We’re still in the midst of winter 22/23, which has been so good many areas don’t want it to end. California and Utah, especially, have seen record-breaking snowfall totals, and resorts in these states will stay open well into summer.
But not all states have had such awesome snowfall, and skiers and riders suffering powder envy might already be looking ahead to next winter and dreaming that maybe, just maybe, next season will be a record-breaking one for them. Luckily, the NOAA recently released its long-term outlook for the US, including winter 23/24.
There’s not a great deal to glean from the graphics other than normal winter is expected across much of the US. The east coast and Alaska can expect above-normal temperatures across the entire winter, and the PNW might see less precipitation than normal.
Of course, it goes without saying that these should be taken with a pinch of salt. We’re a year away from next winter and are still enjoying this winter. The NOAA and the other major forecasters generally release their upcoming winter expectations in late August, so let’s wait until then before planning our powder trips.
Here’s what next winter might hold for the US:
PROGNOSTIC DISCUSSION OF OUTLOOKS – AMJ 2023 TO AMJ 2024
The AMJ 2023 temperature outlook favors above-normal seasonal mean temperatures from the Southwest eastward to the southern Plains and Southeast as well as northward to include the Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. The greatest odds of above-normal temperatures are for Texas and areas along the Gulf coast and Eastern Seaboard. There is strong support for warmer-than-normal temperatures in this region from nearly all dynamical model guidance and statistical forecast tools as well as long-term positive temperature trends. Very dry soil moisture conditions and well as above-normal local coastal SSTs, further enhance these odds for the southern High Plains and Gulf / Atlantic coasts, respectively.
Elevated odds of below-normal temperatures are forecast for the Northern Plains, where abnormally deep snowpack is in place, and long-term negative temperature trends exist. Dynamical model forecast guidance from some participant models of the NMME and C3S suite, as well as the CBaM hybrid forecast tool, supports this forecast.
A small region of favored below-normal temperatures is highlighted for an area in the interior western CONUS. Odds tilting toward below-normal temperatures in this area, however, are very modest. The AMJ and MJJ 2023 temperature outlook for the western U.S. is challenging due to considerably above-normal snowpack and soil moisture as a result of recent storminess in February and March, offset by forecasts of warmer than normal temperatures predicted by some dynamical and statistical forecast guidance. Forecasts from some of the statistical forecast tools and dynamical models indicate high odds for above-normal temperatures in the western CONUS from lead one onward – perhaps linked to a more rapid transition to warmer than average equatorial Pacific SSTs and potential consequent atmospheric response. The higher odds for above-normal temperatures from these tools seems overdone at the start of this month’s set of outlooks, given the highly anomalous snowpack and soil moisture conditions at the start of AMJ 2023.
Although the impact of enhanced surface wetness (either soil moisture to start or melting snowpack and consequently elevated soil moisture) is likely to diminish relatively quickly as the month of May progresses and in June, the season as a whole may still tilt slightly toward below-normal temperatures. The monthly temperature outlook for April 2023 favors below-normal temperatures for considerable areas in the western U.S. Equal chances (EC) is forecast for much of the remaining area in the western CONUS due to these competing influences. There is also support for areas of favored below-normal temperatures in the western CONUS from the ECMWF model guidance, the CA forecast tool based on soil moisture, and the CBaM hybrid tool.
Negative trends in sea ice coverage and thickness and so more open water earlier than normal for ocean areas along the northwest and northern coast of Alaska favors above-normal temperatures for these areas during AMJ 2023.
Elevated odds for below-normal temperatures remain for portions of the northern Plains during MJJ 2023, while favored above-normal temperatures increase in coverage and probabilities across the western CONUS from MJJ through ASO 2023. Weaker and conflicting signals in the forecast tools increase uncertainty for the north-central U.S., and so the area forecast as EC increases from the JJA through OND 2023 seasons.
Primarily beginning in SON 2023, the remaining outlooks are largely based on the ENSO-OCN forecast tool, which is heavily influenced by long-term trends at these leads with some slight adjustments, at this stage, for the potential influence of El Niño. For Alaska, increased forecast coverage of favored above-normal temperatures is depicted from MJJ through SON 2023.
The AMJ 2023 precipitation outlook favors above-normal seasonal total precipitation amounts for portions of the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast based on long-term positive precipitation trends as defined by OCN, dynamical model guidance from some participant models from the NMME and C3S ensemble systems, the CA forecast tool based on anomalous soil moisture and potential residual La Niña impacts.
Below-normal precipitation is favored for parts of the far Pacific Northwest and the Southwest U.S., where some dynamical model forecast guidance, the CBaM hybrid tool, the ENSO-OCN forecast tool, and long-term negative precipitation trends supported the outlook.
It is important to note that signals from the dynamical model suite for precipitation are especially weak for basically all forecast leads for which forecast guidance is available, even when considering shoulder seasons within the seasonal cycle as well as the transition to ENSO-neutral.
Favored above-normal precipitation in the eastern CONUS is forecast to shift eastward and southward with time from MJJ through JJA and then transition westward by ASO 2023. This evolution is based on long-term positive precipitation trends and, to a lesser degree, signals from the NMME and C3S model guidance.
Favored below-normal precipitation forecast for the Pacific Northwest shifts to include parts of the northern Rockies from MJJ through JAS 2023 – a result of the ENSO-OCN forecast tool, long-term negative precipitation trends, and some dynamical model forecast support. For the Southwest, below-normal precipitation is most likely to continue during MJJ 2023, albeit with smaller forecast coverage.
Unlike in 2022, there are fewer climate signals to utilize for the prediction of the first half of the Southwest summer monsoon. Enhanced wetness across the western CONUS from an extremely wet winter may lead to a potentially delayed start and less robust monsoon circulation due to perhaps less efficient heating of the land, and so a weaker thermodynamic induced circulation. The CBaM hybrid forecast tool does favor below-normal precipitation in the Southwest during the monsoon season, but there remains considerable uncertainty given the evolution of ENSO and how that may or may not influence precipitation in the region this summer.
Climate signals for the state of Alaska for AMJ 2023 are quite weak and conflicting amongst the tools when present, so EC is forecast for the entire state. However, above-normal precipitation is most likely for parts of northern and central Alaska beginning in MJJ 2023 and continuing through the remainder of 2023. Model guidance and more open water earlier in the seasonal cycle are the basis for these highlighted areas.
Primarily long-term precipitation trends and slight tilts in deference to potential EL Niño development are used in making the remainder of the precipitation outlooks through AMJ 2024.
Nov, Dec, Jan
Dec, Jan, Feb
Jan, Feb, Mar