COLUMBIA, Mo— The winter season is upon us. So… will it be cold, snowy, or a mild winter this year in Missouri? That’s not an easy call to make even though the first half of December is off to a warm start.
The current strong El Nino, which is warmer than normal sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific, doesn’t exert a lot of control on Missouri’s winter weather according to the Climate Prediction Center.
“Missouri tends to be somewhat of a transition state when we look at the impacts that El Nino has across the country during the winter season.”
That’s Pat Guinan, climatologist for University of Missouri Extension’s Commercial Agriculture Program. When you move north in Missouri, El Nino has a bit more pull. There’s a slightly enhanced likelihood of warmer than normal conditions in northern parts of the state this winter.
“Then as you go south from Missouri,” Guinan explains the trend, “They tend to think a more active storm track across the southern United States will bring more precipitation and with the cloudiness you will see cooler temperatures, or enhanced likelihood of cooler temperatures across the south [and] wetter conditions.”
Taking a quick look back at fall of 2015, November set a record. Guinan says the preliminary data shows the average statewide rain total was right around 8 inches. Normal precipitation for Missouri in November is about 3 inches. He says with more than double the monthly average of rain, November 2015 was the wettest in 121 years.
Answering the question… “Will Missouri see a lot of snow this winter?” Guinan says equal chances for above, below and near normal precipitation this winter is anticipated according to the climate prediction center.
“I’ll never say that this winter we’re going to see below normal snowfall because things can change quickly from one month to the next.” Guinan stated, “In fact, if we recall, November of 2014 was a very cold November, it actually ranked in the top 5 coldest November’s on record. People were thinking, ‘oh no, we’re going to have a very cold winter,’ and actually December of last year was a mild December, January was slightly above normal, and then we had a pattern change right in the middle of winter where we had a very cold February.”
However Guinan did note there’s more confidence in the El Nino effect the farther north you go.
“Slightly higher likelihood of warmer than normal conditions this winter across the northern parts of the state,” explains Guinan, “The confidence gets higher with respect to winter temperatures as you go further northward across the northern part of the United States there’s a higher confidence that those temperatures this winter will be warmer than normal.”
Guinan says so far Missouri weather has been very mild; in fact Missouri has had mild winters over the past several decades. Guinan continued to state that the current El Nino condition will be here for some time. He said there’s high confidence coming from the climate prediction center that these El Nino conditions will be persistent through-out this winter.