Europe Winter 2014-15: Learning From Past Mistakes

Written by on October 17, 2014 in Rest of Europe, United Kingdom & Ireland with 1 Comment

Forget the seasonal forecast models (to an extent), they excite one minute and drop you into depression the next!

When making up a seasonal forecast whether it be summer or winter, you MUST go back and look at what’s gone before and why it happened that way.

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A lot can decide on one or two significant drivers but to get the perfect scenario, all aspects must come together. For a hurricane to reach maximum maturity, you must have an almost perfect atmosphere with all ingredients coming together.

Regarding last winter. I severely busted! Why, well I believe I didn’t look at the SOLAR MAX that was occurring, nor did I look at the QBO which was strong westerly, probably as a result of the solar max.


Check out the strong westerly we’ve just come off in response to the solar max!

Credit: Michael Ventrice

Credit: Michael Ventrice

Europe is a tougher place to do seasonal forecasts, even tougher to forecast the UK since it’s on an island, downwind of the prevailing westerlies. Every so many years, when all the ingredients come together, like 2009-10 and the first half of 2010-11, the westerlies crash to a halt and upper winds reverse which means we should down the mild air flow and bring about a cold, continent easterly allo thanks to a blocking high setting up west and northwest of us. The ingredients appear to be coming together for a repeat of that this year.


Analog package with weak nino years combined with easterly QBO.


North America and the US has a greater probability of seeing a cold, snowy winter than us here in the UK. They might get 6 or 7 out of 10 winters that are cold, we might get 2 or 3 out of 10 simply because we have a maritime climate. If we were east and inland over Europe, our chances increase greatly.

As I’ve stated, last winter saw record wind, rain and mild, probably as a direct result of the solar max and it’s WESTERLY QBO in response.

This year we’re seeing the downward trend in the solar cycle, a quieter sun and thus the QBO is trending easterly. That suggests an INCREASED chance of North Atlantic blocking, a weaker jet and greater chance of colder troughs drifting out of Siberia (where snow is dramatically increasing) and settling over us.

But, despite the easterly QBO (which brings almost ALL of our cold winters) and increased probability of Greenland/N Atlantic blocking.. this is NO guarantee that we’ll get cold this winter. The positioning of the blocking high determines the resulting trough.

Winters with easterly over the deep stratosphere were 1958/59, 1962/63, 1965/66, 1968/69, 1976/77, 1981/82, 1986/87, 1991/92, 2000/01, 2003/04, 2009/10. Our worst winters occurred in some of those years.

The weak El Nino is one thing but like the blocking high, positioning of that warm water in the Pacific is crucial. Have it up against the SA shore and you have a warm RIDGE over the US and often UK but have that warm water further west, over say the CENTRAL Pacific which ALL models have it this winter and you have a greater likelihood of cold troughs dropping into both central and eastern US as well as the UK and western Europe. We’ve got a lot of support when looking at all big drivers that our winter should see cold and snow this winter and a very different one to last year.


The US obviously had a cold winter last year while it was warm and stormy here. The warm pool in the northeast Pacific significantly helped with the frequent delivery of cold southwards. The AO was negative but the NAO was positive. Last year was a perfect example of why the US doesn’t need a negative NAO to have a cold winter but for Europe, particularly Western Europe, we almost always do.

My winter forecast should be available around November 1st.

See video for further thoughts.

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  1. Barefoot Rob says:

    Weather forecasting is difficult enough even for the supercomputers, I am grateful for the posts you put on here and don’t expect perfect predictions! I am happy to pay my money for your services whether right or wrong, you do a grand job – thank you Mark!

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