So far, winter has neglected to produce much, if any snow for most of the coverage area this year. The cold has held up to the pre-winter hype thus far, however, to say that the snow has not lived up to expectations would be a drastic understatement. There are places that have only seen flakes a handful of times since the start of winter. If we neglect the Nov. 15th freak snowstorm many towns along I-95 are sitting at under an inch of snow for the whole year. I expect this to change drastically heading into February as it looks as though much colder and snowier times are ahead.
Don't Give Up on Winter
I am fairly confident that most places that re begging for snow will get some within the upcoming months, and there is a good chance it will be just enough to makeup for getting shutout in December and, if everything holds, most of January as well.
The reason I have neglected to throw in the towel for an above average winter snow wise is because we are still in a weak El nino year. As shown i the graph above the waters in Nino region 3.4 are still hovering about .5 degrees C above normal. Winters that have been around the same levels are notorious for producing duds in the first half of winter, only for snowfall to come back with vengeance the second half. The past few years there have been multiple winters where the first half was underwhelming only for the second half to produce non stop snowfall. Many winters last well into March and accumulating snowfall could happen into April as we saw last year. There is still plenty of time for snowfall to reach above average levels.
Bad luck (or good luck) has been the culprit for lack of snow thus far for the Northeast. Out of the three storms that largely missed most of the population, all three could have been snow makers for the big cities if timing was slightly different. The problem is not that there has not been storm chances, it is that the storms that have spun up have so far had bad timing or have come at a time with little blocking to lock cold air in. The Mid-Atlantic special storm that buried the South-Central Mid-Atlantic with snow in mid December was a TPV phase away from producing widespread snowfall in the Northeast. Instead, bad timing and an awkward angle shunted the storm south. Our most recent storm this past weekend failed for the opposite reason, too much phasing. That brought the storm too far north and was a big rain and ice producer for many. Eventually, a storm is going to phase just right and catch enough cold air to dump snowfall over our region. The pattern has not been horrible (although it has not been particularly favorable) it is just that storms have found ways to miss. If there was a lack of storms and rain I would be concerned, however, that is not the case.
Here, I will go over the reasons why I believe February will be much colder than normal, as well as produce above average precipitation for many areas along I-95.
The first reason I am so bullish for cold and snow in February is that the MJO is starting off in a favorable position. The GFS ENS are forecasting a high amplitude 7 MJO and likely headed into phase 8 where cold and snow are more likely. As you can see, the reason December was so warm and snowless, was because the MJO was driving our pattern and we were stuck in the warm and wet phases of 4/5. That is now changing and although I do not expect the MJO to play a huge role in our upcoming pattern it is a good sign to see it meandering close to favorable patterns.
Two of our most important teleconnections are forecaster by both the ECMWF (shown above) and the GFS to go into and stay in favorable phases for cold and snow. A negative AO helps drive cold down into the eastern 1/3rd of the US as it bends the jetsream up over the west coast and down into the east coast. A negative NAO helps lock in that cold air with above normal heights over Greenland. An NAO in a negative phase could also help strengthen storms with pressure gradients as well as slow them down. Both of these teleconnections are foretasted to go into the negatives and stay there, greatly increasing our chances for cold and snow along the eastern third of the country.
Lastly, above we have the CFSv2 and the EPS weeklies. Both of these models show incredibly favorable patterns for cold and snow heading into February. Both have high ridges out west into Alaska with cold air pouring down into the eastern 1/3rd of the country with troughs as well as strong high latitude blocking in Greenland. If these maps verify, buckle up because it is going to be one heck of a ride.
To start off, I have the brunt of the cold centered around the Midwest with below normal temperatures for most of the eastern half of the country. The cold being centered around the upper Midwest will help supply enough cold air for snow, but not so much cold air that it will push storms too far south of us. The negative AO will help supply the cold while the negative NAO will help keep it locked in. I am expecting February to start off very cold, relax for about a week then induce another arctic blast that lasts through March. This will help bring snow chances as the first ingredient for a snowstorm is always a cold air supply.
Finally, to cap off my February 2019 outlook we have the precipitation forecast. I still strongly believe there will be multiple coastal storms that will target the Northeast and east coast as a whole. This will help produce above normal precipitation for the areas in green. Although I continue to stress that just because there is above normal precipitation, it does not guarantee above normal snowfall. Obviously, with below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation there is a high risk for above normal snowfall it is not set in stone. With the coldest temperatures setting up in the upper mid west, their precipitation chances will likely be limited as too much cold air will force storms to the south which is why most of that area is in below normal precipitation. I also added the most likely storm tracks which are up the coast near the benchmark and southern sliders that miss out to sea. The center of the cold will shift east from time to time and there is a chance that we may miss a storm opportunity or two because the cold is too suppressive. I think storms that hug the coast or cut inland will be relatively unlikely as our -AO and -NAO should help keep that from happening too often.
I strongly believe that this February will be significantly different from December on January's themes of cold/dry and warm/wet. There will be many coastal storm chances as well as chances for snow and abnormal cold. Those who have given up on winter and put away the snowblowers will likely have to reverse their decisions.