New methodology improves winter climate forecasting

July 20, 2010, North Carolina State University
Researchers were able to reduce uncertainty in winter climate predictions by developing a methodology that incorporates multiple climate forecast models and also accounts for the activity of El Nino conditions in the Pacific.

It's hot out right now, but new research from North Carolina State University will help us know what to expect when the weather turns cold. Researchers have developed a new methodology that improves the accuracy of winter precipitation and temperature forecasts. The tool should be valuable for government and utility officials, since it provides key information for use in predicting energy consumption and water availability.

"Predicting winter precipitation is extremely useful, because winter is the most important season in terms of re-charging water supplies in the United States, ensuring water will be available in the summer," says Dr. Sankar Arumugam, author of the study and an assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NC State. The study was co-authored by Naresh Devineni, a Ph.D. student at NC State.

"Predicting temperature is also important, because temperature determines ," Arumugam says. "When it is very cold, people use more energy to heat their homes."

The researchers were able to reduce uncertainty in winter climate predictions over the United States by developing a methodology that incorporates multiple general climate forecast models (GCMs) and also accounts for the activity - or inactivity - of El Nino conditions in the Pacific.

Winter precipitation and temperature over many regions of the continental are predominantly determined by the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which denote hot (El Nino) or cold (La Nina) conditions in the tropical Pacific.

Most GCMs are better at predicting the winter climate when ENSO is quite active, and are less accurate under neutral ENSO conditions. The methodology developed by the researchers accounts for the skill of the models under active and neutral ENSO conditions in combining multiple GCMs, resulting in reduced uncertainty in predicting the winter climate.

"Improving precipitation and temperature predictions should help government, water and energy utility officials plan more effectively," Arumugam says, "because they will have a better idea of what conditions to expect."

Explore further: Forecasters say El Nino may be developing

More information: The study, "Improving the Prediction of Winter Precipitation and Temperature over the continental United States: Role of ENSO State in Developing Multimodel Combinations," was published online this month by Monthly Weather Review.

Related Stories

Forecasters say El Nino may be developing

June 8, 2009

(AP) -- A new El Nino could be approaching. Sea-surface temperatures have been warming in the tropical Pacific Ocean, suggesting the potential for the development of the El Nino climate phenomenon this summer, according ...

La Niña Anomaly Could Affect Winter Weather in Colorado

November 19, 2008

( -- A strong La Niña that developed early last winter, only to disappear this summer, is showing signs of life again and could affect our winter weather, said University of Colorado at Boulder and NOAA atmospheric ...

Scientist Forecasts Above Average Mountain Moisture

November 4, 2005

The mountains of Colorado could be in for a wetter-than-average winter this season, according to Klaus Wolter, a CU-Boulder and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist.

New water management tool may help ease effects of drought

November 12, 2009

Continued improvement of climate forecasts is resulting in better information about what rainfall and streamflow may look like months in advance. A researcher from North Carolina State University has developed an innovative ...

Global warming's influence on El Nino still unknown

May 24, 2010

( -- The climate of the Pacific region will undergo significant changes as atmospheric temperatures rise but scientists can not yet identify the influence it will have on the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) ...

Recommended for you


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.