Friday, September 18, 2015

Special Post: 2015-2016 Winter Pattern Beginning to Form?

In today's special post, we're looking at how the upcoming winter pattern may be giving a sneak peak at what it will do this cold season.

The above two-panel image shows daily sea surface temperature anomalies for September 16th on the left, with the 500-millibar height anomalies for September 17th shown on the right. I've discussed the importance of realizing an ocean-atmosphere relationship for some time, and this latest evidence is only adding credibility to that relationship.

I've highlighted two areas of interest on the right-most panel. From Alaska, south into the British Columbia and Pacific Northwest regions, negative height anomalies were observed on September 17th. In the other highlighted region, positive height anomalies were extending from the Bering Sea into the waters north of Hawaii. Although not shown, we also saw a closed upper level low placed due south of that ridge in the Bering Sea, forming a Rex Block pattern.

It is no coincidence that sea surface temperature anomalies reflect this atmospheric pattern. We see a swath of above-normal to well-above-normal water temperatures across the North Pacific, with a body of below-normal SST anomalies just south of the Aleutian Islands, extending back towards Japan. In addition, we also see a cooling of water temperatures over the last month in the Gulf of Alaska / Northeast Pacific, as the graphic below shows.

Change in water temperatures over the last calendar month
In addition to this pattern showing up in the past, model guidance insists it is here to stay, at least for the next 10 days.

The GFS ensemble mean 500-millibar height anomaly forecast for 132 hours out is shown above on the left panel. We see a set-up very similar to what we have been seeing, with a Rex Block orientation in the North Pacific, a deep trough in the Gulf of Alaska, and a stagnant ridge in the Central and East US.

Even in the very long range, over 10 days out, the GFS ensembles still show a signal for ridging in the Bering Sea, a trough in the Pacific Northwest, and a ridge in the Central US. While accuracy at this long range timeframe is quite low, the pattern has a decent chance of locking up like this if it verifies 5 days down the road.

While we may see sea surface temperatures change drastically over the next few months, I'm getting the feeling that we're closing in on our winter pattern, and it could resemble something like the pattern shown above.
This current pattern, and the one forecasted over the next two weeks, is not unlike a modified strong El Nino, as shown in this link (click here), which I've been discussing as a favored set-up for the winter (a modified textbook El Nino pattern). Whether it sticks around and/or returns during the winter remains to be seen, but I find it plausible we enter into this pattern for the winter. This would bring about a warm winter for much of the Central and East US.

To Summarize:

- The current weather pattern is forecasted to continue over at least the next two weeks.
- This pattern is following sea surface temperature anomalies over the Pacific, making it more likely to maintain.
- This pattern resembles a modified Strong El Nino pattern, and could stick around for the winter months.