In 2012, the winter solstice is on Dec. 21, marking the earliest start to winter since 1896, and weather forecasters are already trying to determine what kind of weather we might have. Forecasters with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say that, so far, the outlook for Madison and surrounding towns is that it will be above, near, or below normal.
The deal is that "a wavering El Niño" is creating uncertainty, particularly for our part of the country. Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say the fact that El Niño has not yet shown up makes this year’s winter outlook less certain than previous years, as of late October.
“This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “In fact, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in the tropical Pacific.” When El Niño is present, warmer ocean water in the equatorial Pacific shifts the patterns of tropical rainfall that in turn influence the strength and position of the jetstream and storms over the Pacific Ocean and United States. This climate pattern gives seasonal forecasters confidence in how the U.S. winter will unfold. An El Niño watch remains in effect because there’s still a window for it to emerge.
Contributing to the uncertainty is the North Atlantic Oscillation, forecasters say.
Other climate factors can influence winter weather across the country. Some of these factors, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, a prominent climate pattern, are difficult to predict more than one to two weeks in advance. The NAO adds uncertainty to the winter outlook in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic portions of the country.
To find out more, read the whole story on weather.gov.
The Old Farmer's Almanac says "in 2012, the earliest winter since 1896 arrives with the solstice at 6:12 A.M. on December 21 (EST)."
The word solstice comes from the Latin words for "sun" and "to stand still.” In the Northern Hemisphere, as summer advances to winter, the points on the horizon where the Sun rises and sets advance southward each day; the high point in the Sun’s daily path across the sky, which occurs at local noon, also moves southward each day. At the winter solstice, the Sun’s path has reached its southernmost position. The next day, the path will advance northward.