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IQ Weather Extra: A Long Autumn OR A Cold Winter?

Global weather patterns are strongly influenced by the location and strength of warm and cold pools of ocean water. Remember that approximately 71% of the Earth is covered with water, and that water retains heat.

When that heat is released into the atmosphere, warmer areas of sea water promote lower pressure in the air above. And, the ocean water temperature patterns change slowly. This results in the areas where weather patterns become “anchored” until the underlying ocean water temperatures change.

By observing changes in the ocean water temperature patterns, we can see where areas of low and high pressure may be anchored now, and where they may shift. This helps guide us in our long ranger forecasting thought process.

This year, we are seeing a cooling of the water off the North Pacific coast of the United States, while seeing a warming trend along the Northeast coast. Here is a picture of the ocean patterns one year ago…

And the patterns today.

Compare the two and you can easily see the shift I described above.

I like to use year to year comparisons as the sun is at the same location and angle at the same time year to year. This removes one of the variables that can confuse logic when doing these comparisons.

With the current ocean pattern, we will continue to see above normal temperatures across much of the U.S. through October and likely into at least early November. It will be a slow start to the cold season except, perhaps, through the extreme Northern Plains, the upper Mississippi Valley, and the Great Lakes.

In fact, if you look at the forecast 500 millibar flow around the northern hemisphere, you can see how the main upper low (depicted in the darkest blue) is still anchored near the North Pole, with the strongest flow of air (where the lines are closest together) straight across the Pacific Ocean, and way out into the North Atlantic Ocean. This keeps a milder flow of air from the Pacific, washing over the U.S. deep into autumn.

As you can see, monitoring these changes can give you clues as to where and how the weather patterns will change.  You can check these ocean temperature water patterns here: Coral Reef Watch

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