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  • Tim McGill

Spring Forecast=Warm & Wet

Let me begin by saying computer model long range forecasts, in this case March through May, are tricky at best. They are certainly more accurate though than Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil. Phil has been forecasting spring for more than 120 years or just about as long as the National Weather Service. His forecasts have only been good about 39% of the time. You've heard the term "fake news"? Phil has been issuing mostly "fake forecasts". Now before fans of Phil freak out (I love alliterations), there is certainly nothing wrong with the annual tradition of Phil looking for his shadow. Enjoy that spectacle for what it is but please don't rely on his prognostication skills. Oh, by the way, his forecast is for an early spring.

So who can you trust? The American Meteorological Society said the following about long range forecasts in an issue of it's Weather Analysis and Forecasting:

“Presently, forecasts of daily or specific weather conditions do not exhibit useful skill beyond eight days, meaning that their accuracy is low. However, probabilistic forecasts issued to highlight significant trends (e.g., warmer than normal, wetter than normal) can be skillful when compared to a baseline forecast.”

In other words, most of us could guess long range forecasts better than Phil but the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center has shown some actual skill when they peer into the climate's crystal ball. The CPC's seasonal outlooks are nearly 40% better than a random forecast when averaged over a 4-year period. NOAA is the agency under which the National Weather Service and Climate Prediction Center operate.

So it is worth looking long range to see what could lie ahead for us this spring. Let's start then by looking at NOAA's official spring forecast.

So the forecast can be summed up as warm and wet. Almost all of the US is favored for above average temperatures with the greatest likelihood in the east, south and southwest. Most of the country is favored for above average precipitation too with the exception of the northwest, central Rockies, New Mexico and west Texas. The bulls-eye for moisture is centered right over the Chicago area. It appears our warm winter (14th warmest on record) will spill over into a warmer than average spring.

NOAA's spring forecast also highlighted the risk of significant flooding for a large portion of the plains, Midwest, Missouri Valley region and Gulf Coast.

Spring flood outlook

NOAA points out "significant rainfall events could trigger flood conditions on top of already saturated soils."

That's the official forecast from our National Weather Service. I have also checked other companies and individuals who dare look long term.

Below is a brief summary of their predictions for Chicago. As I find more forecasts I will add them to the list and keep a runny tally. In some cases I had to interpret their forecasts to zero in on our region so click on the links for more details.

Direct Weather- below average temps & above average precip

The Weather Network- near normal temps & above average precip

AccuWeather- chilly start then a warm up in April

Finally, for fun purposes only..

Farmers Almanac- below average temps & above average precip

So for now when I consider all the serious sources mentioned in this post, the consensus is above average precipitation and near normal to above normal temperatures for this spring.

Stay tuned!


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