Cold Winter? Blame it on Siberian snow. (Next snow Monday?)

Are you shivering this winter? Tired of shoveling snow? Stunned by “snowpacolyptic” video from the eastern USA & Europe this winter?

Blame it on Siberia. One researcher believes weather in Novosibirsk affects Northfield.

It’s an interesting (and emerging) scientific twist on what may trigger colder than average winters in the Northern Hemisphere. The theory is that extensive fall snow cover in Siberia favors colder winters in the much of USA & Europe.

Judah Cohen of Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc. thinks he has found the link. His work appears in the Journal of Climate.

Here’s the write up from Science Central:

“If there was above normal snow cover in Siberia in October, there tended to be colder temperatures in the Eastern U.S. in the wintertime,” Cohen says.

While conventional models look to the oceans as controlling our weather with changes such as El Nino, Cohen says land features like the vast Siberian snow fields have a bigger impact on North American winters than previously thought. The increased cold and reflected heat of heavy autumn snows in Siberia affect a less well-known pattern called the Arctic Oscillation, the circulation of wind around the North Pole, which pushes high pressure and cold southward.

Cohen showed that his model outperforms today’s commonly-used forecast models in predicting forecasts for the last 35 years of weather. But he says actual predictions are what make or break a model–or a reputation.

Cohen’s forecast for winter 2011 (Jan-Mar) sticks a cold weather bull’s eye right over…you guessed it…Minnesota.

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Predicted winter surface temperature anomalies for the United States Jan-Feb-Mar 2011 in degrees Fahrenheit. The model is forecasting warm for the Southwestern US and cold for much of the Northwestern US, the Upper Midwest, the Great Lakes, the Northeast and the Southeast. The model uses October Siberian snow cover and sea level pressure anomalies, and predicted winter sea surface temperature anomalies in the equatorial Pacific in its 2011 winter forecast. October 2010 snow cover was observed to be above normal, which favors below normal temperatures for the Eastern US. We are also anticipating a stratospheric warming in January with cold weather to follow.

Credit: Judah Cohen, AER Inc.

Andrew Revkin from the New York Times is keeping tabs on the prediction.

The National Science Foundation report further explains:

“Researchers have validated a new weather prediction model that uses autumn snowfall to predict winter cold in the United States and Europe. When snowfall is high in Siberia, the resultant cold air enhances atmospheric disturbances, which propagate into the upper level of the atmosphere, or stratosphere, warming the polar vortex. When the polar vortex warms, the jet stream is pushed south leading to colder winters across the eastern United States and Europe. Conversely, under these conditions the Arctic will have a warmer than average winter.”

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ENSO cycles have been the primary driver of winter seasonal climate forecasts so far. That may change if Cohen’s October Siberian snowfall theory continues to pan out. Of course there is the question, are ENSO cycles driving October snow patterns in Siberia? It could be another chicken & egg scenario, but anything that helps refine seasonal forecasts has great value…whether it’s chicken or egg.

So far, Cohen’s predictions look good for the winter of 2011, and with cold (and potentially plowable snow!) is on the way the next two weeks, including the potential for a few inches Monday & Tuesday…and again Friday.

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Some forecast models suggesting 3″+ potential Monday & Tuesday?

(Click for bigger image)

Of course, many Minnesotans may be hoping Cohen’s winter 2011 forecast somehow goes horribly wrong…and a prolonged winter thaw sets in. That’s not looking likely at this point.

Stay tuned, have a great weekend… and be ready for more potential snow Monday.


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