NOAA released the 2017-2018 Winter outlook today. The official forecast puts Michigan in the heart of an active storm track this winter.
An active storm track through Michigan and the Great Lakes usually adds up to above average snowfall. Of course it is possible some of the active storms could pull warm air north with the storm, and bring some winter rain.
The image above is the precipitation forecast for December 2017, January 2018 and February 2018. It's a probabilistic forecast showing which areas are most likely to be wetter or drier than the long-term average.
There are some parts of the U.S. where there are no hints as to precipitation conditions this winter.
Here is the winter temperature forecast:
NOAA temperature probability forecast for December 2017 to February 2018.
In NOAA's Winter Forecast, Michigan lies in a region where temperatures are not pointing in a certain direction. NOAA actually gives Michigan an equal chance of having normal, colder than normal or warmer than normal temperatures.
At the same time, there is much higher confidence that the southern U.S. will be warmer than average this winter. There is also some confidence the northern Plains and northern Rockies will be colder than average.
The interesting part of Michigan's winter forecast is the expectation of a storm track through the Ohio Valley. A storm center moving through the Ohio Valley puts Michigan on the cold side of the storm, meaning snow. It also would put Michigan in the heaviest swath of snow with any given storm.
If storm systems often take a track through the Ohio Valley this winter, Michigan will get plenty of snow. Michigan could also get plenty of slop with the expected track. Slop would be wet snow, freezing rain, sleet and rain.
NOAA's Mike Halpert, from the Climate Prediction Center, tells me the winter forecast is centered around a weak La Nina occurring during winter. Halpert says the typical storm track during a La Nina doesn't track along the East Coast, and is more likely to come up the Ohio Valley.
La Nina chance increasing and our winter heat bill may follow
Halpert also says if La Nina fizzles and ends, an updated winter forecast could be much different. Right now NOAA doesn't expect a drastic change in the La Nina situation.
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