the north, especially toward the end of the month. But I think this December around St. Louis will bring near to slightly above average temperatures. So any cold shots from the north will not get established and we should see some quick rebounds in the temps, day and night. Not expecting any cold records and not expecting any single digits. Could there be some record highs? They are mainly in the 70's in December and there may be a day or two we make a run, but Iam not holding my breath. Overall, a nice start to the heat budget and the wood piles stay strong, much like last December.

Turning to the moisture patterns for the 12th month of the year and the main storm track will be a clipper track, but a track that will hold from the northern Rockies across the upper Midwest and into the Great Lakes and the Northeast. This track keeps the bulk of the snow away with no link between cold air and moisture. Without an active southern track, I think the month of December will run below average for rain and below average for snow. The snow bunnies will be sad. December can bring big snows, but that is more the exception rather than the rule. Is it a dry month? Not at all.  We should see some rain, sleet, and snow, I just don't see anything getting out of hand this December.

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?

Have to run with a green Christmas...the cold air will not be strong enough.

Things to look for December

  • 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

December 2016 Highlights:

  • Overall global patterns are neutral...the bulk of the month will bring mild December weather with limited cold shots
  • Moisture will be limited with near to below average rain and near to below average snow
  • Let’s run with the idea of a green Christmas over the St. Louis area

January 2017

January is really the true start to winter, right in the middle of the winter season. The holidays are over and most want to settle in for a long winter's nap. For many, it is a month of hibernation. It is one of the toughest months to get through. We typically see an uptick in large, slow moving storm systems that bring wind, rain, ice, and snow. But sometimes, Mother Nature will toss us a bone in the form of a January Thaw, a 3 to 5 days stretch of mild to even warm weather about the third week of the month.

La Nina is not a player in January. What is a player? A large area of warm water off the northwest coast into the Gulf of Alaska. This will result in a large ridge over the western United States and create a major dip in the jet stream over the eastern two thirds of the nation. This will open the door to Arctic Air and get winter going and going quickly in the month of January. This will fit the analog of the winter of 2013-2014 very well. Make sure you 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 with a large snow pack developing over Canada and the upper Midwest. January looks cold from start to finish and may end up being a rather extreme month for cold weather. So what does that mean about the January Thaw? 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. Record cold is really intense and extreme. It will be cold, but let’s stay away from record cold. Nevertheless, the heaters and will be working overtime.

Predicting moisture patterns are tough in the long term. I am.thinking the Alberta Clipper track will be fast and furious, but the Gulf of Mexico moisture will be shut off. So we deal with systems that will be moisture starved and bring limited snowfall amounts. I think that the southwest storm track will be rather quiet and those are the ones that bring our best shots at snow. I think there will be one of these systems that will penetrate the dry and cold air and bring us some snow. Most of these storms in January will press south and east, but I think at least one could do the trick. Rainfall for January will be below average, .but if we get one good system, snowfall will be above average. With that said, the rest of the month will tend to be dry. When does the snow come, that is an impossible call in a long range forecast but certainly will be fun with the watch and wait. The colder pattern is great news for the snow making operations 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

Janaury 2017 Highlights:

  • Winter cold kicks into high gear from start to finish in January. No record cold but the heating systems get a solid work out
  • The moisture patterns will be controlled by the cold and dry air pouring in from Canada. Much of the month will be dry
  •  High hopes for one southwest storm that takes advantage of southern moisture and northern cold for a snow event

February 2017

Time for February, the last month of the three months of winter. Of course, cold and snow can happen into April. But by 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 remind us Winter still has plenty of hands to play out.

This looks like the heart of the winter season. That means tough short term forecasting and a lot of interest and fun. I think the month carries over the cold I’m expecting in January, which hangs on for much of the month. Remember, this is St. Louis. We are not going to get locked in for 28 days of numbing cold. There will be a break or two. But this is a month that will see some screaming outbreaks from the Arctic icebox. The heating costs will continue to soar. The groundhog will not be happy. Many folks will not be happy. And let’s not even think about spring. With some see-saw of the temperatures, I think the month will be just a little bit below average, but that is cold. However, I don't see any record cold.

On to moisture and this could be interesting. The northern Clipper track will be very active and also the southern storm track will have a little get up and go. But with the domination of the cold plunge, I’m thinking snow will be limited. I think that cold and dry air pushing in and pushing well south and east will also drain the northern storm track. That means only a few little, dry type snows in February. What about the southern track? That’s always the main feature when it comes to winter storms. I think the core track will be too far south and east to get us a lot, but one or two systems could try to make the swing up. I’m more concerned about sleet and ice for the focus until the backside of the system leaves snow as it moves away. This will be interesting. I think we will have some action but rain and snow will be below average. Be ready for ice

Things to look for in the month of February

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

February  2017 Highlights:

  • Some see-saw of temperatures but expect a fair share of action from the north and the Arctic...temps slightly below average
  • Two active storm tracks,one north and one south, resulting is some very tough short-term forecasting
  • A few light snows, limited rain but I have concerns about ice and sleet problems

The focus during the winter season will be a neutral pattern when it comes to el Nino or la Nina and a warm pool of water in the Pacific off the northwest coast and into the Gulf of Alaska. This creates its own pattern for the weather in the United States. This winter will be colder and more active but with a little bit of a late start. I think the concepts of the winter will hang tough for the start of the spring season. But that is an extra long way off and for my next long range forecast.

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