The General Weather Report and Forecast 2015–16
What’s shaping the weather? Solar Cycle 24 is now in its declining phase after reaching double peaks in 2011 and 2014. Despite having two maxima, this cycle is the smallest in over 100 years; as solar activity continues to decline from these low peaks, we expect temperatures in much of the nation to be below normal this winter and above normal in the coming summer. The winter of 2015–16 will be another snowy one in much of the northeast quarter of the country, with areas in the Pacific Northwest also relatively snowy.
Other important factors in the coming weather patterns include a continued warm phase in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), a near-neutral phase in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) in most of the winter, and the long-term cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) likely nearing its end. Oscillations are linked ocean–atmosphere patterns that influence the weather over periods of weeks to years.
One of the keys to the upcoming winter will again be the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which many are forecasting to be in its warm El Niño phase this winter. If they are correct, then winter will likely be rainier than we are forecasting in California and the Southwest. Unfortunately, we believe that it is more likely that El Niño will be in a weak to neutral phase.
Winter will be cold again in much of the nation, with below-normal temperatures along most of the Atlantic seaboard and in the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, Pacific Northwest, and southwestern states and above-normal temperatures in Florida and Maine, from the Gulf coast into the Heartland, and in the Rockies states. Snowfall will be above normal in most of the Northeast and the Ohio Valley, northern Plains, and Pacific Northwest but below normal in most other areas. Most of the states from the Gulf of Mexico into the Heartland will have below-normal precipitation. We expect above-normal rainfall from the mid-Atlantic into the Southeast and from the Texas Panhandle into Montana. Most other areas, including most of California, should have below-normal precipitation.
Spring will be warmer than normal from Texas to Minnesota, but cooler than normal in most other areas. Spring precipitation will be below normal in most states in the eastern and central parts of the nation, but above normal in most spots in the West.
Summer temperatures will be above normal in most of the nation, the main exceptions being the Southeast and along the spine of the Appalachians. Rainfall will be below normal in most of the nation’s midsection, which may reduce yields of corn, wheat, soybeans, and other crops grown within this area. The drought in much of California will likely continue as well, putting additional stress on our food supply.
Hurricane season will be more active than it was last year, with threats along the Atlantic and Gulf shores. The best chance for a major hurricane strike is in early July in Florida and from late August to mid-September along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf coasts.
Autumn temperatures will be much warmer than normal in most of the eastern two-thirds of the nation and below normal in the West. Precipitation will be below normal in most of New England, in Georgia, and in parts of the Great Lakes and Tennessee Valley states and above normal elsewhere.