A Look Ahead And My Take On NOAA’s Outlook

Before I jump into this Winter let me say that I love “fall back season”. Apparently, this is a polarizing issue between night people and morning people, being the latter I love it. The other thing about it is weather models don’t observe the time change so this means I get access to weather model runs 1 hour earlier, it occurs to me that getting excited about seeing weather model runs 1 hour earlier in the morning is slightly pathetic but the nerd in me often dictates my thoughts.

We are in a stale weather pattern for sure. Over the weekend there were a couple of model runs showing a closed low moving onshore and through Arizona and New Mexico rotating moisture into our area that would fall as rain for most and snow above 9,000 feet. Lately, that has not been the case as the moisture stays south of the Colorado border, it could change, but it looks so insignificant it is almost not worth talking about. So looking ahead the next 10 days is not very exciting for precipitation. Here are the 10-day snow totals for the big three models.







No comment needed, dry as a bone. I do expect the pattern to try to change by the end of the month, at least for a while.


This is the time of year that I get questions about NOAA’s Winter Outlook. To clarify, NOAA does not make Winter Forecasts, it releases a probability scheme. Here is the latest for the upcoming Winter.

IMAGE - for 101719 - U.S. map - Temperatures likely - Winter Outlook 2019 - Climate.gov - Landscape NATIVE inset

People will quickly look at this and say “Ok, it is going to be warm in the SW US”. It is actually not that simple, what it is actually saying is that according to NOAA there is a 40%-50% chance that it will be warmer than “normal”. When I hear that I like to point out that it also means that there is a 50%-60% chance that it will not be warmer than “normal”. At best it is guidance, last year that guidance did not go well.

Here was their 2018-2019 Outlook



Here is how last Winter actually turned out. It is literally almost the opposite of what the Outlook had.


So much for long term forecasts. Last year at this time I was more confident in my thoughts on the upcoming Winter. This year there are a lot more wildcard scenarios, it is important to keep in mind that the oceans play the biggest role in our weather patterns. The amount of convection in the Indian Ocean has a huge impact on the weather around the world. Last year was widely reported to be an El Nino, technically it was, but it needs an asterisk because it was an El Nino-Modoki, which oftentimes mimics a La Nina. This year NOAA is saying we have an 85% chance of neutral enso-conditions. But other countries Meteorological agencies are starting to see another Modoki event. Some of the heaviest snowfalls in SW Colorado have occurred during ENSO neutral conditions.

I think that conditions are still evolving and it is too early to come to any conclusions yet about what to expect this winter. I have gone as far as saying I think the Winter will start late similar to last year. I am not entertaining any thoughts of a repeat of last year, not yet anyway. Nor do I think we are doomed. So to those of you already worried about this Winter, be patient, it is too early to worry.


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