The Pacific Northwest will see slightly above normal temperatures and normal precipitation throughout the winter, a well-known weatherman predicts.
Art Douglas, a professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., is best known for his presentations at the Spokane Ag Show every winter. Warm waters in the North Pacific and North Atlantic will favor high pressure ridges across the north, meaning “weak storminess” for the winter, Douglas told the Capital Press.
“Especially for you guys in the Pacific Northwest, it’s not scary,” he said.
Uncertainty in NOAA and European forecasts continues to shift beween El Nino, which means warmer winters for the Pacific Northwest, and La Nina, which means colder winters.
Douglas predicts a mild December and January, with a cold February. The weather will be dry at the beginning of winter and wet in February, in the form of snow.
“One of your biggest fears are arctic outbreaks, especially toward the end of winter that might freeze the wheat,” he said. “This is the type of winter where I would be very cautious as to what might happen to winter wheat.”
Douglas says the year so far appears to be most like the years 2018, 2014 and 1959.
He predicts “major jumps,” from a mild start to a cold finish, and from somewhat dry to much wetter. The cold in February will persist into March.
“You go from a cold March to a warm April back to a cold May,” Douglas said.
In the spring, the Pacific Northwest will consistently trend toward slightly higher temperatures compared to the rest of the country.
“No concern in this forecast for you guys (for precipitation),” Douglas said. “Pretty darn normal in March, some spotty in April ... and then you get into May and the moisture tries to increase up into the wheat area. If you want moisture, you want it in May as it’s really growing, starting to bloom and all that kind of good stuff.”
The summer forecast so far resembles cool-and-wet summers from 2014 to 2019. The forecast could change if equatorial sea surface temperatures move to El Nino or La Nina, Douglas said.
“I don’t see how an El Nino or La Nina could come between now and March,” he said. “What might happen after that? I’m truly clueless. We’ve had too many El Nino years in a row starting in 2014. We’ve never had a really good La Nina over the past five years. Statistically, it’s overdue.”
La Nina “recharges” the system to develop an “impressive” El Nino, Douglas said. He doesn’t think that’s likely, but also doesn’t expect an El Nino for next summer.
“We’re neutral,” he said. “The middle ground isn’t real common. Most years sort themselves out as being El Nino or La Nina. The transition more often than not takes place over a very short period of time.”
The current forecast could mean another hot, dry summer in the Western U.S., Douglas said.
“Another fire season is what that summer forecast is for you guys,” he said.