Matt's World Of Weather: Snow & Cold This Winter? Seasonal Forecast

Winter In Eastern North Carolina
A detailed explanation of the forecast can be found below, otherwise, I’ll post what you probably came here for, the winter outlook :)

December
:
Temps- Above Average
Precipitation (3.40") - Slightly Below Average

January:
Temps- At or Below Average
Precipitation (4.02") - About Average

February:
Temps- At or Below Average
Precipitation (3.66") -Slightly Above Average

*Check the Graphic for Winter Averages*

Winter Consensus:
Colder than last year, but not as cold as two years ago.  If the cold air shows up, like it should, we will have a couple days with snow as well.

Forecast Details:
Toughest part of being a meteorologist, besides calling for rain on a bride’s wedding day, is trying to put together a seasonal forecast.  The atmosphere holds so many variables that are in a constant state of flux, or change that attempting to predict one, two or three months ahead is a tremendous undertaking. 

This season’s winter forecast comes with its own difficulties and uncertainties.  The trickiest element for our outlook is the absence of a strong El Nino or La Nina.  In the past, a “strong” Nino or Nina helped our confidence and allowed us to match current conditions with historical ones and forecast by using what’s called analog years.  This year sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific are neutral and there is neither an El Nino or La Nina.  I went back through the years when sea surface temperature anomalies have been less than 1 degree (warm/cold) to try and find a trend. 

For eastern Carolina, of the 7 years analyzed, 50% of them had a below average monthly temperature for January and 50% had above average monthly precipitation totals for January…so basically, it was a coin flip when trying to find a couple of analog years. Not a lot of help from that bit of data.

Another aspect to the winter forecast I used was a breakdown of the Canadian snow pack.  A cold winter needs a snow pack like you need water on a Slip’N Slide.  Air masses tend to modify as they cross over land and therefore, a cold air mass will retain its wintery characteristics more if it travels across cold, snowy land.  Currently the snow pack in southern Canada is looking much better than it did this time last year.  Come January, our winter will be defined by how often that Canadian air goes in motion and survives the trip to eastern Carolina…

Keep in mind there were a number of factors that went into the outlook, but for the sake of keeping things simple, I’ll avoid going into the details here.  Feel free to ask though, I’d be happy to share them with you.

I do expect a cold snap in early January. The first half of the month has been extremely warm (+7°) and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we will end the month above average.  That being said, I’m still confident temperatures this winter season will begin to come down through January and February. Enjoy!

Coming Up Next Week: What are the chances we will have a white Christmas?


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