As temperatures cool, Tony Lupo turns his long-term forecasting efforts toward the upcoming winter months. Lupo, a University of Missouri professor of atmospheric sciences, said mid-Missouri should expect this year’s winter to mirror last year’s for the most part.
Lupo estimates that mid-Missouri will receive around 10 to 15 inches of snow and can expect cooler temperatures overall.
“The trick is to forecast the El Niño conditions and see how strong they will be,” Lupo said. “Right now, it looks like a hybrid of two El Niño types. Missouri sits in that fine dividing line between what you would think are normal conditions with an El Niño and what are not. It makes the forecasting difficult for us during the winter.”
The mid-Missouri area received around 11 inches of snow last winter.
“Last year, our long-term forecasts were really close,” Lupo said. “The temperatures were very close to what we forecasted, as well as the snowfall. A good chunk of the snow didn’t come until March or April, but it all counts the same. You take wins any way you can get them when it comes to forecasting.”
Lupo said that Missouri will enter the winter months caught up on precipitation. Drought-like conditions affected a good portion of the state throughout the summer months. Late rainfall has allowed those conditions to subside.
“That rainfall was critical,” Lupo said. “For some, that rain may have come too late for their crops. However, that precipitation allows the soils to recharge and helps alleviate any dryness during the summer.”
Missouri is an incredibly difficult state to forecast. For example, Lupo said their summer forecast was a tad off this year. Summer is tough to forecast anyway, as it is when La Niña and El Niño are transitioning. While it’s key to get that transition correct, Lupo said that’s the toughest part of forecasting.
“For us, the transition came later than we anticipated,” he said. “That put our forecast off. At least we know why it was off. It’s something we can learn from.”
Coming into the winter, Lupo said the Missouri weather has continued with its roller coaster-like ways.
“The spring was very unusual in that March-like conditions ran into April,” Lupo said. “At the beginning of May, we went from March to June, basically at the drop of a hat. October has been a microcosm of that. The first 10 days of the month would make August envious. The last 20 days were November-like. When you combine those very warm days with the cooler days, you end up with a normal October in terms of temperature.”
Even with the drastic climatic changes, Lupo believes the winter will run similar to last year’s, although it could be dispersed differently. Last winter featured mild temperatures mixed with short blasts of arctic air that created a week of extreme cold.
As always, Lupo said it’s incredibly important to be prepared for winter weather. He suggests having an emergency kit ready in each vehicle.
“It’s important to listen to the National Weather Service on any warnings for ice and snow events,” Lupo said. “You also need to have supplies ready in your car, such as a shovel, sand or kitty litter, and a blanket. Make sure you have a way to communicate as well.”