Gorgeous fall weather, drought status, and winter outlooks

See?? I wasn’t lying! Cool fall weather really did make it into the Mid-South! Most of us woke up to temperatures that started with a “4” this morning for the first time in over five months and, despite full sunshine, we’re only going to get to the mid 60s for highs today. After a long, hot summer that seemed to be never-ending, it has. I for one am grateful. If you’re going to be out this evening, take along a jacket as temperatures will quickly drop into the 50s with sunset.

Metro temperatures as of 6am this morning. (MWN)

If you were on the cusp of turning on the furnace this morning, tomorrow morning’s temperature might just push you over the edge. Morning lows will be about 5° cooler with 40-45° temperatures expected metro-wide. In fact, it’s possible that a few 38-39° readings could occur in low-lying rural areas well removed from the urban heat island tonight, particularly to the east. Frost likely won’t be an issue in the metro, but it won’t be far away! For Saturday, it’ll be a tad warmer, but a high of 70° is still phenomenal and welcomed!

NWS-Memphis predicts the possibility of frost across eastern portions of west Tennessee and north Mississippi early Saturday morning. (weather.gov/memphis)

Inevitably, of course, there is a rebound, but at least this time we’re not talking about mid to upper 80s and noticeable humidity. By Sunday afternoon, after another chilly start with lows in the 40s, temperatures rebound into the upper 70s as wind shifts southerly. In fact, the “warmth” of the next week or so will be highs near 80° with lows moderating back up close to 60 by mid-week. Believe it or not, that is still a fair amount “above normal” as average highs drop towards the 70° mark in about a week. No significant rain chances exist in the coming week either. Clouds increase mid-week as a weather system moves by well to our north, but rain chances continue to be minimal.

Average temperatures for the month of October in Memphis.
Departure from normal temperatures for the past 30 days in Memphis. Nearly every day has seen an average temperature above average, and most well above average. (NWS)

Drought Status

Speaking of lack of rain, drought conditions continue to worsen in the past couple weeks with all of the metro except Crittenden County now classified as being in a “moderate drought.” Rainfall has been minimal for nearly two months now, despite being well above average for the year thanks to wet conditions for the first half of the year.

The latest drought monitor shows moderate drought conditions in the metro and extreme drought expanding in east-central MS. (droughtmonitor.unl.edu)

Observed precipitation for the past 90 days in Memphis. From late July to late August, precipitation was well above average, but there has been little precipitation recorded since the first of September. (CPC/NCEP)

Winter Outlook

Yesterday, NOAA, the parent organization of the National Weather Service, released their 2016-2017 Winter Outlook. I’ve included the graphics below, but you can click here to read the full story. In a nutshell, weak La Nina conditions are likely to be one of the primary drivers of the weather patterns this winter. La Nina is a cooling of the equatorial ocean waters west of the South American coastline. It tends to result in drier and warmer than average conditions across the southern U.S., with the Mid-South on the northern fringes of that region.

Specifically, NOAA gives us about a 40% chance of above average temperatures for the December through February period. Precipitation is forecast to have “equal chances” of being above or below average. In other words, there is no clear signal of either condition occurring.

The other outlooks that I have perused are fairly well in line with NOAA, with perhaps a trend from above normal temperatures earlier in the winter to near or slightly below average to end the winter. Snow is always a tough call – and the most asked question of course – but because our average snowfall for the year is basically one storm, and zero or two would be “abnormal,” it’s simply too difficult to know how much we’ll get. A few mile difference in a storm track could make the difference between an above normal and below normal year! It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out for sure.

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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