The meteorological Winter (1 Dec - 29 Feb) is over so let's breakdown the season. If you were a snow lover in the North or Northeast you're probably very disappointed as Winter pretty much came in one big storm while the Southwest and Sierras have an average to tad above average snow season. If you're a retail business or sell cold seasonal merchandise, the winter was devastatingly warm with many shuttering stores due to very weak sales. In this video we show businesses how we could have helped eliminate the big surprise with this record warm winter. BUSINESS VIDEO
This first map shows what actually happened this Winter season relative to a year ago. Winter got off to a great start in December for the western half of the country with cold, snow and rain while the East cooked in record warm conditions - warmest in 121 years for the Northeast winter and December.
wt360's year-ahead forecast did well and went against the pack that all said it would be a very cold winter across the Southern half of the country into the Northeast - didn't happen! The top two maps show our forecast missed in the lee of the Rocky Mountains when compared to last year (still hit 83% of the lower 48 states) but did very well when compared to the 30-year average (map bottom right) with the only misses in Southern California into Western New Mexico and Florida (89% of locations were forecast a year ahead on the correct side of average - excellent by meteorological standards). It was the only forecast that captured the heart of the below normal temps in the Central Rockies and Southwest and the only one that put the heart of the extremely warm anomalies in the Northeast/Great Lakes vs the Pacific Northwest. Statistics and 24 Climate Cycles once again trumped traditional meteorology/Physics.
Only two of these forecasts below were made a year ahead - weathertrends360 and the Old Farmer's Almanac. The rest were all made in the late Fall of 2015 so just a month or so before Winter. As you can see, most companies and NOAA went with a typical El Niño signature of warm north/cold south but wt360 was polar opposite with the warm forecast for much of the south and the cold focused in the Southwest Rocky Mountain states. The Almanac said it would be another brutal Winter, even in the Northeast so they only hit about 15% of their forecast, wt360 hit 83% to 89%. The rest hit about 40% to 65% even though those forecasts were issued right before Winter.
wt360 expected the warmest winter in 4 years and while we didn't think it would eclipse the record warm Winter of 2012-2013, we did have it similarly warm to the last mega El Niño in 1997-1998 that was near record warmest of the past 121 years.
As of right now NOAA has indicated this El Niño tied 1997-1998 in terms of strength but very well could have eclipsed that year once all the post analysis is completed. In just two seasons we went from one of the coldest Winters in 36 years (2013-2014) to the #1 warmest in 121 years this year. While this is a huge negative for cold seasonal merchandise sales, it was a big plus for consumers saving money on their heating bills and also a big plus for Home Centers, Restaurants and Home Furnishing sales that do better in warmer winters.
Looking at the national temperature trends day-by-day we see that only 17% of days were colder than last year over the 3 month season. The coldest day was 18 January - MLK JR holiday, the 2nd coldest day was 11 January and the 3rd coldest was right before Valentine's Day. The top 3 warmest days nationally were Feb 20th, Feb 28th and Dec 10th. The scenario from Valentine's Day to the 20th pretty much sums up the power of El Niño not allowing the cold to lock in this Winter. There was a huge warm surge after Valentine's Day weekend that was record cold in the Northeast only to be followed by a huge RAIN STORM 2-days later.
Overall, middle January was the coldest part of Winter. wt360 said in the year-ahead reports to clients "The 3rd week of January would be the coldest period of Winter along with the threat for a major Nor'easter". Both happened. See our Seeds of Success video series that discussed the Winter well in advance: EPISODE 1 EPISODE 2
Precipitation was heaviest in the Southeast in terms of amount of rainfall but the flooding rains in December in the Midwest brought the greatest changes vs an average year. Severe weather was also frequent with several tornado outbreaks across the South Central states, Florida and even well into the Middle Atlantic - unusual for winter but common in El Niño years. wt360's year-ahead forecast talked about this potential see EPISODE 2.
Nationally it ended up the 3rd wettest Winter in 25+ years but the 3rd LEAST snowfall in 25+ years for the U.S. overall.
Weekly precipitation trends show the last week in December was the wettest of the season.
Snowfall was down year-over-year in everyregion except the West where snowfall was up significantly. The Southeast-Middle Atlantic and the Southwest Mountains were the only region overall to trend above average snowfall. Yes the VA t0 NYC areas had a season's worth of snowfall in the 22-23 January historic blizzard.
On February 28th last year over 63% of the country was covered in snow, today only 12%. Last year 87% of the Great Lakes were covered in ice, this year only 8%. Overall, winter wasn't that bad! Now gear up for an epic hurricane season and brutally cold Winter!
Next winter we expect a moderate to strong La Niña winter with an early onset to very cold conditions in the late Fall and especially December. Cold La Nina winters are not necessarily snowy either as they tend to be dry for the Eastern half of the country.
Meteorologists say Spring arrives tomorrow, the sun says 20 March at 12:30am EDT and in Canada...we'll never! :)
- Capt Kirk out.