Using Past History to Explain and Solve Future Meteorological Mysteries
By now readers here know that I have a book out, The Climate Chronicles: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others. I ordered chapters based on what you have seen written here, so the book is a summation about what I think is going on in the climate debate. In the future, when major weather events come up, I am going to show you what we look at to set it up. I will rely on the objective, rational reader to come to their own conclusion. If I show you what the cause is and how we handle it, then you will understand what it isn’t. The best way to prove my points is to be right and show people the why before the what, not wait until after it happens and claim it’s something else.
Our methodology at Weatherbell.com is to blend all of the ideas from our forecast team. Joe D'Aleo and I are older, while Tom Downs is younger. The mix works great. I believe the weather is a movie, not a snapshot. There is a flow from one event to another, where the past flows into the present and points to the future. To paraphrase U2, all the colors blend into one. That is certainly true with the weather. There has been no greater example in my lifetime than the meteorological events over the past year. However, if you’re not looking for links or aren’t cognizant of the past, you may not see it. After all, if you only see the posters from a movie, you really don’t know what the film’s about.
One of the methods we heavily rely on is revisiting what happened before to see if it can help us with what is coming tomorrow. Not only can it help you with a weather pattern in the future, but once an event occurs according to the analog, it means in many cases that another event is coming because of what just occurred! The reason? When a major event occurs, it’s part of the overall pattern that produced it. And that pattern is likely to continue in a manner that telegraphs future events.
From last winter on, one event has telegraphed the next. The major rains in California foretold the wildfire season when all that vegetation dried out. The change in the sea-level pressure pattern in the Northern Hemisphere signaled the end of the hurricane hit drought for the U.S. Then the Northern Hemispheric tropical season, the ACE index and the relationship between the hyperactive Atlantic season and the bottom 10% in the Western Pacific gave us a clue for the winter. Think about not only what the weather is doing but what it is saying to you.
If the most productive area of the planet for tropical activity shuts down, while at the same time the least productive of the three Northern Hemisphere basins goes wild, it has to be saying something about the overall global pattern — something that can give us a hint on the coming winter pattern. And it did — a quick start to winter in the eastern U.S., backing off mid and late season but coming back in March.
This is about as remarkable a long-range correlation as I have ever seen in all my years of watching this. And relying on this analog technique helped. Let's take the hurricane years I looked at as the most closely linked to the pattern that was shown in October. Look at what using those years (you have to go to the next year for March) produced:
The latest March forecast by the climate models looks like this:
This was not obvious three weeks ago on the modeling when warmth was in control in the eastern U.S. A dirty metric for what the weather community is expecting is the price of natural gas. The January thaw hit, and when cold stayed in the Great Plains in February and the eastern U.S. got warm, prices plummeted with the idea that winter was over. They are rallying now, and with good reason. If we look at the blend of the last five negative NAO Marches — a crucial teleconnection late in the winter season — you get a cold March for much of the country, centered in the Southeast, right where the model is showing now. We’re now nine days into March, and it's seeing it.
For the last 10 days of runs it was much warmer, certainly nothing that would invoke the recent uptick.
Most of you know about our commercial side, and that is why being a meteorologist is a “high pressure” job. (Ha ha.) Energy, snow removal, retail, etc., laying the groundwork for big storms and cold when the consensus was giving up can be a valuable asset. It’s why they are called hedge funds. (I love the show “This is Us.” One of the main characters is a weather-derivatives trader.) The fun part is the posts. I like to show people on the premium site some of the considerations that are going into the commercial side, and I like to show the public what we are doing behind the paywall. The best way to prove a point about methodology is to share ideas before the fact and then see if they have merit. Real-time battle-test them.
In this case, simply using long-standing analogs from last year and deciding March would have a negative NAO had merit. As far as the commercial side is concerned, my clients are well aware of March 2013. Most of the big energy rallies — again, a dirty metric, as I call it — occur when unexpected cold hits early or mid-winter. We saw that in 2013-14 (late December and January) and November 2014. We saw it also in early January 2016 and again last year for a time before winter crashed. There is almost always unexpected cold relative to the forecast, and you can tell because if everyone expected it, the price would not rise. There is a premium built in. But in 2013, it was different. That was the last year that March had a negative NAO.
The rally came late. Usually the sentiment is that winter is over, only winter wasn’t over. What is interesting this year is that we had a big rally when the market was forced to react to the early cold. The thaw sent it down. It’s rallying again. If it goes the full way of the analog, which models are now saying is on the table … well, that is above my pay grade as far as prices go. But the overall weather pattern is much like those patterns that produced cold Marches. That is what we have been telling our clients to watch for. On the premium side, we have been telling winter lovers not to quit. As you can see, what I do is more than just enjoy the weather, ‘cause its the only weather I got.
But wait, there’s more! What I am doing here is showing you what I do and then attribute what you see to what we saw before. After all, if it happened before, it can happen again. Marches used to be very stormy and cold across the U.S,. more so than the last 20 years, during which storms and cold Marches have become the exception rather than the rule. This March looks much more like the 1950s and 1960s here and in Europe.
Look at the Marches between 1955 and 1970 in the U.S.
Over the last 15 years they look like this:
The obvious conclusion here is that a stormy and cold March is much more like what used to happen and not in line with what has been happening. Of course, for some people, anything that happens means whatever you think the cause is gets credit. In real life, that is not how things work.
What about these big wild storms? They mean more than big wild storms; they mean that the U.S. is cold during the 30 days after the storm. This is the third leg of an analog correlation.
This week was the anniversary of the lowest pressure ever recorded in a non-tropical cyclone not over the water in the U.S. On March 7, 1932, Nantucket tied the lowest pressure ever recorded back in 1913 in Canton, New York, at 28.20". To put this in perspective, the monster off the East Coast last Friday and Saturday was 28.70.“ The latest storm was 29.20”. But look at March of 1932:
Here is the 30-day period following the 1958 snowstorm on the eve of spring:
Here is the 30-day period following the great March 4-5, 1960, storm:
You have seen this so many times you are probably sick of it, but here’s 1962:
The following March after Boston’s 100-hour snowstorm in late February 1969:
The following 30 days after the vicious March 1984 storm, which had a pressure of 28.50" off the East Coast:
When extreme events occur, they are a product of the pattern that produced them, which has many things contributing to it. Because of that, it’s not likely to break quickly but simply evolve along a general path. Watching the movie, every scene, in the weather and knowing tendencies from before is vital, in my opinion, to mitigating the modeling. If one sees the same thing that happened before gearing up to happen again, one can certainly assume attribution to the pattern.
Want to take this to limit? Watch this.
What if I used the following years from the hurricane analogs for spring rain and summer temperatures? Remember, this is from October, when we had these analogs.
Look at the current model forecast (six months later):
Telling someone last year to look for a dry Southern Plains and Southwest spring and then a large-scale hot summer would be of great value. This is the value of studying and knowing the past — not to replace ideas but to add to the mix when searching for a solution.
Joe Bastardi, a pioneer in extreme weather and long-range forecasting, is a contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues. He is the author of “The Climate Chronicle: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others.”