The 2013-2014 Long-term Duck Migration Forecast #1

Based on published literature, we provide the first of two long-term duck migration forecasts for 2013-2014.  In November, we will follow up with our second long-term forecast which will be updated with additional information.  However, we also will produce short-term weekly migration forecasts each Monday morning.

The first long-term prediction is developed using available research and literature regarding reaction of ducks to weather severity and emerging climate science that increases predictability of winter weather in North America. However, weather severity in North American should not be considered an absolute predictor of duck migration. A multitude of other factors potentially influence migration and winter distributions of ducks, including food and habitat availability, evolutionary and ecological mechanisms, body condition, and human disturbance.

Neutral conditions are expected to persist throughout the equatorial Pacific and thus reducing our capacity to produce a reliable long-term migration forecast in eastern North America through fall-winter 2013-2014.  Notably, the skill (or probability that our predictions are correct) of our long-term forecast to predict conditions influencing duck migration October – December 2013 is greatly reduced this year.  Consultation with a variety of climatologists also indicates experts are having difficulty producing winter reliable winter forecasts. Most climate models have been relatively poor at predicting conditions in eastern North America this year and current NOAA and Environment Canada predictions are likely no better than random chance.  Further, the “Snow Advance Index” is not yet available.  We will produce another late-season forecast (i.e., December 2013 – February 2014) when the Snow Advance Index is available in November (i.e., Long-term forecast #2 of 2).

Thus, using emerging science on long-term drivers of climate and our own research on weather factors influencing migration by ducks we produce the following migration forecast for fall-winter 2013-2014.

1) Temperatures in September and early-October in the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways have been near normal to slightly above normal

2) Temperatures in the prairie region have been well-above normal (e.g., South Dakota in September was the 114 warmest of 119 years on record) and early reports suggest delayed migrations out of this important duck producing region.

3) The drought that hit much of eastern North America last summer-fall is over and normal to above normal soil and wetland conditions exist through most of the region. Improved water and wetland conditions in northern to mid-latitudes should improve food abundance from last year and this may delay duck migration to southern latitudes, at least until these food resources are under snow or ice (i.e., making them inaccessible to ducks).

4) Near-normal to slightly above normal temperatures are expected for the mid-continent (prairies and southeast through the Mississippi Flyway) through December, but we predict the Great Lakes region and Atlantic Flyway will see conditions similar to last year (at least through December) with a delay in duck migration compared to normal.

5) Weather may become more severe into January with larger movements of ducks into southern locales, but overall weather conditions will be milder than normal throughout much of eastern North America.  Overall, severe weather conditions are not expected until the January-February-March period, very similar to the pattern from last year with a mild to normal fall and early winter and a more severe than normal late-winter.

The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service indicates that the 2013 total duck breeding population was 45.6 million, and the majority of species were above their long-term average. However, availability of these birds to hunters is dependent upon many factors, particularly weather. Although current patterns generally suggest a delay in migration compared to normal this year, cold episodes caused by a strongly negative Arctic Oscillation Index will likely cause movements of ducks down the flyways at relatively random intervals throughout the 2013-2014 season.

Thus, pay close attention to weekly duck migration forecasts on this website.

Our duck migration forecast is updated each Monday morning October 2013–January 2014 and provides a 5-day forecast for duck migration for the coming week using weather data available on the internet.

AND stay tuned for the late-season forecast coming in November.

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