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FOR EXPERT COMMENT: MU Expert Predicts Cold, Snowy Winter for Midwest

Nov. 10, 2011

Story Contact(s):
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

By Brad Fischer

COLUMBIA, Mo.  – Last winter, the Midwest United States experienced one of its coldest winters in recent history. A University of Missouri atmospheric scientist is predicting a repeat performance for the approaching season.

“Atmospheric blocking patterns will keep cold air in place,” said Tony Lupo, professor and chair of the Department of Atmospheric Science in the School of Natural Resources. “In addition, more moisture will be guided into the United States leading to more precipitation. With colder temperatures and increased moisture, expect another snowy winter for much of the Midwest.”

VIDEO: Prepare for Cold, Snowy Winter

For the rest of the United States, Lupo predicts:

  • The eastern and southeastern U.S. will experience a colder and snowier than normal winter.
  • In Texas and the southern plains, residents will experience a mild, dry winter.
  • The Great Lakes states will have the typical cold, snowy winter.
  • Northern states will have a colder, snowier winter than usual.
  • The Pacific Northwest will have a typical cool winter with slightly above average snowfall.
  • The western states will experience typical cool temperatures and typical precipitation levels.

In the Midwest, Lupo said La Niña is the driving force behind the cold winter. The weather phenomenon cools the equatorial seas of the Pacific and influences global weather patterns.  Less warm air rises during La Niña periods, which cools the atmosphere. The 2010-2011 La Niña was one of the strongest on record, Lupo said.  The warmer than usual sea temperature around the Gulf of Alaska will influence the upper level winds steering more storms into the continental United States.

In addition, Lupo said there will be increased atmospheric blocking events this winter due to low solar activity. Atmospheric blocking is a relatively unknown weather phenomenon responsible for prolonged bouts of extreme conditions. The event occurs between 20-40 times each year throughout the world and usually lasts between 8-11 days, Lupo said. Blocking usually results when a powerful, high-pressure area gets stuck in one place. Because they cover a large area, fronts behind them are blocked. Lupo is part of a team that recently received a 3 million Russian ruble (about $104,000) grant to study blocking patterns.

Lupo received his doctorate from Purdue in 1995 and is currently the principal investigator at the Global Climate Change Group. The Global Climate Change Group investigates how global climate change may impact long-term weather patterns and the growing season in the Midwest. He has written 34 papers on factors that influence large-scale weather patterns. Lupo is also a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in October 2007.

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