NOAA issues preliminary winter forecast for 2023-2024 season

NOAA’s forecast puts stock into the El Niño, but there are several other factors at play

NOAA's winter outlook for our area as of 9/21/2023

ROANOKE, Va. – In a recent edition of ‘Beyond the Forecast’ we explored one weather pattern that could be a sign of things to come this winter - the El Niño.

Days later, NOAA issued its September outlook for the winter of 2023-2024.

Based off trends in the El Niño, their forecast for our area calls for wetter-than-average weather.

NOAA precipitation outlook for winter 2023-2024 as of September 2023

However, there’s no clear sign of whether temperatures will be above or below average.

NOAA temperature outlook for winter 2023-2024 as of September 2023

There are several factors to consider when making a winter forecast, and we’re starting some legwork on that as we speak.

These factors include (but are not limited to) tropical activity, snow cover in Siberia and the cycle of activity on the sun’s surface.

For tropical activity and snow cover in Siberia, we need to monitor trends into October before making our official winter forecast.

Here’s why.

1. Tropical activity

One theory revolves around energy transport between tropical systems and the poles. This theory suggests that if there’s more storminess in the tropics, more energy has been transferred. Therefore, winter storms wouldn’t have to make up the difference and vice versa.

2. Siberian snow cover

The amount and depth of snow cover in Siberia can play a role in how much cold air is available to seep down into the Eastern U.S.

3. Activity on the sun’s surface

Another theory suggests that activity on the sun can influence “blocking patterns,” which can keep cold air locked into certain parts of the U.S.

Notice the key buzzword in a lot of these factors - theory. Forecasting for a week is difficult enough. For a season? It’s even more difficult.

What we do is try to find years with similarities in the El Niño Southern Oscillation, tropical activity, Siberian snow cover and activity on the sun. Based off that data, we attempt to craft a detailed winter forecast for our area.

Give us some time to analyze some of these factors, and we’ll release our annual winter forecast sometime in November.

About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.