top of page
thumbnail_1 ts baner, future in your hands.png



For a couple weeks I've had my eye on the MJO (Madden Julien Oscillation) as the precursor for a pattern change that would bring a more wintry brand of weather to the Midwest around the 22nd of December. Something that was not anticipated was a strong typhoon (Rai) which is set to strike the Philippines. It's flirtation with the Indian Ocean where the MJO is measured is slowing the progression and actually retrograding the MJO's cycle. If you look at the phase diagram below you can see the dotted green line today is just reaching phase 7 (a cold phase in December). But, it abruptly halts, turns around and goes back into 6, the warm phase we've been in recently. That is likely tied to the tropical influence of the typhoon.

However, that only lasts a few days and around December 22nd (with Ria gone), the MJO resumes its push back into phases 7 and was indicated in forecasts that go back 5-10 days. This dang typhoon turned into a monkey wrench. Again, here's what the temperature analogs for phases 6 through 8 look like in December.

This is the projected track of RAI through the Philippines toward SE Asia.

It's also a well know teleconnection that when tropical cyclones go east of Japan there is a downstream reaction in the form of a trough in the eastern U.S. that brings cold. The opposite occurs when the storm goes south or west of Japan resulting in more of a west coast ridge which results in milder pattern over the Midwest. The temporary retrograde to phase 6 makes sense as the typhoons path retains mild readings for a few more days.

I did read the discussion from the climate prediction center and they say this: The MJO is forecast to destructively interfere with the low frequency La Nina base state, which may slow down or even slightly retrograde its propagation in the near term as indicated by the GEFS and ECMWF ensembles. However, both models indicate enhanced upper level divergence extending east of the Date Line, suggestive of renewed eastward propagation of the intraseasonal signal through RMM phases 7 and 8, by week-2. Although, there remains considerable uncertainty due to the large ensemble spread, it appears that this MJO event has the potential to advect positive subsurface ocean temperature anomalies over the West Pacific eastward across the remainder of the equatorial Pacific, which could result in a weakening of the negative sea surface temperature anomalies over the Nino regions over the next 2 weeks.

My interpretation of all this leads me to believe that somewhere around Christmas things are going to go the way of the MJO and we will get into winter. I've never known the MJO to fail to deliver cold this time of year when the phase and temperature analogs show it. Maybe the MJO forecasts bust, the La Nina is too strong, or climate change overwhelms the previous analogs and they have become outdated and I'm way off base. All I can tell you is the past month has been a nightmare to forecast with no model having much of a track record for consistency beyond 3-4 days. Nothing would surprise me going forward. That said, the CFSv2 does show these temperature departures Christmas through January 4th. At least that's going in my favor. We'll know soon enough.

GIVE THE GIFT OF WEATHER SCHOOL. is offering a very special opportunity for you to learn first-hand the ins and outs of severe weather forecasting with one of the most experienced meteorologists in the country and a talented team of experts. Get the agenda, more details, and limited session seats by clicking the banner below.


Today's the day that a significant and potentially historic wind event is possible over the central Midwest, especially from the Mississippi west late Wednesday and Wednesday night. Ahead of the deepening storm center and associated cold front, a very steep pressure gradient is forecast to develop. The maximum rise fall couplet is projected to arrive at the same time as an 80kt+ jet max at 850mb (only 5 miles up). That's a volatile combination and sustained winds up to 40 are possible with gusts as high as 60 to 80 mph. Below, the GFS shows 10 meter winds (30 feet above the surface) reaching 87 mph in northeast Iowa. How much of that wind energy aloft can mix down to the ground will determine how high we go but this is looking more and more like a high end wind event. Especially when you consider severe thunderstorm warnings are issued for winds of 58 mph or greater!

The NWS has issued High Wind Warnings Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning.

This graphic shows that while winds will be strong during the afternoon gusting to 40 mph, the highest gusts are anticipated in the evening near the advancing cold front. Exceptional gusts are a threat then when the dry line punches through. The rapid subsidence and drying promotes a favorable environment for transporting higher momentum air aloft to the surface. If any of those 75-80 mph winds just off the deck are realized at the surface we will have problems. I would highly suggest that if you have anything outside of value that can blow around to secure them or bring them in. High profile vehicles may want to stay in park during the worst of this. Winds may relax for a short time following the dry line but dramatic pressure rises will increase winds again before midnight as the storm sweeps into the upper Midwest.