Winter Outlook 2018: El Nino Likely To Bring Active Southern Track

  • Nov 15, 2018

Does Mother Nature have any tricks up her sleeve for the winter months? Instead of worrying about Mother Nature as a whole, we think all eyes will be on El Nino this winter. We talked about it in during our Winter Outlook 2018 Webinar earlier this week, but if you missed it, we’ll still fill you in!

The Earth Networks Winter Outlook 2018 was presented by Meteorologist Chad Merrill on Wednesday, November 14, 2018. Our outlook calls for a potentially stormy winter in a few spots while others will likely be mild and dry. Keep reading to find out more or watch the webinar below!


El Nino And The Winter Outlook 2018

El Nino will largely drive this year’s winter weather. Fort those of you who don’t know, El Nino is a warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

The most recent El Nino winter occurred from December 2015 to February 2016. This was among the strongest on record according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). However, Earth Networks meteorologists are not expecting anything of that magnitude this year. Instead, we’ll most likely see a rather weak to moderate El Nino.

A typical El Nino pattern brings above average temperatures from the Northwest to northern Plains. It also brings an increased risk for more storminess across the U.S. southern tier.

High-Level Wind Direction

Another important factor that will influence this year’s winter weather is the high-level wind direction near the equator. This wind oscillates from east to west every 12 to 14 months. This pattern, known as the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation or QBO, can impact global jet stream circulation patterns.

Earth Networks meteorologists are predicting the wind direction will shift from east to west this winter. Some typical effects of this switch include:

  • The West normally sees a warmer than average winter
  • The Gulf Coast is a bit drier than average
  • The Great Lakes can have slightly above average precipitation


Our Winter 2018-19 Forecast

The Earth Networks forecast matches a blend of a typical El Nino pattern and westerly QBO phase, with an increasing likelihood of the following:

  • Frequent and early season lake-effect snow: A few cold outbreaks in December could bring bursts of snow to the Great Lakes
  • Soggy South: An active southern jet stream will likely bring frequent winter storms onto the southern California coast that will track into the southern Plains and Southeast. This will help ease drought concerns in California and prevent drought from developing in the remainder of the U.S. southern tier
  • Warm Northern Tier: The El Nino pattern combined with a westerly QBO cycle will likely deflect the Polar jet stream well north of the Rockies. This will help bring an increased threat for above average temperatures and below average winter precipitation
  • Active East Coast Storm Track: The El Nino pattern could produce occasional East Coast winter storms that would bring more snow to those who missed out on the fresh powder last year


We believe El Nino will be the primary driver of the U.S.’s winter. This will likely help improve drought conditions in parts of southern California and the Southwest. Unfortunately, the factors this winter don’t point to the best ski season in the Mountain West but the East Coast ski resorts could benefit from more natural snow, especially compared to last winter.”

– Chad Merrill, Senior Meteorologist, Earth Networks

NOAA’s winter forecast calls for much of the same, with an increased likelihood of warmer than average temperatures in the West and even into the Great Lakes and Northeast. Meanwhile, the U.S. Southern Tier to much of the East Coast could be wetter, perhaps snowier in spots this winter, according to NOAA. The far northern Rockies and Great Lakes are most at risk for a drier than average winter.