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Seasonal to Interannual Forecasts

Climate Outlook

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The Climate Impacts Group (CIG) translates global-scale climate forecasts and conditions into regional-scale climate forecasts for Pacific Northwest (PNW) resource managers and the general public. The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the most important factor for seasonal forecasting, changing the odds for different types of winter and spring weather (e.g. warmer/drier, cooler/wetter) in the PNW. Another important climate variable for Pacific Northwest climate is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The climate outlook is now provided by the Office of the Washington State Climatologist on a quarterly basis with the CIG newsletter.

Recent PNW Climate

February 2013
Updated 06 February 2013 (posted 06 February)

The 90 days ending on February 3 were warmer than normal throughout eastern WA and much of ID, as shown in the temperature departure from 1981-2010 normal map (Figure 1). The temperatures in that region mostly ranged between 1 and 2°F above normal when averaged over the last 90 days, but there are a few areas where average temperatures were between 2 and 4°F above normal. On the other hand, western WA and western OR were near-normal (within 1°F of normal), except for some areas (e.g., Puget Sound region in WA and coast range in OR) that were between 1 and 2°F below normal. Average temperatures in eastern OR were below normal when averaged over the last 90 days, ranging anywhere from 1 to 4°F below normal.

Precipitation during the last 90 days was near-normal (between 90 and 110% of normal) in western WA and northwestern OR, according to the precipitation percentages of normal shown in (Figure 2). Otherwise, the precipitation varied across the Pacific Northwest. The WA and OR Cascade Mountains, the Blue Mountains, southeastern OR, and southwestern ID all had below normal precipitation in the last 90 days, ranging from 50 to 90% of normal precipitation. Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountains in ID, northeastern WA, southwestern OR, and parts of south-central OR and areas of the Sawtooth Mountains in ID had above normal precipitation during this period (between 110 and 200% of normal). Despite the deficit of precipitation in some Pacific Northwest locations during the last 90 days, the snowpack (as of Feb 6) is normal throughout much of the region, and above normal in the WA Cascade Mountains, WA Olympic Mountains, northern OR Cascades, and the eastern Sawtooth Mountains in ID (Figure 3). Some regions do have below normal snow water equivalent, such as eastern OR, eastern WA, and parts of the ID Panhandle and the ID Sawtooth Mountains, with amounts ranging between 69 and 89% of normal.

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ENSO Conditions

According to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), neutral El Niņo-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are still present in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Negative sea surface temperature anomalies in the equatorial Pacific Ocean have strengthened in the last 90 days, especially in the central and eastern Pacific, but the western Pacific is still warm, and in an overall sense, conditions remain neutral. There is a consensus among the model predictions that near-neutral conditions will continue through spring 2013.

Climate Outlook

What's next for the Pacific Northwest? Unfortunately, neutral ENSO conditions mean lower skill for our seasonal forecasts compared to when La Niņa or El Niņo is present. Still, the CPC three-class February-March April (FMA) temperature outlook (Figure 4) has chances of below normal temperatures exceeding 33% for WA, the western two-thirds of OR, and the ID panhandle. Southeastern OR and southern ID have equal chances of below, equal to, or above normal temperatures for FMA. Most of WA and northwestern OR have chances of below normal temperatures for the three-month period that exceed 40%. On the other hand, there is very little indication of precipitation for FMA (Figure 5) with equal chances of below, near-normal, or above normal amounts.


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Pacific Northwest Resource Outlooks

Climate Prediction Resources

The links below provide access to the latest information on the current state of global and regional climate, as well as links to global and regional climate predictions.

The Current State of the Tropical Pacific

Predictions of Tropical Pacific and North Pacific Conditions

The Current State of the Globe

Current and Predicted U.S. Conditions

Pacific Northwest Conditions

State Climatologist Offices

Special Areas