The warm winter of 2015
Tropical pressure system El Niño to bring mild winter, weather service says
By Jared Raney
Last Monday, Phillip Kurimski, senior meteorologist of northern Wisconsin for the National Weather Service (NWS), gave a presentation to the public on dangers of winter weather.
A display of the dire consequences in winter weather was tempered by the revelation that after two especially cold winters, Wisconsin may catch a break.
According to NWS, the state is looking at 80-90 percent chances of higher-than-normal temperatures, and a 65-75 percent chance of below normal precipitation.
This unseasonably warm winter potential is due to the weather phenomenon known as El Niño—a pressure system caused by variations in sea surface temperatures through the Pacific Ocean. It is a naturally occuring periodic climate change usually lasting about two years.
Normally not something that causes much of a stir, this year is different as experts predict the current wave to be the strongest El Niño occurrence in recorded history, according to The Weather Network.
El Niño’s counter-balance is El Niña, a cold weather pattern that follows El Niño.
Despite indications that Wisconsin can expect an easy winter, Kurimski and Dawn Robinson with Oneida County Emergency Management said it is still important to be prepared for severe winter weather. After all, a mild Wisconsin winter is still a Wisconsin winter.
Important safety tips from Kurimski and Robinson included keeping a winter emergency kit in you car and at home, with enough non-perishable food and water for three days, flashlights with extra batteries, extra medications, blankets and first-aid supplies. Also keep informed about weather systems by watching the forecast and having a weather radio to receive emergency alerts.
Definitions of Weather Warnings
Winter Weather Advisory: High confidence of a non-lifethreatening hazardous winter event with 3 to 5 inches of snow over a 12-hour period.
Winter Storm Watch: Possibility of winter storm conditions such as freezing rain, sleet and heavy snow within 36-48 hours.
Winter Storm of Ice Storm Warning: A significant winter storm is occurring or will begin in the next 24 hours, 6 inches of snowfall in 12 hours or 8 inches in 24 hours. Ice storm means freezing rain is expected with 1/4 inch ice accumulations within 12-hour period.
Blizzard Warning: Dangerous storm with 35-mph or greater winds with falling/blowing snow and reduced visibility for a duration of at least 3 hours.
Wind Chill Advisory: Bitter cold wind chills of 20 to 34 below zero.
Wind Chill Warning: Wind chills of 35 below zero, frostbit possible when outside for 10 minutes or less.
A wind chill calculator can be found through the NWS website, nws.noaa.gov/om/winter/windchill/shtml.