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CINDY DAY: El Nino, the Jet Stream or Grandma – my winter forecast is in

Wax your shovel!  Krista Clark and her husband Mike Cuvelier spotted this abandoned nest during a stroll through Halifax's Point Pleasant Park.   If what Grandma says is true, we’re in for a snowy winter. Mike is 6’ tall!
Wax your shovel! Krista Clark and her husband Mike Cuvelier spotted this abandoned nest during a stroll through Halifax's Point Pleasant Park. If what Grandma says is true, we’re in for a snowy winter. Mike is 6’ tall! - Contributed

Some people like to take the weather as it comes.  I’m glad that’s not the case with everyone, or I’d be out of work. 

Then there are those who seem to need more than five or seven days’ notice. These are the people who look forward to the seasonal ENSO forecasts.  ENSO is El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation.  It’s a quasi-periodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every three to five years.  The Southern Oscillation refers to variations in the temperature of the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean and in air surface pressure in the tropical western Pacific.  The warming of the ocean water is known as El Niño and the cooling is referred to as La Niña.  The warm oceanic phase, El Niño, accompanies high air surface pressure in the western Pacific, while the cold phase, La Niña, accompanies low air surface pressure in the western Pacific. 

Recent data released by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society indicated we are in a weak to moderate El Niño cycle.  So what does it mean for our winter?  Typically, temperatures would be slightly above normal.  Now, that is just one climate indicator that can help with long-term forecasting and I don’t think it will be the dominant one here at the coast.

Even with a weak El Niño, I believe our winter will be slightly cooler than normal across Atlantic Canada because of El Niño’s impact on the Jet Stream.  I predict it will bring the storms across the southern U.S. and up the Eastern Seaboard.  That would imply an active precipitation pattern with quite a bit of moisture around – especially for the southeast.  So, let’s go with slightly above normal snowfall there and below normal snow in the northwest thanks to a strong area of high pressure ridging down from northern Quebec.  Keep in mind that a wobble one way or the other can push that elusive rain/snow line around and change things!   

What about the wind?  A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study shows that during an EL Niño year, nor’easter windstorms are nearly three times more likely.  

While it is true these patterns are global steering patterns that do affect our weather, it’s also very important to keep in mind that it’s a general statement covering a very large piece of property.  Local conditions can and often do vary from ENSO predictions.   

Oh yes, let’s not forget Grandma’s predictions.  According to our ancestors, if hornets’ nests were high off the ground, there would be lots of snow during the upcoming winter. 

I’ve heard from some of you but not enough to make a call.  Let me know what you’ve observed, and I’ll put out a regional snow forecast map based on your observations. 

Send you photos or observations to weathermail@weatherbyday.ca 

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