Long-Lead Climate Outlook

Frequently Asked Questions

Neither. The new product is a series of 90-day outlooks produced in one-month steps. The series begins with the outlook for the next three months (for example February, March and April), followed in turn by a separate 90-day outlook for the period beginning one month later than the first 90-day outlook ( to continue the example, March, April and May). A series of 13 90-day outlooks will be issued around the middle of the preceding month.
No. The outlooks do not attempt to accurately predict weather for any one given day of location. The methods used to produce each outlook will at best offer insight into longer-term expected trends (such as drier or wetter than normal for a season in a particular region of the country.)
The two do not compare. The NWS product does not attempt to offer precise predictions of temperature and rainfall in outlook products or outlook predictions.
Normals for your area of residence are typically given in weather reports provided by the news media. Your nearest National Weather Service Office of Regional Climate Center can also provide a gauge of what the normal climate pattern is for your area.
Governments and industries which already use a variety of means to anticipate future weather patterns for making decisions (transportation managers who must determine how much road salt to purchase for use in winter, farmers who are looking to get the most yield out of their arable land.) The predictions will not be useful for anyone trying to plan an event for a specific date.
Sea Surface temperature patterns, upper atmospheric winds, and historical weather patterns.
The outlooks will have information about temperature and precipitation for different regions of the country. The outlook will compare the anticipated temperature and precipitation to normals for a given region, and categorize the anticipated levels as above normal, normal or below normal.
No. The techniques and methods for using them are different. The techniques used are both statistical (the canonical correlation analysis and the optimal climate normals) and dynamical (coupled ocean-atmosphere model). Even more importantly, we strictly require that a prediction of climatological probabilities be used in regions where the techniques we use have marginal accuracy.
Briefly, the January, February, March outlook and the July, August, September outlook are the highest in terms of reliability or "skill". The April, May, June outlook and the November, December, January outlook have the lowest skill. As most of us know from personal experience, these are "transition" months between seasons when the weather can wildly fluctuate from day to day. The skill of outlooks also varies between regions of the U.S. It is quite possible that a prediction for a period eight months into the future may actually be more reliable than an outlook for the next 90 days. Your Regional Climate Center can give you detailed information about these aspects of the skill of the outlooks.
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