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November 14, 2011 06:32 PM

Nailing Down Winter Weather Predictions

kansas city, sd


What to expect during the winter is always a common question in the meteorological community.

Farmers Almanacs, the Climate Prediction Center, even a ground hog gets his say into winter weather predictions. But one particular meteorologist from Kansas City is nailing it down.


Gary Lezak is a meteorologist from the NBC station there. He's been studying the weather for many years. In his research, he noticed that storm systems in the late winter months, would mimic those from earlier in the winter.

"Well, Scot, the LRC stands for Lezak Recurring Cycle. I came up with a theory in the late 1980s. I had a theory as I noticed a storm in December looked familiar to one in January or February and I was like 'wow.' Then, I compared the upper level charts, and it wasn't that the storms were similar but the whole weather pattern was similar," Lezak said.

Take November 10 of last year for example. The upper air patterns showed a major trough in the jet stream in the southwest United States. Fifty days later, a very similar trough set up giving KELOLAND a New Years Eve blizzard. Then, fifty days after that, on February 20, another trough developed in the southwest United States. This one only gave Sioux Falls around 3" of snow. But Aberdeen got pounded with 16" and Milbank measured a foot and a half.

"The entire weather pattern sets up, according to my theory the LRC. October 1 through November 10, the weather pattern sets up. Then a new cycle length develops, then it repeats over and over again," Lezak said.

That's the reason why you may hear us mention from time to time, that the way the weather patterns set up in October can give us a clue to the upcoming winter. While the cycle gives us an idea when to expect storms to roll through, the strength of the storms will vary as the season goes on.

"How do you know what the cycle length is? As soon as you see the weather pattern repeating, then you can tell how long that cycle length is. It's a very complex situation," Lezak said.

So, picking the length of the cycle can sometimes be challenging. As Lezak says, it can range anywhere from 35 to as many as 75 days. The long 75-day cycle is one that set up in the winter of 2005 and 2006. He has also noticed that in La Nina winters, which we are currently in, the cycle typically has a length of 42 to 48 days.

Lezak also mentioned that he, at times, thinks a cycle won't develop that year, but sure enough, one does.
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