Posted by: pyeager | September 23, 2009

NOAA Winter 2009-2010 Forecast

–Paul Yeager, author of Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

UPDATED AUGUST 2010: An initial 2010-2011 winter forecast has been issued (by AccuWeather).

Update: The official NWS Winter Outlook has been released since this post was written; it can be seen at NOAA Winter Outlook.

I’ve already written about a couple of long-range winter forecasts (Snowy, Cold Winter on the Way, Harsh 2010 Winter Is Forecast) and a key to the winter forecast in the Northeast (Cold in the Northeast this Winter–Look to Siberia), but the National Weather Service has yet to issue its official winter forecast.

In a sense, though, they already have–in the form of a December through January long-range forecast–that sounds like the winter to me. It just hasn’t been accompanied by a press release and an official announcement. I guess they could change the forecast before the official release (or it could include November and February), but here’s what they’re forecasting at this point:

December through February Temperature Probability

Government winter 2009-2019 temperature forecast

Government winter 2009-2019 temperature forecast

Not surprisingly, the forecast has somewhat the look of a typical El Nino winter, with warmer-than-normal temperatures forecast across the northern Plains and Pacific Northwest and cooler-than-normal temperatures forecast in the Deep South.

December through February Precipitation Probability

NOAA winter 2009-2010 precipitation forecast

NOAA winter 2009-2010 precipitation forecast

This also has an El Nino-look to  it, with a wetter-than-normal forecast for the Deep South and a drier-than-normal forecast for the Northwest and parts of the Midwest.


Remember, the forecasting scheme used the government is a probability scheme, indicating the likelihood of temperatures/precipitation being above normal, below normal, or equal chance of being either (which sounds like NO forecast to me); it’s not a forecast of the amount above or below, and it does not include a snowfall forecast, just a general precipitation forecast.

I think it has limited usefulness when compared to more detailed forecasts, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

–Paul Yeager


  1. Thanks for keeping us posted on the winter outlook Paul?

    How do you think the snow will look this year compared to last? I thought last year was epic for skiing. I am debating whether or not to buy a seasons pass this year.



    • Salar,

      Unfortunately, I was never a long-range forecasting expert, so I’m afraid that I can’t give you a specific forecast (for the Pacific Northwest, I assume). I will say that, based on the warmer water in the equatorial Pacific (the El Nino) compared to last year, another year like last year is unlikely since there will most likely be at least some storminess directed to the south of the region. But you certainly don’t have to have a year like last year to have a good skiing season! I don’t think it will be a year without storms in the Northwest.


  2. The official NOAA winter weather outlook usually comes out around the end of October/beginning of November. As you noted, the current DJF outlook from the CPC is probably a good indicator as to what their outlook may look like when it’s released. I’ve started keeping tabs on their monthly and seasonal outlooks to gauge accuracy. I’ve noticed the CPC doesn’t archive their outlooks (or at least doesn’t make them readily available) so I figured saving them and reviewing them at a later time was worthwhile.

    I never was a forecaster on a large scale (space or time). Probably for that reason, I’ve always been a little skeptical of long-range forecasting. Nevertheless, I find it interesting and look forward to looking back on these forecasts in the Spring.

    • Saving the forecasts sounds like a great idea. I certainly plan to keep track of any forecasts I post about, but make sure that if you write a post their accuracy, leave me a comment so that I can link to it.

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