Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Winter 2013-14 Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) released its latest outlook for the coming winter this morning.  This year’s forecast is challenging as there are few climate signals that are strong enough to give clues as to what to expect.  Thus the outlook is based more on trends.

Climate outlooks are probabilistic forecasts meaning that they give you information about the chances of seeing departures from the average.  It cannot tell you when or where snowstorms will occur.  The outlook is designed to tell you what the average conditions will be.

This year warmer than normal conditions are expected for the Southwest, the South-Central U.S., parts of the Southeast, New England and western Alaska.  The Northern Plains and the Alaskan Panhandle are expected to see colder than normal conditions.  South Carolina has an equal chance of seeing warmer, near normal, or colder conditions as there are no clues to guide the forecast.

The temperature outlook for the 2013-14 winter.  Click on the image for a larger view.  Image Credit: NOAA.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Climate Change & Fall Colors

The colors of fall are greatly anticipated in this part of the country.  Some plan vacations around a particular week trying to be in the peak of color.  Normally tourists plan for the middle two weeks of October to enjoy the color of western North Carolina.  However, I was surprised on a recent trip into that area to see how late the change of color was this year.

Near Lake Adger in western North Carolina (about 10 miles east of Hendersonville) on October 21, 2013.  Notice the lack of color.  There was still a lot of green.  Click on the image for a larger view.  Image Credit: Jim Gandy

It got me thinking about the set-up this year.  The summer had been very wet, but fall had turned out to be quite dry.  It should have been a good year for color in western North Carolina.  This is not to say that there wasn’t color, but you didn’t see the splash of all the colors at once.

I came across a blog post by a plant physiologist at Appalachian State University which put this in perspective.  Dr. Howie Neufeld goes into detail about how trees change color and what factors can affect fall colors.  It is quite informative and worth a read, but here is an excerpt on the two main factors: