Looking Ahead to a La Niña Winter

Did you miss us?  Don’t worry.  We haven’t abandoned you.  Simply put there hasn’t been a whole lot to talk about when it comes to Iowa’s weather.  Temperatures are hovering relatively close to normal and there’s been little if any precip to speak of for a better part of a month.  That’s good news on a couple of levels.  It helps farmers keep up the pace in their efforts to harvest and it also dries out the ground before the upcoming winter season.

Speaking of winter, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today released it’s long range forecast for the winter months.  This winter comes during a La Niña period.  La Niña is a cooler than normal pocket of water in the Pacific Ocean surrounding the equator.  This temperature change can have a major impact on the weather here in the United States.  But so far, that impact is unclear here in Iowa.

winteroutlookprecip2_20102Take a look at the graphic to the left.  You can see the expected impact on precipitation over portions of Illinois and surrounding areas.  Here in Iowa there is an equal change of above or below normal precipitation.  Simply put, it’s unclear if La Niña will have any impact on our average rain, sleet and snowfall in the coming months.  The temperature forecast is also unchanged.  But to our south a large area is forecasted to experience above normal temperatures. 

This is something that needs to be closely monitored.  Generally warmer air means more moisture.  Above normal temperatures in the normally cooler and drier months like January could mean a higher frequency of snow and/or ice producing storms across the Great Plains and Midwest.  Of course all of this is loose and general forecasting.  Winter storms are notoriously hard to predict because it’s like forecasting light rain totals that can vary dramatically only a given area.  A quarter of an inch of precip can mean the difference between 2 inches and 10 inches of snow depending on the conditions at the time.

All in all, nothing too alarming about this winter just yet.  But we’ll certainly see what if any impact this La Niña might have on Iowa and our surrounding neighbors.

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