TOPEKA (KSNT) – As winter looms closer, many are wondering what’s in store for the Midwest.
Looking ahead to the final months of 2023 and the first months of 2024, predictions as to what kind of weather Kansas will get vary depending on who you ask.
Organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) have released winter weather predictions while other groups, like the Famer’s Almanac and Old Farmer’s Almanac, have their own findings on what kind of winter Kansas will see. While these sources all agree El Niño will play a part in this year’s winter, they differ in several ways.
With both the NOAA and the almanacs releasing their predictions for this year’s winter, what are they saying and which do you trust?
What the NOAA says
The NOAA released its winter weather predictions through its Climate Prediction Center (CPC) on Sept. 21, 2023. For the first time in three years, the NOAA said people can expect an El Niño in their forecast.
El Niño and its opposite, La Niña, are two extremes in a naturally occurring cycle, according to the NOAA. These phenomena occur every three to five years, lasting around nine to 12 months for El Niño and one to three years for La Niña.
With an El Niño weather pattern expected, this means that there will be a weakening of the trade winds over the Pacific Ocean, resulting in warmer ocean waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, according to the NOAA. This will have an impact in the form of increased rainfall throughout the southern parts of the country.
While the southern U.S. will likely see wetter conditions moving into winter, states in the north may see drier conditions, according to the NOAA. The Midwest, and Kansas, sit in an area that has equal chances for above-normal or below-normal temperatures.
These trends will also have an impact on the amount of precipitation the U.S. will receive, according to the NOAA. Kansas occupies an area that is equally likely to see above or below normal expectations for precipitation.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac takes a strong stance on the expectation for wintry conditions this year, stating in its 2023-2024 Weather Forecast that the U.S. is in for a “winter wonderland.” Kansas, along with much of the U.S., is predicted to see cold and snowy conditions, with snow arriving in November.
The eastern half of Kansas is predicted to get above average snowfall with the odds of a white Christmas being high, according to the almanac. Western Kansas will see more snow alongside bitter cold temperatures with those north of I-70 being able to expect a white Christmas.
The Farmer’s Almanac says traditional cool temperatures alongside snowy conditions will be returning to the U.S. this year. The almanac predicts snow, sleet and ice for much of the nation with the Midwest area receiving lots of precipitation and wintry conditions.
Blizzards and heavy snow are predicted for the spring of 2024, according to the Farmer’s Almanac.
Who to trust?
While some may be tempted to place faith in age-old sources like the almanacs, meteorologists caution against doing so. KSNT Stormtrack Meteorologist Ely Millard says you shouldn’t place too much faith in the almanac’s predictions.
“I wouldn’t lean too heavily on the farmer’s almanac, given it attempts to make long-term predictions about relatively short-term events,” Millard said.
The Farmer’s Almanac claims to keep a secret mathematical and astronomical formula that it has used to make weather predictions since 1818. Likewise, the Old Farmer’s Almanac also has a closely guarded secret weather formula since its founding in 1792.
“Professional meteorologists and climatologists that spend time accurately digesting data in a reasonable timeframe to make appropriate decisions about a forecast should always be trusted,” Millard said. “When something is in print, it can’t be changed but as forecasts and climate evolve, meteorologists can accurately update information to reflect new thinking.”