Seasonal forecasting is one of the more tedious and intricate tasks for meteorologists. Not only is it difficult to predict by nature (no pun intended) — but forecast model accuracy skill is greatly reduced at that range. Often, meteorologists find themselves looking back towards past events, and analogs, for help with predicting the months ahead. In our case, interest was piqued when we noted what seemed to be higher than normal frequency of high latitude blocking this year. Hurricane Sandy, the nor’easter which immediately followed, and many events this winter featured patterns that were driven by blocking patterns over Canada, Greenland, and the higher latitudes towards the pole. The blocking pattern was not overly anomalous at least on a per-year basis, but it certainly seemed to be more frequent than the calendar year which preceded it.
As we look forward to May, forecast models are in agreement on the continuation of higher than normal height anomalies at 500mb over Central and Eastern Canada as well as farther north towards Greenland. The continuation of blocking in the higher latitudes, relative to our location, can offer some interesting insights into the summer temperature forecast as we move forward. Is there a common theme amongst the historically warm and historically cool summers in the NYC Area — and can we relate it to Springtime blocking patterns? The answer, may surprisingly to some, is yes. For the sake of example, take the summer of 2009 and the summer of 2010. Both of these years featured wildly different patterns, with 2009 remaining very cool throughout the summer while 2010 was warm. In 2009, there was very little blocking observed from March through May. 2010, on the other hand, featured periodic blocking in the high latitudes from February through May. Interested yet?