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Hello darkness, my old friend

I've come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence, winter is coming!

Aside from adding "winter is coming", that is the first verse of Simon and Garfunkels song the Sound of Silence. It's one of the most powerful songs of our time, most certainly of the 60s. The song is actually about the inability of people to communicate with each other. The incapability to share feelings and ideas tends to make us desensitized to the evil around us, and we are no longer able to raise our voice against cruelty and injustice. No one dares to disturb the sound of silence, meaning few have the courage or the strength to ‘rock the boat’ by questioning the status quo. Silence is characterized not as something positive and peaceful, but as an enemy that must be fought in order to get rid of our moral numbness and regain some sort of unity and togetherness. If we do nothing, if we stay silent, we are allowing and enabling all that is wrong in our society, when we should stand up and denounce it instead. I think the lyrics stand taller today than when they were written in 1963.

Okay, upon hearing the song Thursday, I started thinking of this vision that was planted in my brain months ago that this winter, especially December would be cold. That lead me to add the final three lines (winter is coming) to the first verse above. In my case it fits really well since December is coming. The question for me is do I denounce my December projections or stay silent.

At this point it may be a good idea to take a step backward to clarify something. When I make a forecast in late September for December, I know that I have taken a step off the cliff. I looked at mounds of data and compiled analogs, antilogs, and teleconnections that pointed me in a certain direction. Never once did I look to mislead or sensationalize an outlook for a few clicks. I've made my reputation on being straight and accurate.

The big distinction in this situation is that this was not a short term forecast. This is climatology more than meteorology and there's a reason each has a name, their inherently different. When I say two months ago December is going to be cold, I mean when the month is done, the average temperature will be colder than the norm. There will be above normal days, every month has them. However, in the end the cold will outweigh the warmth. Then the issue is by how much? I had hoped by now we would be to the point where the cold would have locked in for a long run. But no forecaster can say that just because it's December 1st, a cold pattern will be in place that day. Maybe it's the 3rd or the 10th but the idea is it gets here at some point and is significant enough to tip the scales towards below normal temperatures over the span of 31 days. Some of the cold could even be quite frigid. I still think that's on the table.

So here's what I see as December approaches. First and foremost, I think the MJO is going to be the driver in how the month evolves. The issue right now is that the MJO is headed into phase 6 for about 5-6 days, roughly the first few days of December. Phase 6 is the warmest signal of the month so initially that is a set-back.

Around December 3rd or 4th, the MJO reaches phase 7 on both the EURO and GFS. You can see that below and also notice how that signals well below normal temperatures over the central U.S.

Sure enough, both models bring a significant trough into the Midwest at that time along with a healthy shot of polar air. This is the 500mb jet stream pattern with a pronounced NW flow the evening of December 5th.

Here's the temperature departures December 5th. Readings 20-24 below normal.

That's all fine and dandy and at this point things are looking on track and good regarding cold. However, by December 10th-11th, the trough is shown lifting out and we see another upwards bounce in temperatures. This has been going on consistently since November causing the big swings in temperature we've been regularly observing. What is confounding to me is that the MJO should still be in phase 7 and most likely on its way to 8 which is even colder. Something is not in sync and either the MJO forecast is wrong or the models have not picked up on the trend due to the distance in time. Often the MJO sees the trend before modeling.

What the EURO and GFS are intent on doing is bringing negative heights back into Alaska which disrupts the western trough and at least temporarily cuts off the supply of cold air. That may or may not be the case but it would certainly go against the MJO in phase 7 or 8. See the negatives below. That is the key, those negatives need to turn into positives for the cold to hit and hold as I have been thinking for weeks.

I guess the bottom line is there should be a significant shot of cold air in the Midwest December 4th-10th. After that, a let-up could ensue but my belief is that it's only temporary. I'm not ready to give up on my idea of a cold December yet.

The other issue that I really dislike is the overall dryness of the pattern cold or warm. It's now been 13 consecutive days with no measurable precipitation with the potential for the streak to go considerably longer. I'm getting a strong feeling that even if the flip to cold occurs, snow (or precipitation of any type) may be tough to come by. Something is certainly going to have to change significantly for us to get into a wetter pattern.

Well, that's enough speculation for one post. Hopefully things get a little clearer in coming days. If you appreciate the site please consider a donation by clicking the link below. The future of TSwails is in your kind and caring hands. Roll weather...TS


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