October Outlook: Any relief in the drought?

CPC Temperature Outlook

After a series of record-breaking days to start the month it looks like we can finally say good bye to the 90 degree heat for the year. Now the question is, will it continue to feel like fall? And will we see an end to the current drought conditions across central Ohio?

First off, monthly forecasts are always difficult to make, especially when your talking about looking 4 weeks into the future, let alone a week out. That being said, weather models have come a long way and now we're able to get a good idea at some of the large-scale (synoptic) patterns that could occur with some decent accuracy 2 weeks out. Now of course, we can't point out a small event such as rain for one day 3+ weeks out, but we can see if the overall pattern for that given week could support some unsettled weather that could then result in some precipitation or stormy weather.

Let's tackle temperatures first.

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CPC October temperature outlook

Obviously, we're off to a warm start this month with 3 days of 90+ heat. That is going to put us ahead of the game for awhile. Beyond this week, temperatures appear to remain somewhat seasonable into you Doppler 10 day forecast. For the remainder of the month, it looks like we'll see temperatures leaning above average for the month as a whole.

The latest temperature outlook for October by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has us in the range of 50-60% of seeing above average temperatures for the month of October. That does not mean we'll see temperatures in the 90's or even the 80's for temperatures to be above average.

Columbus October Normals

Something important to realize is that our typical highs and lows for this time of the year are going down and are going down fast. By the end of the month, statistically speaking, our average high is around 60 degrees and our average low is around 40.

This is important to know because we could hypothetically see a high of 68 and a low of 48 for the entire month and end up with above average temperatures. Now, of course, we will see temperature swings and not every day will feel exactly like it should be, but that's the thing about weather. It changes. And it does look like we'll see more changes in the next couple weeks.

EURO Model of the Jet Stream for October 4th

Since we're talking about the big picture for the month of October, it only makes sense that will look at the large-scale synoptic features that control our weather locally — the jet stream.

Currently, the expansive ridge of high pressure over the eastern United States, which brought the record heat heading into this month, is weakening and the flow of the jet stream is turning more flat (zonal).

EURO Model of the Jet Stream for October 9th

The flattening in the jet stream will create a more conducive environment for faster moving flow, creating a more unsettled pattern into next week. This fast-moving flow, however, also helps to keep stubborn meandering patterns from overstaying their welcome and helps to keep things moving through the weather assembly line, as I like to call it. This pattern again creates changes in temperatures, but it also largely dependent on any given storm system that moves through, which can greatly impact daily temperatures on a local level.

EURO Model of the Jet Stream for October 13th

Beyond next week, model accuracy decreases and this is where more variance comes into play. It still appears that we will see somewhat of a zonal flow, but we could also deal with some cooler air off to our north drift south over the eastern United States. Beyond the second week, models have been hinting at slightly warmer to near average conditions into the latter half of the month. I know, extremely vague right? That's the reality of long-term forecasting, but precipitation is even trickier.

October Precipitation for Columbus

Considering how we're only four days into the month as I write this (October 4th) we haven't seen much rain opportunity, but we already know where we stand with the current drought conditions and it's not good.

Latest Drought Conditions for Ohio

Due to the extremely dry conditions over September, much of Ohio is dealing with some level of drought.

Rain needed to end drought, Courtesy: NOAA

Based on this map, we need roughly 3-6 inches of rainfall to end the current drought in central Ohio. Some areas in southern and southeastern Ohio need even more--6-9 inches in spots.

CPC October Precipitation Outlook

Want to be even more vague? Take a gander at this. The CPC has much of the Ohio Valley neither expected to be above or below average for the month of October for precipitation. Or at least that's what you would assume just looking at this graphic.

What this actually means is that we have equal chances to see above, below or average precipitation for the month of October (33% above, 33% below, 33% normal).

Typically, we see a little over 2.5" of rain for the month and based on the recent drought conditions, we're going to need a lot more than that.

EURO weeklies precipitation forecast

Not the easiest graphic to look at, but it offers a lot of useful information, so please bear with me.

This is essentially 50 different 'runs' of the same model (EURO in this case) going 45 days out. Each model has a slight adjustment to take in account for missing data, which is ingested by the model. The output is 50 different scenarios that over the extended time period.

In this case, the average of these model runs show around 3" of rain by the end of the month.

The 'control' run (one run in blue) is showing something close to that, too.

Typically, we see around 2.6" for the month, so it makes sense why the CPC is leading towards equal chances for above, below and average precipitation for the month.

While I wouldn't bank on above average rainfall for the month right now, it does look promising that we will see more opportunities for rainfall in the near future — Models highlighted in the red rectangle are hinting at 1-2" by Monday. After that, models are hinting at another possible dry stretch into next week before picking back up during the latter half of the month. Again, we're looking 2+ weeks into the future, which holds a great deal of uncertainty and one big storm could easily skew rainfall totals for the month.

Right now the heat is gone and we have some beautiful fall conditions heading into this weekend. Rain will come through on Sunday and it looks like much of next week will be featuring highs in the upper 60's and 70's.

Stay tuned for more details on our current drought situation and what October has to offer for us here in central Ohio.