The weather across eastern North Carolina this winter has been quite different than last year. You might want to review what I said in my blog back in November when I was giving my winter forecast. It is as follows:
"The last two winters we've seen a series of cold shots head into eastern North Carolina with below normal temperatures. It appears this year will be a bit different. I'm not seeing as many factors which point to sustained cold air. Yes, we'll see a few cold periods but they should not last as long as last year. Will there be any significant snow? It is hard to make that forecast for now but I'm sure we'll see at least a couple of chances. "
It looks like I was fairly close to being correct on the forecast this year. About the only chance for snow we've seen was over the past weekend and it stayed mainly to our north and west although some snowflakes did fall in Rocky Mount, Roanoke Rapids, Ahoskie and some other communities close to the Virginia border.
I didn't go into the factors that were different going into last winter but it appears at least two items played a strong role in giving us a warmer winter. First, we didn't have high latitude blocking over the northwestern Atlantic and Greenland. This blocking occurs as a large ridge of high pressure aloft over this area send Arctic Air southward into the United States. Second, we were in the second year of La Nina, a cold current of water, in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean. La Nina usually correlates to dry and warmer winters in the Southeast. It did not let us down this year. So far we've averaged about 4 degrees above normal for the winter and rainfall has been about 3 inches below normal through February 20.
So what do I see for the future. One thing is becoming clear. La Nina is fading away and it now appears most of our long-range models are pointing to a mild El Nino next season. El Nino, a warm pool of water in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean, correlates to colder and wetter conditions in the Southeast during the winter months. We'll see if the models verify as get closer to next winter. In the meantime, enjoy the early spring conditions we'll be seeing this year.