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WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THIS WINTER?

So everyone has been talking about the crazy start to winter we've had. There's been no Snow in Newfoundland and warmer than normal temperatures across the entire Province. And this lack of Winter is really taking it's toll. We've been hearing countless stories from the South Coast of Labrador, where the lack of freeze up has created transportation headaches. At times Helicopter service has been the only way in or out for some. The ski hills in Newfoundland have really taken a hit. Marble Mountain has just opened and White Hills in Clarenville is still sitting empty.

No doubt, there are a couple of positives. There hasn't been much Snow to shovel and you January Golfers have had quite the treat!

SO WHY SO WARM?

Brian Pollard from Bishop's Falls posted this question on my blog last week...

"... I've noticed that over the past few weeks that there is a lot of Low Pressures and I believe a couple of High Pressures that move up the Eastern side of North America and when they get of the coast of NL they have a tendency to move from East to West. Now I’ve seen this before on rare occasions when a Low Pressure is blocked by a High Pressure however lately it seems to be a common occurrence. Why is this happening?"

Well Brian, as you know everyone has been talking about the El Nino right now. However I think more than anything, our overall pattern for the past 2 months has had more to do with something called the North Atlantic Oscillation. The what now?

As you may have heard me mention before, there is permanent low-pressure system over Iceland and a permanent high-pressure system over Bermuda. The overall strength and position of these systems can change from year to year and even month to month, this variation is known as the NAO.

POSITIVE PATTERN: Lower than normal pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere over the polar region and higher than normal pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere in the mid latitudes.
Impacts of the positive phase: Much of the central and eastern portion of the U.S. and southern Canada warmer than normal. Greenland and much of northern Canada, including Newfoundland & Labrador are colder than normal.

NEGATIVE PATTERN: Higher than normal pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere over the Arctic polar region, while the lower latitudes are under the influence of lower than normal pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere.
Impacts of the negative phase: Much of central and eastern U.S., as well as the prairies of Canada through the southern Maritimes, are colder than normal. Much of northern Canada, including Newfoundland and Labrador is warmer than normal.

Does that last description sound familiar? Bitter Cold in the Prairies and Great Lakes... but Warmer than Normal in this Province. We are certainly in a negative pattern right now and have been for the last half of November and all of December. This Negative pattern can almost have a blocking effect in the upper levels.

Jan1310.JPG

-So far this month, for good chunks of December and even back into November we were looking at an Upper Level (Upper Atmosphere) Low parked over Eastern Canada. This Low was being blocked thanks to the High than Normal pressure over the Iceland area. (Negative Pattern)
-That Upper Low was helping to draw down cooler temperatures into most of Central and Eastern Canada. However here in Newfoundland and Labrador we were seeing a Warmer South Southeasterly flow.
-That Upper Low was also drawing our surface Lows from East to West... back into Labrador. A very unusual setup. Given this pattern, it's no doubt parts of Eastern Labrador had average temperatures in December about 6 degrees ABOVE NORMAL!!

This map below says it all... take a look. Most of the Arctic, Newfoundland and Labrador and Greenland were well above Normal. Some places as much as 10 degrees!!!!

December Temps.png
Image From: NSIDC Courtesy: NOAA/ESRL
You can look at a zoomed in version of the picture HERE.

SO WHAT NOW?
So our pattern has kind of broken down over the past few days. We've seen some Colder weather sinking into Newfoundland and Labrador. Yes, even you folks in Southeastern Labrador will finally see some air cold enough to freeze things up starting Thursday and holding right through early next week. Beyond that?

I'll be the first to admit, long range forecasting is not my speciality. It's not really anybody's speciality really. Remember the fall outlooks of a Warmer and Drier than normal. Hahahaha. It's just so tough to predict, especially in this Province, there are just so many factors.
I have looked at models suggesting we'll see a return to warmer than normal later on this month. In fact, Environment Canada's 3 month seasonal outlook says warmer than normal for much of the Province right through March.

And how about the NAO??? Well, it's appears to be going Positive... (red lines are model predictions) which of course would mean a return to cooler weather!!!
NAO-Jan13.bmp
Either way, it'll be interesting. It always is in Newfoundland and Labrador!

Ryan

Your Comments

Hello Ryan,
Was just talking to some home folks on the Burin Peninsula and they are having rather a bad day out there with blowing snow and white outs. Abut 15 centimeters fell overnight (maybe more) and roads between Lamaline and Fortune are closed because of extreme white-Outs. Same from Lamaline to Lawn. Wondering if this was forecasted for that area last night.

Posted by: Ruby Strang on February 2, 2010 03:55 PM

Many thanks Ryan. It's fascinating that the weather patterns aren't the result of El Nino or global climatic change. I sure hope a swing to the positive pattern doesn't mean another cool spring & summer like we had last year in Labrador!

Posted by: Carol Brice-Bennett on February 26, 2010 02:00 PM

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