WeatherWhys Blog

Cold season off to rousing start

Cold season off to rousing start

October delivered 197% of normal precipitation and now November comes to an end with additional generosity from the skies. A total of .84” fell during the month which is 142% of normal. But will it last?

Not only has this been a notable autumn in Kern County but it has broken records in much of the western US, and all this while the Winter Solstice is still 3 weeks away. Our pre-Thanksgiving cold snap which swooped south from western Canada was unlike anything seen for so early in the season. Seattle and Portland were bombarded with a wintry blast- something that might occasionally be seen about every fifth January. Western Washington was paralyzed by snow and bitter cold. That system then expanded east and south to encompass the western half of the nation. Ski resorts throughout California were opening early. Even Alta Sierra here in Kern County opened much earlier than usual on the Saturday after Thanksgiving due to 20” of snow on the ground. Places like Butte, Montana saw extremely low temperatures. Butte’s previous earliest low of 20 below zero or colder had been December 10th. They recorded -22 on the day before Thanksgiving this year. A very cold punch was delivered to the west and heavy snow fell in parts of Texas up through Wisconsin, with the third deepest low pressure system on record. The pressure dropped to 28.21” on October 26th in northern Minnesota.

Is this any indication of a blockbuster winter to come? The answer is a resounding maybe for some parts of the nation, but NO for California. As detailed in my last blog, this is a sandwich season in which the beginning and end are extremely active. We saw hefty amounts of rainfall in the south valley and snow in the Kern mountains in October and November. Cotton farmers suffered some dramatic losses due to the late planting earlier this year (due to El Nino rainfall in the spring) and early autumn rains which spoil the harvest. But now it is La Nina coming into focus throughout the equatorial Pacific. The quick switch from El Nino to La Nina over the summer is characterized by unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures early this year becoming unusually cool by July and August. In fact, the last day of November is also the end of the hurricane seasons in both the Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans. La Nina would typically lead to above normal tropical activity in the Atlantic and below normal activity in the Pacific. In the end, the Atlantic saw a total of 19 named storms, 12 which were hurricanes (above average). At the same time, the eastern Pacific recorded only 7 named storms, 3 of which were hurricanes (below average).

My forecast looking to this winter still calls for below normal precipitation thanks to a moderate La Nina, expected to continue in the equatorial Pacific through April or May of next year. Temperatures will run near or slightly above normal. There should be more dense fog days than usual (22 days a year is normal) and fewer freezing days (12 is normal). We have already had 3 days. However, I do expect one or two very cold periods during the December and January. Most likely there will be more NO BURN days in the south valley than last year. By the time we get to mid March and April there will probably be another burst of rain and cold to make up the other part of our sandwich season. So the jackpot rainfall and cold weather should be coming to a screeching halt right about now. Enjoy the early skiing and Christmas spirit. But it will be generally dry. Then get ready for triple digits again by May. It’s the Bakersfield weather carousel.