Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Right on track, but not El-Nino!

Tropical convective forcing has consolidated around 140-160E along the equator while only sporadic convection persists across the South Pacific. In addition, tropical forcing has also been increasing across northern South America and South Africa. The latter is a response to the remnant dynamical signal of the December-early January MJO interacting with the Southern Hemisphere (SH) extratropics.

A strong Rossby wave energy dispersion (RWD) linked to the west Pacific tropical forcing is exciting the positive phase of a western Pacific wave train as I type (with SH symmetry). This pattern resembles the positive phase of the Pacific-North American teleconnection (PNA) but shifted west by about 20 degrees of longitude. As has been expected for about 10 days, bitterly cold Arctic air from central Siberia is currently being transported across the North Pole and will plunge into the CONUS by the end of this work week. The initial surge of cold air should be into Montana, with the Northern Plains, Upper Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes states being impacted the most severely.

So, what is the most probable evolution of our weather-climate situation during the next few weeks, given uncertainty and inadequate model guidance? Specific diagnostic factors to consider include transports and tendencies of relative angular momentum (AAM), the evolving SST and SST anomalies, the subseasonal tropical convective forcing and the blocking becoming established at the northern polar latitudes (with a possible warming of the stratosphere).

Poleward propagation of zonal mean zonal wind anomalies continues, with moderate westerly anomalies throughout the subtropical atmospheres, easterly anomalies around 50N and westerlies again farther north. The global signal of relative angular momentum is quite impressive with positive anomalies of roughly 2 standard deviations as of January 27th based on the reanalysis climatology. However, as discussed in past postings, this westerly flow did not evolve into a strong combined North Pacific jet typical of a warm ENSO. Strong easterly anomalies in the subtropics preceded the convection increase near the date line and may have interferred. Only during the last few days has there been a weak reversal of AAM transports with westerly flow being fluxed equatorward from the midlatitudes.

Looking farther out, a renewed active phase of the MJO may develop from South Africa into the southwest Indian Ocean during roughly weeks 2-3. Coupling with the warm west Paciific SSTs looks probable centered ~10S/160E while at least diurnally intense convection occurs across much of Brasil. This would suggest a return to a GSDM Stage 4-1 (La-Nina like) response meaning zonal mean easterly flow anomalies should re-appear across the deep tropics while the tendency of relative AAM becomes negative. For PNA sector, the large ridge currently developing west of Canada may shift northwest to Kamchatka during week 2 while the above mentioned anomalous subtropical westerly flow ”undercuts” the east Pacific ridge. Going into the middle of February there may be a situation of a cold trough extending from central Canada to just off the USA west coast interacting with a moist subtropical jet.

As mentioned above, the cold regime is on track for most of the USA for week 1. While there is likely to remain a cold air source for especially the northern states weeks 2-3, moderation of temperatures is expected. Intense convective lake effect snow is a good bet for week 1, with only light snow events across the Northern Plains on east. Portions of the Deep South to the east coast will need to be monitored for possible significant wintery precipitation. This whole pattern should shift north and west weeks 2-3, with possibly an active southwest flow storm track across the Plains by the middle of February. Much of the USA west coast should also finally get some decent precipitation weeks 2-3.

Please note: These are probabilistic statements, which we will try to quantify in future posts.

Ed Berry and Klaus Weickmann

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