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NOAA: Warm, dry start to autumn and mild winter likely on tap around Northwest

The sun sets on a gorgeous autumn day in Seattle in 2017. (Photo: Andrew Kim)

After another hot and dry summer, September has been refreshingly cool and a bit damp.

But this stretch of below average weather appears to be short-lived, as fresh long range forecasts reiterate that over the long haul, this upcoming autumn looks mild and drier than normal; a feature that looks to hold into a mild winter as well.

Already, warmer weather is in the cards next week as high pressure rebuilds, pushing temperatures into the 70s. The 8-14 day forecasts show a warm trend likely to continue into the following week as well:

As for October as a whole, NOAA just updated their long range forecasts Thursday, which show high confidence of the month ending up warmer -- and drier - than normal. That signal holds though all of autumn, although the confidence level is not as strong as October's (noted by the lighter shades of orange and brown).

Weather geeks and cold weather fans will likely frown on those prospects, although that does not mean it will be 80 degrees in November. It just means average temperatures will likely be at least a half-degree above normal. Still, that means generally higher snow levels.

(As an aside, what did Iowa do to warrant that little splotch of chilly weather?)

What about winter? Still a significant warm signal suggesting high odds of a mild winter on tap across much of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. There is no signal either way for rainfall which is the meteorological version of a shoulder shrug.

Why a warmer and milder forecast? Blame El Niño. Sorry, fellow cold winter fans. We've had our chances the last two winters with cooling La Nina conditions that did OK...but did not deliver a really whopper of a winter. (Portland did get a fairly good punch two winters ago...)

This time around, we're leaning back toward El Niño, which typically make for milder winters as the jet stream heads south and much of the northern tier of the U.S. remains mild. An El Niño Watch is in effect.

Right now, the status is still in "neutral" conditions - as in no El Niño or La Niña, but most of the climate models indicate the ocean waters in the Central Pacific will warm enough to qualify as El Niño status within the next month or so.

There is still some uncertainty (a.k.a. "hope", for winter fans) about the strength of the El Niño. Most charts suggest this year's event will be a weak event, meaning maybe El Niño won't have as much power to really weigh the forecast mild and dry. Plus, there is wiggle room for El Niño to fizzle out, or even become more of a moderate event -- although nothing suggests this is going to rival the mega El Niño event of 2015.

And even if it's a mild winter in general, it doesn't mean we can't get a lowland snow event or two, it just means the odds are reduced compared to a typical winter.

But it does mean it could be more days with higher than usual snow levels and maybe not quite as exciting of a ski season. In the 10 El Niño winters since 1950, nine had 400" of total snowfall or less at Snoqualmie Pass (an average winter has about 433 inches).

Guess I better dig up some new Emergency Kittens videos and have them ready for skiers if it does end up a mild season. Here's one to get you started....


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