Winter Forecast Updates Based on a Stubborn La Niña!
Bob Smerbeck & Brian Thompson
January 3, 2023
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Chill out! Our January weather forecast is here. Notably, the current La Niña weather pattern looks like it will stick around longer than expected. What does this mean for us weather-wise? Find out!
January 2023 Weather Predictions
Temperatures throughout the month of January are expected to be below average for much of the U.S. from the Plains eastward, although New England will likely turn out to be above average, as will also be the case for the western contiguous U.S., as well as Alaska and Hawaii. In Canada, temperatures will be warmer than normal from Yukon and the Northwest Territories across into the Maritimes, while most southern areas will experience a cold January.
Precipitation is expected to be near or above average across much of the U.S. in January, although Hawaii will be drier. Much of Canada will likely experience above-average precipitation as well, although southern British Columbia may end up drier than average as the potential storm track sets up more to the south across the western United States.
Notable Dates in January
Let’s spotlight a couple special days this month:
In the U.S., National Static Electricity Day arrives on the 9th—which is quite appropriate since the phenomenon is certainly most common during the winter months, when indoor locations get quite dry. Folks will get the most charge out of things across the Plains and in the eastern U.S., where a cold, dry air mass will set up shop. The western U.S. will be milder and possibly see some storminess, too, which should cut down on the static a bit. Across Canada, the greatest cold will be cutting into northern and eastern areas.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 16 looks mainly dry and cold across the Northeast and in the mid-Atlantic region. There will be some showers in the Southeast, while some snow is expected from the Central Plains to the Great Lakes. Pockets of heavier snow are a possibility across the Rockies, while much of the West Coast looks to be dry and sunny.
What Happens When La Niña Sticks Around?
Looking at our forecast for the winter, one element that has changed somewhat has been the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) pattern in the Pacific. When we were putting together the Almanac forecast (ENSO is one of many factors that we use), the pattern was forecast to switch to either neutral or a weak El Niño. However, in recent months, it’s become apparent that the most likely scenario is La Niña holding on throughout the winter.
Having La Niña three years in a row is a very rare occurrence that has not happened since 1998–2001. The only other “triple dip” La Niña since 1950 occurred from 1973–1976. The 2000–2001 winter (the third winter in that La Niña cycle, and the weakest La Niña of those 3 years) looks pretty similar to what we have forecast, as it turns out—it was a stormy winter across California, although drier in the Northwest. There were also waves of frigid air that impacted much of central and eastern parts of Canada and the U.S.
The bottom line is that not all La Niña years are created equal. This being said, if this winter ends up being more of a “traditional” one, the weather may turn out to be a little drier than we forecast in the Southwest, and the East might not be quite so cold. The jury—and La Niña—is still out on this one.