Winter weather outlook

Is it just that North Dakota is so much different from the rest of the United States or could it be our winter weather that really defines us? Whatever the answer is, the Climate Prediction Center has certainly singled out North Dakota for not conforming to what is forecast to be a warmer than usual conclusion to 2017 for the remainder of the country.

The latest three-month temperature outlook issued by the CPC for the period October-December places nearly all of North Dakota in the “equal chance” category for winter temperatures. With the exception of North Dakota and a portion of northeast Montana, all of the remaining states, including Alaska, can expect warmer than usual temperatures for the remainder of the year.

So why is North Dakota seemingly left out in the cold? The reason appears to be that there are no reliable indicators to prompt forecasters to say with any degree of certainty what this state can expect for weather the next three months. Of course, many long-time North Dakotans who have experienced both the best and worst of our weather will be in complete agreement.

“It’s certainly a better outlook than some years. We’ll take normal over what we had last year any day,” said Adam Jones, Bismarck NWS meteorologist.

Last year Minot, and most of the remainder of the state, was blasted by a series of three blizzards that arrived in late November and December. Deep snow, extensive drifting and cold temperatures left residents anxious about a long and miserable winter. Fortunately, the lousy start to winter didn’t continue in early 2017.

The “equal chance” temperature outlook, coupled with an “equal chance” precipitation outlook, means business as usual on the weather front for the next three months. Early speculation that an El Nino would form and bring a mild winter to the state has been replaced by a La Nina Watch. La Nina, a cooling of Pacific Ocean water, is usually responsible for colder and wetter than normal winters for the northern plains. However, even though a La Nina Watch has been issued, most forecast models are in agreement that La Nina is not likely to form.

“It’s pretty neutral right now,” said Jones. “By November or December there will be a more established pattern that will set up to give us a better idea of the overall winter outlook. Right now models are having a harder time latching on to a specific solution.”

Not so for the rest of the nation. The three-month outlook clearly calls for the likelihood of a warmer than usual start to winter everywhere in the country but North Dakota and part of neighboring Montana. As for the the more reliable short-term outlook, the CPC says warmer than normal temperatures are expected to grace the state into late October. The CPC will issue their next long-range weather outlook Oct. 19.