Winter 2017/2018 Recap
For winter, because of the building La Nina conditions, we predicted a bimodal temperature pattern with warm conditions east of the Mississippi River during November and December and cooler conditions east of the Rockies January through March (figs 1 and 2). We were generally correct with a cool slant to the forecast for the latter-half of the season. Unfortunately for our forecast, warmer conditions did not materialize in the Ohio Valley in December.
December turned out to be normal for most of the eastern two-thirds with a cold slant for the Northeast. Warming materialized east of the Mississippi in February although they did not show in aggregate over the 5-month season (fig 3). The cool anomalies did materialize in the Plains and western Midwest during the January-March time frame (fig 4). Additionally, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast received numerous episodes of cold anomalies that occurred well within what is considered Spring. Besides strong polar temperatures in the northern tier, copious amounts of lake-effect snow were seen in the usual places. A definite cold winter and a decent attempt at a winter outlook.
La Nina is forecast to substantially wane by mid-summer and give way to “neutral” conditions. As you already know from reading our seasonal outlooks, El Nino/La Nina are more of a winter-time phenomenon to begin with and thus have the most impact on that season. But there are other indicators that meteorologists and climatologists utilize in the preparation of a summer seasonal outlook. The most important is soil moisture. During the summer months, the presence of increased soil moisture will reduce the impact of the Sun’s radiation on warming the air molecules. Likewise, an absence of said moisture will intensify the impact and will greatly contribute to a heat wave. That being said, soil moisture is severely lacking in the Southwest and southern Plains, from California to west and south Texas (fig 5).
For Summer (May-Sep) 2018, we predict one main center of anomalous heat (fig 6). Those extreme anomalies should occur in the Inter-mountain West. However, anomalous heat should occur down through the Southwest and into western and southern Texas. The lack of soil moisture will exacerbate any dome of high pressure that will build there this summer. The eastern Plains, Midwest, Ohio Valley, Gulf Coast, and Southeast should aggregate out to “normal” with periodic bursts of heat and rain-cooled events. We predict the Northeast to be slightly warmer than normal in aggregate over the five months.
Temporally, the majority of the warm anomalies in the West and for ERCOT should be front-loaded into May-July. East of the Mississippi, especially in the Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic, and New England, we are predicting an anomalously warm May and August and a normal June and July. For August, we believe that a northward and westward intrusion of the Azores-Bermuda High will impact the eastern US (and will also have tropical weather impacts along the Gulf Coast, to be discussed in the following section).
Tropical Outlook On average, the Atlantic Basin gets 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes (category 3+) each year from June 1 – November 30. For 2018, we are predicting a slightly-above-normal year with 14 named storms, 8 hurricanes, with 4 of the hurricanes to be major. As for probable locations of landfall, we predict Florida has the highest chances at almost 45% followed by LA/MS/AL at 22%, the East Coast (excluding FL) at 20%, and Texas (5%). This hurricane landfall forecast fits well with our temperature analysis (an independent analysis) which showed cool anomalies for the Gulf Coast / Southeast regions. What we believe will occur is that the Azores-Bermuda High will bulge eastward into the Mid-Atlantic states and that the tropical systems will be forced around the High and into Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. We also believe that the East Coast, if threatened, would occur later in the season, post September. There is one factor which could limit the number and/or strength of Atlantic Basin storms this summer, the Quasi Biennial Oscillation (QBO). The QBO is a recognized pattern in the stratospheric wind field in a region of 15 degrees latitude on either side of the Equator. It is characterized by alternating strong westerly and easterly winds from the upper stratosphere down to the lower stratosphere. So, when there are strong easterly winds at the upper levels of the stratosphere, there are opposing westerly winds at lower stratospheric levels, and vice-versa. A complete cycle (from strong easterly to westerly and back to easterly at the upper level takes about 28 months (hence the “quasi-biennial” aspect). Currently, the QBO is in its easterly phase. The corresponding westerly winds in the lower stratosphere, if sufficiently strong at both the right time and place, could have a shearing influence on the burgeoning cloud tops, thus limiting the intensity, organization, and motion of any tropical activity. This will need to be analyzed on a storm-by-storm basis.
About the Author
Mr. Palao specializes in commodity risk management and the science of meteorology / climatology. He serves as POWWR’s VP of Strategic Energy Services and is one of the company’s many subject matter experts. He has 20 years of experience in the energy/utility industry where he used his skills and knowledge of meteorology and advanced statistics. From 2000 through 2011, he worked at TXU Energy Trading/Luminant Energy in Dallas where he served in three capacities. Most recently, he served as Capital/Liquidity Manager of the trading portfolio, optimizing the use of capital while still maintaining profitability. Prior to that, he managed the Weather Derivatives trading desk, devising strategy and executing trades for both speculative and hedging purposes. Upon joining TXU, he served as manager of the Quantitative Risk Group, assisting the company in the identification, quantification, and remediation of financial risks inherent in the company’s multi-commodity trading portfolio.In his first foray into energy/utilities, he was a Marketing Executive with Louisiana Gas Service Company, a local distribution company, where he primarily marketed natural gas technology to commercial and industrial customers. Before that, he served as a Research Scientist under contract to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Mr. Palao has an M.B.A. from Tulane University. He also has both an MS and BS in Meteorology from Florida State University. He is a member of the Financial Risk Management Committee of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).
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