Here comes January. I hope you have enjoyed the recent spell of warm air, because it’s come to an end. You will no doubt hear the words cold, frigid, bitter and arctic in the forecast over the next few days, but much of that will be overstated.
Yes, it’s going to get cold, but January is the coldest month of the year so it’s supposed to be chilly. Even a milder than average January will still feature cold weather.
In December we saw a break from the cold and snow of the previous month. December featured above average temperatures across much of the United States and below average snowfall. The map below shows how nearly the entire country has been warm this month. This is as of the 29th, but I don’t suspect it will change dramatically in the next two days, even with a new surge of arctic air.
There are many reasons for our mild December, El Nino is one of them, but so too is a lack of what we call blocking over Greenland. When the upper flow is blocked over that part of the world, it helps bring prolonged cold and storminess to New England.
For the first month of 2015 there are few aspects of the atmosphere which are becoming clear. First, the impact of El Nino is going to be minimal. El Nino is weakening and could even become neutral. The affects we see here in New England will likely be more like a year without an El Nino or even more like a weak La Nina. This translates into at least a colder month and perhaps snowier. The index below was developed at Weather Services International.
Meteorologists are also closely watching the area of tropical thunderstorms on the other side of the world. These thunderstorms are part of something called the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). Clusters of thunderstorms develop in different areas of the tropics as a result of these thunderstorms. As a side note, these storms are also part of the investigation into the missing Air Asia flight.
I spoke with Michael Ventrice, PhD, a forecaster at WSI in Andover, earlier today and he believes the the MJO is likely going to overshadow the effects of El Nino and changes in the MJO will be closely watched by forecasters all month. This phenomena is part of a larger wave pattern over the tropics and still becoming better understood. I suspect you will hear more about the MJO in the coming years.
The MJO is going to overshadow the effects of El Nino and will be closely watched by forecasters all month. This phenomenon is part of a larger wave pattern over the tropics and still becoming better understood. I suspect you will hear more about the MJO in the coming years.
Warm Alaska, Cold Lower 48
We also see signs of a ridge building in Alaska, this will bring warm air to that state and you will likely hear about the lack of cold and snow there in the coming weeks. When Alaska’s temperatures warm, the lower 48 experiences colder weather.
The monthly prediction of temperature put out by the National Weather Service has been quite consistent about the warming in Alaska for the past 10 days. The map below, which is updated daily, gives the prediction of temperature for the coming month. Notice how New England has flipped from colder to warmer throughout the time series.
This month, I believe we will experience wide swings in temperature with several days of cold followed by a period of warmth, perhaps even at record levels. The core of the cold will stay west of New England, except perhaps pieces over northern Maine. I think we will see at least a few events when there is colder weather in Texas than there is in eastern New England. Overall I feel the month will turn out average to 2 degrees below average. I think the likelihood of a warmer than average January is small.
Storminess is even more difficult to predict. A shift of just a few miles of a storm can mean the difference between rain, snow or nothing. NOAA’s outlook for January has been consistently forecasting mild air over the southeastern portion of the United States as the cold air builds and then spills into the northern tier.
There will be a battle taking place in January between these air masses and likely brewing multiple storms. Of course the track of each of these determines where the heaviest snow and rain will fall. A predominant storm track west of New England would bring some snow, but more rain especially along the coast. A track along the east coast, but not too far offshore is the most favorable if you are a snow lover. A lot of cold air would push storms too far south and we would just end up dry and cold. That’s the pattern apparently setting up for the first 8 days of the month. The map below is the predicted snowfall total from today through the 8th of January. Notice there’s actually more snow around the mid-Atlantic as storms pass to our south.