WINTER 2016-17: Thoughts On Latest Global Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly

Written by on October 2, 2016 in Autumn 2016, Rest of Europe, United Kingdom & Ireland with 0 Comments

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There’s a lot of question marks and complexity surrounding the upcoming winter of 2016-17 for Europe. There’s nothing clear cut when forecasting winters here but this year is particularly challenging. Sure, the El Nino ruled last year but post El Nino winters have been known to have quite the sting but the ENSO is one thing, the solar, QBO, SSTA’s are another.

In today’s video I look briefly at the CURRENT global sea surface temperature anomaly and that is what I want to discuss further here.

Back to basics

First of all, we live pretty far north but surrounded by water and a Gulf Stream which runs north into the Norwegian Sea, modifying our already mild, oceanic westerly flow. Our climate is maritime which means temperature on both ends of the spectrum is greatly modified and winters are TYPICALLY mild and wet with periodic spells of snow and cold. I say mild in a relative sense based on our position north. When winters do turn cold and we all know they do, their TYPICALLY few and far between. When the cold does come every other year or so, it’s often short lived bursts of cold from the Arctic or Siberia, when we experience sustained cold, it’s usually in the wake of high latitude volcanic eruptions or when the solar cycle tanks to a minimum. Like a hurricane, you need all the ingredients to come together just perfectly to make it happen. Same goes for very cold UK and Western Europe winters.

Bad winters come in 1-2, maybe 3 year clusters followed by 3-5 years of mild

Bad winters come and go for us but we cannot expect them frequently. You only have to look at history. There was a 3-6 year spell of little winter cold in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and we’re currently in a multiyear period in the 2010s when the solar cycle hit a maximum followed by a Super El Nino and cooling in the North Atlantic.

While winter 2013-14 was mega stormy, 2014-15 was still stormy but with more cold intrusions while last year, there was little winter.

Global SSTA’s are similar to around the same time back in 2014-15. Warm water stacked up in the northern oceans tend to make for above normal heights (blocking).

Warm blob in N Pac, cold blob in N Atlantic isn’t favourable for sustained UK cold

A warm blob in the N Pac has aided in a warm Alaska/West, colder Midwest and East back to back winter in 2013-14, 2014-15  ahead of El Nino. This has led to a stronger jet stream coming off North America which has helped lower pressures between Newfoundland and Ireland and thus a westerly or zonal flow pattern has been dominant.

2009-10, 2010-11 winters will return when solar cycle 24 hits minimum around 2020

The stronger Atlantic jet stream was driven by an increased thermal gradient between Canada and Caribbean. Strong westerlies I believe helped cool the central North Atlantic while blocking near Greenland was too far north to shut down the Atlantic from UK. Winter 2009-10, 2010-11 saw the Greenland high extend from Arctic to Atlantic which reversed the upper steering flow and pulled our air in from the east. Winters since have seen westerly Atlantic air crossing beneath any Greenland block and still affecting the UK. Low solar and high snowpack in Eurasia have been linked to stronger high latitude blocking and colder weather for Europe but the difference between winters 2008-2011 and 2012-2016 is that waters are colder not warmer than normal in the CENTRAL North Atlantic. Not favourable for cold as cold water tends to lead to a trough, not ridge in Atlantic.

At this point in time, I could see a repeat of 2013-14 which saw some decent cold and snowy periods but the Atlantic won out. Too early to make a call and as stated in this morning’s video, a warmer, wetter overall winter does not mean a non winter.

The warm pool in North Pacific and cool pool in North Atlantic to me doesn’t favour the right blocking for prolonged UK cold and snow.

Current global SSTA.

Credit: Tropical Tidbits

Credit: Tropical Tidbits

CFSv2 forecasted SSTA Dec through Feb.


See this morning’s video.

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