While the Farmers' Almanac and like-minded Old Farmer's Almanac have no problem in relying upon "secret formulas" for estimating long-range forecasts, the professionals at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) aren't ones to roll the dice. The present conditions off the coast of Alaska, however, are so telling about what's coming, that the administration's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has decided to confidently push their forecast into uncharted waters.
Last weekend, during its monthly Alaska climate outlook briefing, the CPC predicted significantly warmer temperatures for northwestern Alaska during October backed by 85 percent confidence. According to Rick Thoman, climate science and services manager for the National Weather Service in Alaska, it's the first time in recorded history that the CPC has issued a probability forecast above 80 percent.
“That is a really bold forecast, but all the pieces are in place,” Thoman said at the briefing, according to Arctic Today.
This unprecedented confidence is backed chiefly by sea surface temperatures in the region up to 4 degrees Celsius above normal. In addition to the warmth, the CPC is also predicting more precipitation than usual, a pattern according to Thoman that's linked to sea-ice retreat.
Such conditions are not only transforming the weather, but also maritime transit.
Earlier this month, a container ship known as the Venta became the first to navigate the fabled Northern Sea Route from Alaska and along the Siberian coastline. Arctic sea ice has diminished so rapidly due to warming ocean temperatures, that it's now possible for global shipping to take advantage of the shortcut from July to October.
Seasonal outlook continues to favor warmer winter for most of U.S.
As for the rest of the U.S., the latest in NOAA's monthly series of "Prognostic Discussions" continues to see signs of a "likely" warmer-than-normal winter. The expected development of an El Niño weather pattern in the North Pacific Ocean may potentially elevate average temperatures and precipitation totals across much of the contiguous U.S.
Confidence in this forecast currently stands at a relatively healthy 60 percent, but as NOAA updates its long-range outlook every month, it cautions that such extreme forecasts should be used as a guide only.
"These climate outlooks are intended for use prior to the start of their valid period," NOAA adds. "Within any given valid period, observation and short and medium range forecasts should be consulted."