Signs of a Cold Winter 2016–2017

Signs of a Cold Winter 2017


Rate this Post: 

Average: 3.8 (57 votes)

For winter 2016–2017, the Almanac has predicted colder-than-normal temperatures for most of the United States. Here’s a weather update.

By November and December, temperatures at and around the North Pole were rising above freezing, while Siberia shivered through record cold.

The north polar region has been experiencing temperatures some 30 to 50 degrees F above normal, which has kept sea ice formation at record low levels. Meanwhile, temperatures in Siberia have plummeted to –30° to –50° F, shattering their daily cold records by 10 to 20 degrees.

This all ties in with a recent study published in Nature Climate Change by researchers at China’s Lanzhou University, who found that a loss of sea ice in the Arctic regions due to rising temperatures in the Barents–Kara seas, along with an increase in snow cover over Europe and Asia, has caused the polar vortex to weaken.

Polar Vortex Influence

You may recall that the polar vortex was associated with cold air in eastern North America a couple of winters ago. The weakening and shifting of the vortex suggested by the Lanzhou study would block high pressure systems from dominating Earth’s high latitudes, sending them southward and bringing cold temperatures into the eastern and north-central United States.

Other studies have shown that increases in Eurasian and Siberian snow cover in the fall can have similar effects on the polar vortex, bringing cold and snowy weather into the northeastern quarter of the United States.

These studies combine to suggest that the coming winter will be much colder than the past one in the eastern and central portions of North America.

El Niño to a weak La Niña

All of this is consistent with the change from last winter’s strong El Niño to a weak La Niña this fall and winter. Along with the other factors that control our winter weather, this means that nearly all of the country will be colder than last winter, although most places will still have above-normal temperatures when averaged across the entire winter season.

  • Snowfall will be above normal from southern New England and western New York southwestward through the Appalachians; from eastern Minnesota eastward to the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan and southward to St. Louis, Missouri; and from central North Dakota westward to the Pacific coast, with below-normal snowfall in most other places that normally receive snow.
  • Rainfall and precipitation will again be below normal in most of California, which could result in higher food prices next spring and summer.

See the winter weather forecast summary from The 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac.

~ By  Michael Steinberg

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

2018 Winter

It's so exciting to see how close you all are to the actual weather. "Phil" hasn't come close to what you all have done. Job well done. Thanks. Keep it coming.

Pacific Northwest

Maybe I'm just missing something but it seems like the Pacific northwest is often overlooked in your reporting.


Do thunderstorms in the fall have an effect on how the winter will be

thunder's indication of winter's weather

Thunder will not have “an effect” (as you suggest) on how the winter will be, but it may be an indication—at least according to a few weather proverbs:

• Thunder in the fall indicates a mild, open winter.

• Thunder in November, a fertile year to come.

• Thunder in December presages fine weather.

• Thunder in March betokens a fruitful year.

Remember that weather proverbs, or adages, evolved from observation of relatively reliable events (that is, one event—thunder—resulted in a specific weather condition) before the advent of weather forecasting, much less technology. They may hold true, some better than others, but noting them as you are and watching for the outcome can be fun and fascinating. Here are a few more:

• Much fog in autumn, much snow in winter.

• First thunder in winter indicates rain.

• Rolling thunder which seems to be passing on foretells wind; but sharp and interrupted cracks denote storms both of wind and rain.

• Winter thunder, / Poor man’s death, rich man’s hunger. (That is, it is good for fruit and bad for corn.)


interesting to see how wrong this is one year later

2016–17 winter forecast accuracy

Hi, Ben, In ever edition of the Almanac we publish the accuracy rate of the prior winter forecast (we print the book before much of the spring and the summer even occur). And we explain how we make our forecasts. You can see the latter topic on page 217 of the 2018 edition or here

As for the accuracy, knowing better from the information on the page or link, you might better understand the results. Here is the first paragraph/summary of the accuracy (in full on page 218 of the 2018 edition): Our overall accuracy rates in forecasting the direction of change from normal in the 2016–17 winter was 77.8% in temperature and 83.3% in precipitation. This 80.6% overall accuracy rate was slightly above our historical average rate of 80%.

Not so bad after all…

Thanks for taking the time to read and write.

ben since you have the

ben since you have the crystal ball what else happens?

Farm Animals

Very concerned about farm animals in hot/humid weather that do not have shaded areas. This is animal cruelty. I live Southern California where some areas are extremely hot. I see some large farms where these animals are suffering. These are warm blooded creatures just like us. They feel the extreme temps just like we all do. I wish there were a way to investigate these farms.

animal care

Thank you for taking the time to write, Barbara. Perhaps there are animal welfare orgs that you can consult in the area.