Winter Forecast 2011-2012




 Another unique weather pattern has set up and the pieces to this LRC (Lezak’s Recurring Cycle) puzzle are still falling into place.  La Niña will likely affect the weather pattern as well.  We will go over the main features as I see them this year and we will begin with introducing you to the LRC:

Lezak’s Recurring Cycle (The LRC)

  • A unique weather pattern sets up every year between October 1st and November 10th
  • The weather pattern cycles, repeats, and continues through winter, spring and into summer.  Identifying the cycle length helps tremendously when making long range weather predictions
  • “Long term” long-wave troughs and ridges become established and also repeat at regular times within the cycle.  These dominant repeating features are a clue to where storm systems will reach peak strength, and where they will be their weakest
  • There is a pattern! It isn’t just one long-wave trough, storm system, or ridge. It is a sequence of troughs and ridges that are cycling across the Northern Hemisphere and we use our forecasting experience to piece together the LRC puzzle


Analysis of this year’s LRC


Let’s begin this discussion with La Niña, the cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean, as it has been strengthening in recent weeks.  Last year became a moderately strong La Niña and we could see some of the influences.  But, every year is different. The strength of this year’s La Niña is still undetermined and the weather pattern has set up differently than last year as described by the LRC.  Last year there was an historic drought inTexas andOklahoma, but we see this weather pattern setting up into one that should bring some relief to these drought stricken areas.  La Niña didn’t create the drought. It was the weather pattern that prevented storm systems from producing precipitation over this region.  We see some good potential forTexas andOklahoma to be closer to average on precipitation which may keep the drought going, but bringing some relief as even average rainfall would be much more than they received last year.  There is a secondary long term long-wave trough that will swing wet disturbances farther south affecting Texas and Oklahoma at times this winter and into early summer.

The Arctic Oscillation(AO) is a an index that describes blocking in the Northern Hemisphere. When it is in the negative phase cold air drops much farther south than normal, and when it is in the positive phase colder air is held up across Canada. The past two years have had near record negative phases of the AO, and as a result we had some cold and snowy winters across theUnited States.  So far this season there has been no indication that this will happen again. The index has been staying close to neutral the past few weeks, but it is something that we will be paying close attention to.  If it goes into the negative again, then this weather pattern will be energized. If it goes into the positive then more zonal flow will result in a lack of Arctic air.  I just don’t know where this is going yet, so stay tuned.

Here are the main features that will likely affect the weather pattern this winter:

Dominant feature #1: Great Lakes to Mississippi River Valley Long term long-wave trough:

The strongest long term long-wave trough in North America evolved over the Great Lakes south into the Mississippi River Valley.  It first showed up late in the second week of October as you can see on the October 13th 500 mb chart to the left.  Why do we consider this example as good evidence of the long-wave trough position?  It is because it was backed up and followed up by two more examples during the next three weeks.  You can take this map and overlay it on top of this next map and they are almost perfectly aligned, yet six days apart.  Here is the next map showing a deeper version of this trough on October 19th:

You can click on either of these maps for a larger view.  On October 19th a deep upper low formed over southern Illinois as the trough deepened into the dominant feature #1.  This storm system will likely develop in each cycle of this years LRC.  It will vary in strength, but likely from into a major storm as it digs over the Missouri River Valley into the Mississippi River Valley.  Remember the concept of the LRC.  These troughs evolve and set-up during the critical October 1st through November 10th period. There were other examples as well during these critical 41 days.  This strong long term long-wave trough set up October 13th, 19th, and again on the 31st.  When this trough intensifies and gains amplitude it will affect some of the larger population centers with major winter storms this up coming winter season.

Dominant Feature #2:   I am going to call this next feature a secondary long term long-wave trough as it has not occurred as often as the dominant feature #1, but it has repeated several times by mid November and is likely centered near Colorado. 

This secondary long-wave trough developed just as the new weather pattern was evolving in early October.  It has also repeated a couple of times since it’s evolution and this map shows the October 8thversion of the trough. It is this mean trough that will likely bring some drought relief to the excessively dry areas across the southern plains.  This trough, as it swings out into the plains and heads into the Great Lakes dominant trough #1 position, will create the conditions for some major winter storms and the likely development of a couple of moderate to severe ice storms.  One of these ice storms is likely in the Kansas City viewing area.

The flow aloft will split, get blocked up, and have high and low amplitude phases.  These are very difficult to predict using the LRC.  But, when these variances happen there will be some interesting storm systems to track.  The following two maps show our initial thoughts on temperature and precipitation anomalies across the United States:

Winter Temperature Forecast

A cold winter is most likely from the Mississippi River Valley northeast intois the most likely spot to have a warmer than average winter. Everyone else should be close to average as we bounce between dominant feature 1 and secondary feature 2.  A warmer than average winter is expected across the deep south.

Winter Precipitation Forecast

We are forecasting an active weather pattern across North America this winter with strong and wet storm systems, most frequently over the Great Lakes states.  The most likely spot for a drier winter is the deep south from Texas to Florida hugging the Gulf of Mexico. Very strong Pacific storm systems will blast into the western states at times deepening into the long-term long wave troughs.  We will learn a lot more about how storm systems will track, intensify, weaken, and strengthen in the next few weeks.

For Kansas City, we are expecting more rain than in recent winters. The past two winters have had mostly dry and fluffy snowstorms with very little of the precipitation coming in other forms.  This year we expect rain, freezing rain, and sleet to cut into what could be higher totals. And, we are forecasting above average precipitation and near average temperatures:


Average snowfall amounts vary from north to south. Maryville, MO has an average seasonal snowfall of  around 26 inches of snow, while Clinton, MO averages closer to 15 inches of snow.  Kansas City’s average is close to 20 inches and we are forecasting just above this number:

Let us know if you have any questions or comments and we will answer them during the day Tuesday.  The weather pattern is about to strengthen. Remember the jet stream reaches peak strength late in January and this energy influx into the weather pattern will be significant in the next two months. The exciting winter ride is about to begin. Will it match the past two winters?




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53 comments to Winter Forecast 2011-2012

  • Weatherman Brad B

    well maybe i was off by 3 gary, my winter forecast was 20-40 inches for the year but now i have lowered it to 20-30 inches for the year. i think this will be another active winter this year again like last year.

    i really liked your forecast gary, 21 inches for the year seems pretty moderate to me but since it is your forecast ill take that as my second option if mine does not work out.

    weatherman brad

  • Kcchamps

    ok, my forecast for the winter is 35″ of SNOW and temps will be average or slightly below average

  • McCabe58

    Horrible prediction… Going to get well over 21″

    • JohnP

      We will now how good or bad Gary’s prediction was at the end of the season – we can not say right now that it is horrible or excellent.

  • Nick1

    Wow the above avg. precip. kind of suprised me, as so far there have only been two wet storms( for St. Joe actually only 1 very wet storm) since the new LRC formed. I will stick with my thought of 13 inches and see what happens! I hope you are right though because if so it sounds like a funner winter than I was thinking!!

    • R-Dub

      Thing is, Nick, it only takes one wet storm/month to send us above average in winter. So if the pair of wet storms happens 4 times in 3 months, then we would be above average. That’s my interpretation of the forecast.

  • Kcchamps

    when those 2 WET storms systems repeat in the cycle it should be interesting to see what type of precip they will be. if they are snow then watch out

    • R-Dub

      Those wet storms were also warm storms. So we’d likely get mostly rain or ice from them, with a little snow on the backside.

  • Nick1

    Yes, but how long is the cycle length? How many times will they return before winter is over? of course there is likely more storms than those that are “hiding” that will show them selves with a stronger jet/different amplitudes, but still I will wait and see.

  • f00dl3

    Gary. You and I see eye to eye on this one. I’m thinking 17-19″ though – that’s about only difference. I’m thinking mid-January is best time for a major ice storm here.

  • OlatheMatt

    I think we are going to see some variance from the 21 inches. I think we will beat that by a good storm later in winter. This will be around 5-7 on that 21 so 26 in Olathe and 28 inches @ KCI.

  • MikeT1

    so from what date are we starting the 41 day cycle period? oct. 13? 31?

    • Mike,

      There has yet to be any indication of a cycle length!

      • MikeT1

        i guess i picked it up in reading, “There were other examples as well during these critical 41 days.” but i suppose you were just referring to the LRC set-up period.

        • Yes, it is the critical 41 day stretch from October 1st to November 10th where we believe the LRC sets up. It could actually go into late November. So, we are still finding things out.

          • RickMckc

            I’m confused as to how you can make a long-range forecast without yet knowing the cycle length. I assume if the cycle is 30 days, all of those longwaves repeat during that period. If it is 60, same thing is true? Seems like a 30 day period would be much more active, resulting in higher precip.

            Also, for what it’s worth (which isn’t much), I’ll repeat my prediction from a couple blogs ago: somewhere from Joco to StJo goes over the 30″ mark in snowfall again this year.

            Love the blog, Gary. Appreciate you entertaining – and putting up with – all of us weather nuts!

            • MikeT1

              kinda what i was thinking too. oddly enough, a 40 – 42 day cycle length “feels” right to me. i’m nowhere near as knowledgable as most on this blog… just a sense that’s what it’ll turn out to be.

            • Rick, Thanks for your input. And, the cycle length will help in making specific predictions for individual storm systems, but we can still make a seasonal projection before knowing the cycle length.

  • StormyWX

    Yeah I have to agree. I think there’s a margin of error of +/- 5″ of snow with that “only” 21″ of snow this season prediction this year! I also believe we will see at least ONE major snow snow storm that will dump 5-10″ of snow in some areas.

    I also don’t think that the ice storm you have predicted will be QUITE as severe as you’ve made it out to be.

    Hmmmm perhaps you should start making a margin of error when it comes to your snow forecasts?

  • MikeT1

    and meanwhile, from good ol’ Jack Harry, ” I’ll go so far as to predict, that we will have at least, at least 3 major, snow storms, before the Chiefs win another football game this season.

    Ah, that might be going out on the limb.

    But what the heck, that’s something our fair-weather forecaster would never do.”

    gary??? he’s talkin’ smack about the chiefs AND you! them’s fightin’ words!

    • Jack really did a smack on my weathercasts, but “mostly” in fun.

    • R-Dub

      The chiefs have a lot of company in the NFL as far as being bad. A friend of mine who’s a redskins fan just told me this: the skins have not even had the lead in a game since Oct 2.

      • MikeT1

        i’ve given up on them. especially now that cassel is out. given up on haley too.

      • sedsinkc

        Since the ‘Skins play “my” Cowboys Sunday, the Redskins might magically play much better. Dallas has played 2 good games in a row, they’re due to have a clunker. And anything can and does happen when the Cowboys and Redskins meet. In 1989, when Dallas was 1-15, that 1 win was against Washington in Washington. Conversely, in 1992, when Dallas went 13-3 and stomped Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVII, one of their 3 losses was against Washington in Washington.

  • Bananny

    What is Brett’s forecast the opposes yours Gary? I know he discussed a forecast back in August or September I believe. Does he still believe we will not have much snow and nothing more than 4″ on the ground at a time?

  • JohnNCWX

    I had questions in the last blog that were not explained in your lrc rationale. Should i repost them? I am specifically interested in how you believe a dominant eastern trough leads to warm, dry weather in the southeast when in past winters it has led to very, very cold conditions(for them) and bouts of dryness but overall average precip? Since october first…and before actually (I wont open that can of worms) there has been a dominant trough in the east that has brought many ‘southeasters’ dating back as far as Lee, which happened at the beginning of september.

    For the record, the part that you have as warmer than average in your forecast has had consecutive coldest winters in >40 years the past two years. That could very well mean that the area is due for a warm winter, but given the way fall has begun (many hard freezes, earliest snowfall on record, below average temps so far, etc) I don’t see it happening this year. Also, the AO index is forecast to go negative by the end of the month, contrary to what your report says. Not saying that you’re incorrect in your assessment of your theory in the area, your long-wave troughs and the subsequent surface action just don’t jive with what generally happens in a troughy scenario. What you are expecting occurs when the trough sets up over the middle of the country, with a west atlantic ridge..

    • I spent some time analyzing the troughs that developed, and the deep south didn’t have much impact from them. It looked warmer and dry deep into the south even though it may be very cold in the Ohio River Valley. The AO index may be forecast to go negative near the end of the month, but let’s see what actually happens. It is an index, and that forecast is just based on the GFS.

  • So Gary, if you do not know which way the AO is going to swing could your snowfall forecast be way off if in fact the AO goes into a similar negative phase like it has the past two years?

    • Brian,

      Not necessarily. The AO is an indication of what is happening. I made this forecast taking the AO, La Niña, the LRC, and other factors and weighing them all together. So, the AO is not being ignored. I am not expecting another record year for the AO.

  • R-Dub

    I think that’s a pretty reasonable forecast. Not 100% sold on the above average precip but I do see how it could happen. But I could also see the storm track shifting south, so the wet storms miss us, but the northern stream storms come closer. That would lead to more dry fluffy snows and less rain.

  • natel79

    Is it safe to assume that here in the Maryville, MO area it will be a little cooler with similar precipitation amounts this winter as those of you in Kansas City?

  • Fred Souder

    Trying to post a long blog, but it keeps vanishing into the ether…

    I see a lot of people on this blog attack or support the LRC. I would like to offer some thoughts about this model for review, so feel free to chime in and correct me where I am wrong.

    I read many journals and attend scientific conferences. Whenever someone presents a new theory or explanation of some physical phenomenon I like to judge its veracity based on principles of science that are employed by engineers. In layman’s terms, I like to run it through my B.S.-O-Meter. In my line of reckoning, a good physical theory must “pass muster” of the following items:

    1.) Does the theory ‘feel’ plausible based on our understanding of physical systems and how they interact? Does it avoid any obvious contradictions with the laws of physics, or more specifically, thermodynamics and process control?
    2.) Does the theory reflect past observations accurately?
    3.) Does the theory make some falsifiable prediction? In other words, can it be tested?

    How does the LRC stack up?

    Item 1. I can think of no reason why the LRC would be invalidated based on its basic premises. The atmosphere is a fluid medium with short and longwave oscillations of varying periods mixed throughout. In fact we would expect cycles, and cycles within cycles, setting up at various phase boundaries. These should be seen regularly at the sharper pressure and temperature boundaries divided by the jets, and seen more randomly at the ITCZ’s. If we were to stretch an elastic band around a sphere and perturbate it, a series of waves would traverse the band, and eventually the system of waves would repeat.
    So, Item 1 = CHECK.

    Item 2. This is a relatively simple test to accomplish, but is often very tedious to perform. I know that Gary, Jeremy, Scott, and others have looked at a lot of maps from past weather events to determine the validity of the theory. Of course, when researchers start looking for past data to support their theories, they often times ignore data that refutes their theories. For the poster child of this type of malpractice, look up “Yamal Tree-Ring Data”. Even more alarming is when the entirety of Earth’s history refutes a claim, and yet the researchers proceed boldly onward. For a classic example of theories that make any engineer’s BS-o-Meter clang until it breaks, google “Water-vapor is a positive feedback”. I am unaware if Gary and team have fallen into these traps. I haven’t done any checking up to see how well the LRC has modeled storm tracks and sequences in past years. IMHO, I haven’t seen anything backbreaking or groundbreaking to refute or support it absolutely, since the charts we often see presented could be cherry-picked. So, Item 2 = To Be Determined.

    Item 3. One of the great things about Gary and Team is that they are not afraid to “put their money where their mouths are” and take the heat from us when they are wrong. The seasonal forecasts, such as the spring forecast, can easily be validated by simply watching the weather. This last fall, after the LRC set up, Gary made his winter and tentative spring forecasts. The US winter forecast for that year verified closely with his predictions except for two items: our local snowfall amounts (way underestimated) and the NW US temperatures (overestimated). Several times last winter he predicted that the spring would be a very active stormy spring, with most storms maturing east of our area. This was validated. I do not know how much weight Gary & Team put in the LRC when evolving their seasonal forecasts but I imagine that it is significant. If this is the case, then, it can be said that the LRC improves predictions of future events, and the efficacy of the theory can be monitored by assessing these predictions. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in certain atmospheric sciences that are not bound by this basic principle of theories and they are able to make outrageous claims that cannot be validated because they are using long time frames… but I digress.
    So, ITEM 3 = CHECK, but only for two or three years. Cynics like me need many, many more positive results before we accept a model.

    One interesting item of note:
    Gary’s long-term forecasts varied a lot last year from NOAA, MET, Farmer’s, and other local meteorologists. However, they were quite similar to the forecasts put out by Joe Bastardi and Joe D’Aleo. The Joes have started up a private company that offers its forecasts to companies that have shipping, agriculture, or commodity interests. If they are wrong, they don’t get paid. The Joes predicted that last spring would be as bad as the springs of 1965, 1974, and 193?. This was really laying it on the line! By January J.B. said that it would be one of the worst seasons for tornados ever. Were they using the LRC?! Sounds just like what Gary said. Actually, they make their seasonal forecasts based on the PDO, AMO, AOI, ENSO, proprietary factors, and past analogous weather patterns. The LRC gains credibility because it predicted the same trends as another model coming at the science from a completely different direction- but, only because these models verified. It does no good to predict one model to another if there is no way to verify either.

    Feel Free to Fire away!

  • goodlifegardens

    We really don’t need any water in the winter as long as it returns in the summer. Give me warm and dry winters every time.

    • Brett Budach

      Gosh, i forgot how lovely the garden looks after a warm dry winter….NOT
      Stunted new growth, confused bloom and sprout times, shallow root die-off…

  • rred95

    I like jacks forcast “3 major snowstorms before next chiefs win” With the chiefs remaining scheduel I dont think its out on a limb at all. I can see them winless here on out.

    • MikeT1

      jack said “…this season.” so he’s really out on a limb as it is not likely we’ll see but one snow storm before the chiefs’ season “officially” ends!

  • snowyman

    Gary great job on the winter forecast. I know it must take a lot of time to put together a blog like today’s blog and I for one appreciate it. I love the weather and love to learn about it and this is a great place for it. Keep up the great work and thanks for the time and effort you put into the blog. You guys are the best in KC.

  • yewtrees

    Gary Lezak’s LRC versus Brett Anthony’s acorns. I go with Brett.


  • Weatherman Brad B


    on the nbc action weather plus channel a few seconds after you start your unvailing your winter forecast from last night it cuts you off when your showing the most dominate 1st and 2nd cycles of the winter weather pattern.

    is there some way where you can fix that problem so it would show you doing the whole winter forecast that you made..


    weatherman brad

  • GB Packers

    9-0. MVP QB.

  • mukustink

    Gary nice job on the winter forecast. When will you know the length of the cycle? If you have already answered sorry I didn’t see it. Now I can’t wait till March to see how it turned out. Let’s hope it is closer then last years so you don’t have to answer 3 months of “your winter forecast was way wrong.”

    Weatherman Brad names should be capitilized like Gary not gary. If you are indeed in your 4th year of college I would think you would know that. The beginning of a sentence should be captilized as well.

    Where is Mike? I had heard he got a dwi after the Chiefs game Sunday. I am not sure if that’s true and I hope his drinking didn’t catch up with him.

    Brett have you not heard of water and a bucket. Water the garden if the winter is a dry one. You are not really that helpless are you? I have a bucket, if you need one let me know.

    • Brett Budach

      I wasn’t complaining about watering. Just trying to give a real reason why a warm/dry winter is actually not good.
      And “bucket and water” is too much work for me! haha But I would not go so far as to say I am helpless…
      I prefer to just mulch with fall leaves and let nature take her course. In really dry years (like what would have happened if our drought continued) I just add any snow we get to the beds when shoveling the porch and driveway. If no snow, then they get a once-a-month watering.

  • Emaw

    What a beautiful day we had today, can’t get much better for November. Gary, what’s it looking like in Boston for Monday night? I’d hate to see crappy weather spoil such an epic QB matchup: Brady vs. Palko… wow, what a freaking train wreck!