ROANOKE, Va. – After weeks of research and discussion, we are happy to share with you our thoughts for the upcoming winter. Keep in mind that this is more than just, "It's going to be cold, and it will snow." This also does not take into account weather folklore or forecasts from other entities. This outlook, right or wrong, is ours.
We will start you off with the main takeaways and then dive into how we came to that conclusion. Toward the end of the article, we will give a county-by-county breakdown of expected snow this winter.
This winter, we are expecting higher than average snow totals in Southwest and Central Virginia, thanks to a more active storm track.
With more snow cover in Siberia and the lack of activity on the sun, we expect more frequent cold air outbreaks in the eastern U.S. as well.
PART 1: The El Niño strikes again
The El Niño refers to warmer than average ocean temperatures in the Pacific, closer to the equator. This coming winter, the El Niño is forecast to be more toward the central Pacific, rather than the coast of Peru.
This tends to lead to a more active storm track across the eastern U.S., which is something we're already seeing develop. Dry weather and wildfires have plagued states like California, while we deal with round after round of rain.
The more active the storm track, the better chance of precipitation you have.
Part 2: Analyzing snow cover in Siberia
This may sound odd, but the amount of snow cover in Siberia this time of year can have big implications on our weather in the eastern U.S. during the winter.
Throughout the second half of October, snow cover expanded across Siberia. Snow reflects more light, meaning that the stratosphere (layer of the atmosphere above us) warms. When that warms, the wind in the Arctic relaxes which results in more frequent cold air outbreaks here at home.
Part Three: Approaching a solar minimum
How the sun behaves can also influence our weather here at home. We've found that every 10-11 years, there's a solar minimum or low number of sunspots. We currently are approaching a solar minimum.
This promotes something known as blocking in the higher latitudes, in which colder air can stay locked in. In years when we've seen solar minimums, we (more times than not) have seen more snow in southwest and central Virginia.
It's for these three reasons that we are forecasting a colder and snowier winter than average. We've split this up into five regions in our area; the New River Valley, the Highlands, Roanoke Valley/surrounding areas, Lynchburg and Southside. Below are the snow forecasts for the entire winter in each region.
NEW RIVER VALLEY
Average Yearly Snow: Roughly two feet
Average Yearly Snow: Roughly two-to-three feet
ROANOKE VALLEY/SURROUNDING AREAS
Average Yearly Snow: Roughly a foot and a half
Average Yearly Snow: A little over a foot
Average Yearly Snow: 6-8 inches
Cold and snow are not foreign to us in the winter. We see it every year. It’s important that you stay weather aware. Know that we will be working diligently to keep you informed in a responsible manner this upcoming winter.