The Quassi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO), started trending negative (easterly) in the upper 50% of the atmosphere in April. The forecast is for a weak to moderate easterly QBO for winter 2017-18..
The cycle, has now trended firmly negative with a figure of 10.48 for July.
Though there are many caveats involved, the QBO is one of the main drivers of the northern hemisphere winter circulation.
An easterly QBO has the affect of weakening the polar vortex, especially when it’s combined with other closely related (more short term) drivers such as the MJO.
So in a nutshell, this is good news if a cold, snowy winter is what you’re looking for for 2017-2018 in the UK.
In terms of Canada and the US, view our US Winter 2017/2018 prediction here.
The caveat is though, that each winter (year) presents a new set of circumstances, atmospherically and oceanicaly, and long range forecasts are not yet advanced enough to accurately forecast winter weather.
Though it’s a long shot, we can decipher whether a cold, average or milder than average winter is more likely than the other.
We can also try and predict month to month swings in weather patterns based on long range forecast models and telleconnections. Nothing is set in stone, especially given the UK’s volatile pattern.
Winter’s 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 were all milder (2014/15 is an exception) than average, and westerly dominated.
Although being milder than average, winter 2016-2017 broke the wet and Atlantic based trend, with a drier than average season for most areas.
This means that the atmosphere is now in a state more susceptible to slight changes in the stratosphere, like a SSW which could trigger a cold, blocked phase.
These rather short lived phases are what produce cold conditions, for the most part are quite rare.
A combination of both low solar activity and a weak negative QBO could mean a weak and disorganized polar vortex this year, what this could mean for our winter, 2017-2018 weather, check back at the start of September for more information…
This means that although the polar vortex will have some strength, leading to some milder than average and westerly phases, there will also be enough “negative energy” to provide the odd cold pattern lasting 2-4 days at a time.
There simply isn’t enough negative energy in the mix to start forecasting cold, snowy winters at this time. Perhaps a few years down the line, there will be and we can start thinking of it being a greater possibility.
That being said, there’s plenty more to add to the mix over the coming days and months, nothing is set in stone and new information from the ENSO Pacific, Atlantic and long range models could swing this forecast in another direction.
Although for now, the emphasis is on the fact that although the atmosphere is definitely setting up for the expected 2018-2022 “negative era”, though changes will have not quite yet reached ground, “weather level”. Though I expect a few minor surprises in what could be a near normal winter.
During the last 2 decades, the notable colder and snowier winters have occurred during the late part of solar minimum, when the NAO is usually at it’s most negative, fuelling northern blocking and allowing the UK to experience just a slice of what our other northern friends, like Canada and Russia, experience.
The solar cycle is not optimal, however given an easterly QBO, some notable periods of below average temperatures are probable during mid-winter.. Read this article in full to see how long it’s going to be until the “proper” winter’s of 2009/2010 return..
At solar minimum, solar activity can drop to brutally low levels during which little or no sunspot activity can be observed for a long period of time – this is when we can expect the risk of severe conditions during winter in the British Isles – think December 2009 / February 2009. Typically, it’s during the later part of the sunspot cycle during which this occurs. For the current cycle this isn’t expected to occur for another 24 to 36 months, during which encompasses winter 2019-20 and winter 2020-21, which could well host some severe weather-like spells for the United Kingdom, however something else is happening in the atmosphere which may allow this to occur even earlier…
Winter 2017/18 is not positioned at the “optimal” phase of the solar activity cycle for ripe negative NAO. We are still as mentioned 18 to 36 months out. In the past solar cycle, winter 2005/6 and winter 2007/8 were at the same “Point” in the cycle and had some notable snow spells in the UK. There are obviously other factors that we include when issuing a forecast for winter. 1) Quassi-Biennial-Oscillation, an oscillation of winds in the highest part of the atmosphere that then penetrates down to lower levels, affecting the so called “NAO” pattern of the atmosphere.
Quassi-Biennial-Oscillation forecast for winter 2017/18:
Although the QBO should be in it’s negative phase for this winter, a very long and very rare lagged positive QBO during the past 3 years is uncharted territory for the QBO, therefore we can’t really use this as a factor with high confidence this year. However, it will be falling towards negative, which does support the formation of northern blocking, however that is probably offset by the current westerly QBO in the lower levels of atmosphere where is “unusually well established” due to it’s very rare longevity, which will still be present for the earlier part of winter 2017/18.
Although, by the end of the winter, both solar activity and the QBO will be in a slightly better position for negative NAO/ cold weather in the British Isles, so one thought is that the coldest weather of the winter may occur after mid January?
El Nino Forecast for Winter 2017/18:
A modoki El Nino or neutral ENSO is predicted for this year. The El Nino that was forecast earlier in the year has been offset probably by a cooling PDO, as we are now entering a cold PDO phase (PDO = Pacific Decadal Oscillation), and involves oscillation between a warm and cool phase of the Pacific sea surface temperatures. This is a “good” thing if you are hoping for a cold winter, but like all long range factors just a single factor alone will not allow something to occur, just that easily. This in a nutshell is one of the best patterns for Europe, as the affects of firing up the jet stream like a moderate or strong El Nino are not felt, and a weak, modoki El Nino does not fire up the jet stream nor heat up the Pacific.
So based on these very few factors analysed, one scenario I could think of is average temperatures and precipitation, which of course would be better than the last few for some surprises and bumps on the way, allowing snow to fall. A neutral NAO is probably favoured during these spells of ENSO and solar activity combined. However there are other factors that need to be analysed through autumn to secure a solid winter 2017/18 UK weather forecast. Come back then to learn more on Winter 2017-2018 in the United Kingdom.
Winter 2017/18 thought: average with potential long lasting cold in January.
Earlier post written in November 2015- With the decline in solar activity likely to challenge that of the 1700′s, when people saw snow every day from November to March in most of the UK :D However, – There is a COMMON misconception about a little ice age – and that is that it means colder weather. A little ice age is a huge “sharp” but short lasting change in the atmospheric set up Globally, and is brought on by very low solar activity for sustained periods of time. The graph below shows the extreme drop in solar activity, which brought lovely -30C Winter’s across the UK, and Ice Skating events on the Thames, with delightful heavy snowfall across Britain being common during Winter. This was due to the sun hibernating for a long period of time, but cold weather wasn’t the only occurrence… (Little ice ages are very common and are more about weather changes than mass Ice expansion).
As we head into the mid 21st Century, a new modern era is likely. This era is likely to be joined by very cold conditions for some areas. The earth has various atmospheric rivers & patterns that worth in both an upwelling & downwelling fashion. Each part of the globe will be affected differently. For the UK, an increased occurrence of cold winters, and wet, flooding summers are likely. This is because Northern Blocking is much more likely during low solar activity – this works to stall rain bands across the UK & promote Easterly flows during Winter. Cooler & Wetter then. But, this could also lead to some severe heatwaves being more common, bringing thunderstorms & heavy rain during the Summer season. The exact implications are quite uncertain, it is not a confident area in terms of science, and the exciting thing is, ANYTHING could happen. Solar cycles occur in 11 year spells. We are currently right on the edge of cycle 24, about to fall into 25′s dip, and it’s likely to be a large dip. This means that during 2017-2022, some pretty large winters are likely, get ready, get your snow shovel, winter boots etc.
Now, let’s get into some depth. Snow is an amazing product and sign of a cold & instable atmosphere. And that is what the state of the atmosphere is during a LIA (little ice age), cold, and unstable. This means any future winters from around 2020 are likely to have DOUBLE the amount of snow as those in the current & past decades. Since we are heading into Little Ice Age “type” conditions, not an official little ice age. That will probably be achieved by 2060. However, during 2030 we could also see a pretty severe winter event. Talking more closer to home – Winter 2015/16 is likely to be near normal; due to El Nino/ Solar Activity creating a “favorable mix”, so not bad if you’re looking for snow (UK + Europe). Further afield, US is likely to be in the freezer yet again this Winter, especially the East United States. Now, Winter’s 2016-17, 2017-18+ are likely to follow a “downward spiral”, becoming MORE & MORE cold, MORE & MORE snowy, but there will be mild phases (this can be expected). Even during the middle of the Little Ice Age, there were some mild phases. But a “Complete Easterly Loop” is likely in the Jet Stream, so instead of bringing westerly winds & mild conditions, cold arctic air is drawn out of Siberia. The pattern below is from November 2010, when an Easterly Jet Loop locked the UK in a polar freeze lasting 2 weeks, and the coldest Christmas since living memory. Exciting to know that more of this is on it’s way. Now, there is LOTs more research to be done on this topic.
To view my early UK Winter 2015-16 Forecast Click Here. Thank you, more updates will follow. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the future cold weather patterns approaching, I indeed think we could see 2010 events becoming rather common. Thank you for reading once again. Long range disclaimer: the atmosphere works in ways which are extremely complex, therefore I would not rely on specific long range techniques, I am trying to improve my accurate year on year. However the airs above the UK are impacted by many air sources, and the way they interact can be quite uncertain – as well as the unpredictability of human influences on the atmosphere around the Jet Stream and little data being released to the public. Thank you :)