This Seasonal Outlook (and John Dee's sled for this season) is brought to you by:

Seasonal Outlook: Winter 2016/2017
(Released: October 10, 2016)

I am sure that most of you are familiar with my feelings on seasonal weather forecasting, but for those of you that have not done so already, you might want to check out my "Soap Box Speech on Seasonal Weather Forecasting". The bottom line is, no one should be making any serious decisions, such as buying/not buying a sled or gear based on this or any outlook.

OK, so with the usual disclaimer over, it is time to get down to business. The buzzword and big dog in the room last season was El Nino. No need to re-hash the ugliness that it brought last winter in much of the northern US last year, but the good news is that it is over and conditions right now are neutral to border line La Nina. (figure 1).

Current forecasts call for the sea surface temps to hold fairly steady through most of this winter and then warm some next spring (figure 2).  

Like last year, there is good news and bad...only reversed. The good news this winter is that I think that much of the northern US will see average to below average temps and average to above average snowfall. The bad news is that confidence in the outlook for this winter is not as high as it was for last winter’s mild outlook.  

As usual, I am going to let the graphic do most of the talking, but will add that I believe the NE US has the highest likelihood of seeing below average temps and above average snowfall. This largely due to the fact that things were so incredibly poor last winter. The north central US will also have a good chance for below average temps, but with close to average snows.

I also believe that the current mild conditions across the eastern 2/3rds of the US will continue through the rest of October and into at least early November. So those looking for early snows and cold will likely be disappointed, but the deeper we go into November, the greater the likelihood that the pattern will make its flip and start to send in the cold and snow.

So without further gibber jabber, here is the breakdown by region:

REGION 1 – The Northwest Midwest: The news is pretty good. This may not be an exceptional year for snows, but snowfall will likely be near average and when combined with frequent intrusions of arctic air, will help to preserve what snow does fall and increase the odds that a good snowpack will persist through much of the traditional snow-play season. These intrusions of arctic air will also set the stage for an increased chance for more lake effect snow (LES) than is seen in a typical season across the LES belts of the UP. Although one should not necessarily set their expectations on a record setting season for LES snow in the UP.

REGION 2The Southeast Midwest: The news for this region is OK. I do not expect a banner year for snow or cold, but I do think that when compared to last winter, it may seem like banner year! Keep in mind that this is a part of the northern US that sees snows and then spirts when temps are warm enough to thaw some of the snow, even in the dead of winter. So one should not think that all the snow that falls will hang on, but I do believe that the Northwoods of WI and lower MI will enjoy a decent winter for snow-play from early to mid-December through early March. As with the NW Midwest, I do believe that frequent intrusions of arctic air will lead to an increased chance for more LES to fall in the belts of the other Great Lakes this winter, although also like the Lake Superior LES forecast, one should not necessarily set their expectations on a record setting season for LES snow.

REGION 3The Northeast US: No doubt that this region saw one of its poorest winters for snow play in recent memory. The good news is I believe that this region holds the highest chance of seeing both above average snowfall and below average temps. This should not be taken to mean that the record books will be re-written for stations in this region, but after a very disappointing winter last year, this one will likely re-ignite the excitement for snow-play.

REGION 4The Northern Rockies: This region will likely see somewhat changeable weather this winter- resulting in close to average snow and temps for the winter as a whole. The warmer spells will likely impact only the lower elevations where snow-play is done, with the more traditional, higher, elevations seeing little in the way of thaws occur during the heart of the season. One potential negative side to a fluctuating weather regime is the potential for frequent days with an unstable snowpack. So the risk for avalanches may be heightened this season for the N. Rockies.

REGION 5The Central Rockies: As with the northern Rockies, I see the northern ˝ of this region to see close to average snowfall and temps occur, but as you travel south, the number of storms rolling through is likely to be smaller and thus an increased chance for below average snowfall will occur. In addition to the increased chance for below average snowfall will come more sunshine and slightly warmer than average conditions. So lots of “Blue Bird” days, but perhaps not as much snow as would be desired.

REGION 6The Pacific NW and Sierra Range: Most of this region will likely see above average precipitation result in average to above average snowfall for the higher terrain. The expected pattern does not bode as well for the CA mountains, with storms to be less frequent and temps to run average to even a bit above. The northern ˝ of this region will likely see a busier than average storm track.

REGION 7Eastern Canada: The story for eastern Ontario, most of Quebec and the Maritime Provinces is pretty similar to the Northeast US.  Meaning that I believe the winter will be a bit cooler than average, with the snowfall to running average to above average.