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  • Tim McGill

Looking Back At My Winter Forecast & Ahead To Some Mild March Weather

Brutal End To Winter

I stuck my meteorological neck out last fall and issued my forecast for the winter of 2020-2021. The numbers are in and it's time for an honest assessment of how I did.

After a lot of model analysis and discussion, this was my conclusion for the forecast for this past winter when I made it back on November 7th:

After careful consideration my official winter forecast is for a warmer than average winter in terms of temperatures overall. My prediction is that we will be 2° to 4° overall above average. I also believe snowfall will be above average or more than 28.1" total. My prediction is snowfall somewhere in the range of 31" to 37".

We ended up 1° above average overall for the months of December, January and February. December started winter of 5.1° above average and January was even more above average coming in at 5.4° higher than normal. February was frigid at 7.5° below average. I was correct in forecasting an above average winter in terms of temperature but my forecast was a bit too warm.

Similar story with my snowfall forecast. We ended up with 46.3" or 18.2" above average. It was the 14th snowiest winter on record for Chicago. My forecast called for snowfall to be about 3" to 9" above average.

The Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index (AWSSI) keeps a running tally on just how extreme a winter a certain location is having. It is more commonly known as the "misery index". The categories it uses to rank winters from the least miserable to the most include "mild", "moderate", "average", "severe" and "extreme". We were on pace for a "mild" winter or the least miserable of all the categories until the end of January. That is when we took an abrupt turn toward the worse. 16.1" of snow fell during the last week of the month. 35% of our entire winter snowfall came during those seven days. Temperatures tumbled five days into February and didn't really recover until the 21st. We went 16 straight days (5th through the 20th) with the temperature failing to get above freezing. The snow continued to pile up in February too. 21.6" fell to make it the 9th snowiest February on record. The end result is a winter that wound up in the "severe" category according to the misery index. The only category more miserable is "extreme".

Spring has been a bit colder than average so far but there is nothing miserable about our forecast for the next several days. We could see our first 60° high of the year next week and we should be dry through next Tuesday. Today's highs should be nearly 15° above average as we top out in the lower to middle 50s. Late this afternoon there will be wind shift and a northeast wind will kick in driving colder air off of Lake Michigan onshore. Temperatures will drop dramatically near the lake. More on that below.

When the winds shift late this afternoon from the northwest to the north and northeast we will see temperatures crash along and near the lakefront. Some spots will fall from the 50s into the 30s. Expect about a 15° to 20° drop late today.

60s Next Week?

Above average today with some 50s then we fall back into the 40s for highs through Saturday with colder temperatures near the lake. We warm up late this weekend and into next week. Highs Monday and Tuesday will approach and maybe even exceed 60° for some of us.

Next week's warm up should continue at least into Wednesday. The temperature anomaly forecast has us nearly 25° above average by next Wednesday morning. More than half the country should be well above average.

Still Time For That Carwash

The latest GFS model's meteogram does not show any precipitation until next Wednesday. Notice all the blue depicted in the cloud cover forecast for the next several days. Plenty of sunshine expected today then some low clouds develop for tonight and early tomorrow but they should scatter for more sunshine tomorrow afternoon.

High Probability Of Mild Middle Of Month

The latest 6-10 day temperature probability forecast has some of the highest probabilities in favor of above average temperatures for Chicago that I have seem in a long time. We are outlooked for above average temperatures overall from March 8th through March 12th. The probability is 90% or greater. The longer range 8-14 day forecast keeps us favored for above average temperatures overall from March 10th through March 16th. The probabilities fall a bit but the signal from this forecast is still strong.

The even longer range Subseasonal Experiment (SubX) forecast has a mild pattern for March continuing right through nearly the end of the month. The forecast for the week ending March 19th keeps us milder than average overall. Chicago and northern Illinois is favored for more above average temperatures overall for the following week ending on March 26th.

High Probability Of Active Pattern Returning

I got my carwash yesterday in anticipation of a dry stretch of weather through the weekend. The precipitation probability forecasts in the longer ranges signal a return to a more active pattern. The 6-10 day forecast favors us for above average precipitation overall from March 8th through March 12th. The longer range 8-14 day forecast has us outlooked for above average precipitation overall from March 10th through March 16th. We are in the highest probability category depicted (60% to 70%) in both forecasts. The risk for spring flooding is above average for many area rivers. More on that below.

Springing Forward

The Climate Prediction Center's seasonal forecast for spring suggests a mild and moist pattern overall here. The temperature probability forecast for the months of March, April and May have us outlooked for above average temperatures overall. The precipitation probability forecast for the same period has us outlooked for above average precipitation overall.

Spring Flood Risk Forecast

The National Weather Service considers many risk factors for spring flooding. They include snow cover, soil moisture, and current river conditions.

"A significant snow cover with high water content can increase the chances of flooding once warmer weather melts the snow. Elevated soil moisture conditions reduce the amount of rainfall that is soaked up by the ground and increase the amount of water that then runs off into area streams. Above average river levels reduce the river rise required to reach flood stage, while below average river levels would require an increased amount of river rise to reach flood stage."

Their latest forecast suggests the flood risk is above average for many of our area rivers. The Des Plaines and Fox rivers in particular need to be watched closely.

Here is my 7 day forecast:

Today: Sunny skies, becoming breezy, High: 54 (falling temps late)

Thursday: Partly to mostly cloudy Low: 32 High: 40 (cooler near the lake)

Friday: Mostly sunny Low: 28 High: 43 (cooler near the lake)

Saturday: Mostly sunny Low: 29 High: 45 (cooler near the lake)

Sunday: Partly to mostly sunny Low: 31 High: 52

Monday: Partly to mostly sunny Low: 39 High: 60

Tuesday: Partly to mostly sunny Low: 42 High: 62



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