2011/2012 Winter Outlook

The 2011/2012 winter season has got off to a fairly quiet start with below average snowfall. That is very similar to how the last winter season (2010/2011) started, but as we all know, not how it finished. Last winter brought 71.5” of snow in Eau Claire. That is 27.3” above the seasonal average of 44.2” (average from the years 1981-2010).

The Climate Prediction Center has updated their 2011/2012 winter outlook, and it continues to show the possibility for colder than normal temperatures and above average precipitation in Western Wisconsin. The outlook is for the 3 month period of December 2011, January 2012 and February 2012. Below are those maps.

Locations in red are likely to experience above normal temperatures, while locations in blue are likely to experience below normal temperatures.


Locations in green are likely to experience above normal precipitation, while locations in brown are likely to experience below normal precipitation.

The outlook predicts at least a 33% chance of below normal temperature for Western Wisconsin, including the Chippewa Valley. It also predicts at least a 33% chance for above average precipitation for the Chippewa Valley.

Those predictions are close to what we experienced last winter, when the months of December, January and February were 1.6 degrees below average for temperatures. As for precipitation last season, Eau Claire received 58.8” of snow in December, January and February. That is 30.4” above the 1981-2010 average of 28.4” over that 3 month period.

This outlook is based on a number of factors. One major factor is the presence of La Nina conditions in the Equatorial Pacific (La Nina=below normal sea surface temperatures near the equator in the Pacific Ocean). Those La Nina conditions often lead to the Pacific Jet Stream straying more frequently to the north. That jet stream is what normally guides the track of storm systems. With it farther to the north, storms tend to impact the northern part of the country, thus bringing the above normal snow totals to the Chippewa Valley. Last winter we were also under the influence of La Nina, so to expect similar weather this winter would be wise.


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