Free-Range Weather

Cage-Free Weather Commentary

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First of the Season Tiny Little Snowflakes

Snow on Tree

(We didn’t get this much!)

They’re so tiny that I have to squint to see them and it’s doubtful that they’ll amount to even a trace, but the season’s first snowflakes are indeed flying today. Flying may be a stretch, as they are wafting lazily down before hitting the ground and vanishing, becoming indistinguishable from the bit of rain we had yesterday.

Are they a harbinger of an early winter? A look at the Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 and 8-14 day forecasts show that the computer models believe the Northwest is in for a cold first couple of weeks of November. I’m not ready for the weather to close in just yet, but Mother Nature didn’t consult me.

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Battle of the Winter Forecasts

Accuweather Winter Forecast

Accuweather Winter Forecast

Not to be outdone by Accuweather, The Weather Channel peered deeply into their crystal ball and published their winter 2013-14 forecast. They’re radically different, except for the Northeast.

Whom to believe? Who knows? Without an El Nino or La Nina to guide them (“neutral” conditions are expected, which means that an easy El Nino winter forecast like drier and warmer in the Northwest and rainier in the Southwest, is not available), long-range forecasters have to work a little harder to nail down their predictions. (How do forecasters create their long-term forecasts? That’s a topic for another day.)

Let’s break the forecast down by region:
Northeast – Accuweather says mild early with winter arriving way behind schedule (or – in like a lamb, out like a lion). TWC says pretty much the same thing.
Southeast – TWC forecasts cold early on, then moderating temps. Accuweather says the opposite and adds in risk of severe thunderstorms in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.
Midwest – Accuweather forecasts “cold shots” with above normal snows for the upper Great Lakes. TWC basically punts and says “variable.”
Southwest/West – TWC says the ”¬†strongest signal for a warmer-than-average winter is from the the Desert Southwest into the south-central states” with the West Coast and Northwest getting the variable tag, while Accuweather states that the Southwest will have “wet episodes” and the Northwest will be wet and snowy, depending on how far inland you are.

To hyper-localize things, TWC says that my little town of Sisters, Oregon, will have a normal winter and Accuweather says it will be snowy. Here’s hoping TWC is right.

What do you think of the forecasts for your area?

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Local Extreme Weather Feature on Wunderground

I usually look at Weather Underground to see what temp it is and to check the forecast. This time of year I might also see what’s going on in the tropics (not a whole lot, this year, at least for the U.S.; meanwhile, China has been hit by 23 tropical systems this season).

Wunderground Record Extremes Link

Wunderground Record Extremes Link

Today I discovered something new – Record Extremes. I accessed it by clicking Record Extremes, a link at the bottom of the Today’s Extremes box about halfway down, in the middle on any Wunderground weather station page.

From there I was able to enter Sisters, Oregon and select what data I wanted, which was, well, everything! I chose High Maximum Temp, Low Minimum Temp, Maximum Rainfall and Maximum Snowfall. The results were useful but somewhat frustrating as the Period of Record is 48 years but there are no results prior to 1988. And despite selecting All-Time Record, it wouldn’t display Sisters’ snowiest day, which is what I wanted. I might ping Wunderground and see what they say.

Wunderground Extreme Weather Page

Wunderground Extreme Weather Page