Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Is October Weather An Accurate Gauge For Winter?

We love to look ahead.  We are addicted to predicting all elements of our future. Where will you be in 3 years, 5 years?  New job in your future?  How about kids? Enough money to retire?  Whether we like it or not, we do subconscious prognostications all of the time. It makes us feel like we have control.

How about the talking heads on television and the web who claim to have a crystal ball into what the economy will look like 3 months, 6, 9 months or a year? They are a dime a dozen.  "Expert" analysts and internet pollsters write ad nauseum about their data, complex homemade algorithms and other techniques in predicting the next President. Once again, we doubt their validity, we doubt their methods yet we love hearing what the future may hold.  For me, its a bit of a rush. This rush is one of the reasons why I've loved meteorology since I was a kid.

No time of year does a look into our weather future feel better than in October. Those thoughts of snow so abruptly pushed into the dark recesses of our mind last winter beginning their mental resurface. The first cold snap hits and what happens? We immediately ask ourselves TWO QUESTIONS?

When is the first snow?  and How cold and snowy will this winter be?

...To which I answer silently to myself: "I haven't a clue".

Yet we NEED AN ANSWER to satisfy our insatiable need to know the future. An answer gives us the subconscious control that we crave.  So I try to give everyone my best "shot in the dark" given the patterns that we see currently.  Do October patterns indicate the winter ahead? Is the October pattern the crystal ball that we all believe it to be?

I plotted the temperatures for each OCTOBER since 1997 next to the DECEMBER/JANUARY of winter that followed:  Here are the plots in order. Yellow/Orange colors indicate above normal temps. Blue shades are temps cooler than normal.

Looking strictly at Northeastern Ohio, here are the results:

6 of the 15 Octobers above were BELOW NORMAL.  

Of those 6, only 2 of those December/Januaries that followed were BELOW NORMAL too. 

6 of the 15 Octobers were ABOVE NORMAL

Of those 6, only 4 of those December/Januaries that followed were ABOVE NORMAL.

The bottom line is that there are no statistical patterns to predicting the winter by looking at October. 

I know its not the answer you hoped for but its the truth. Maybe we need to stick to the Woollybear or Onion Peels or.............