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Snow-lovers begging for a sign; any chance of hope on the horizon?

In a winter that’s provided little to no snow, snow-lovers are hoping for change in the next month and a half.

Photo: Shirley Gill - Fairlawn
Photo: Shirley Gill - Fairlawn (Shirley Gill)

ROANOKE, Va. – We’re about halfway through winter, and there’s hardly been anything to celebrate for snow-lovers. Blacksburg has seen 3″ of snow, Roanoke has seen 1.6″, and Lynchburg and Southside have pretty much gone without anything.

Is it time to lose hope, snow-lovers?

No. As we mentioned in the first line of article, we’re only about halfway through winter.

HISTORY

Historically speaking, a good chunk of our snow comes in February and even in March. On average, 43% of our annual snow comes in those two months.

Snow seen by month
Snow seen by month

What about in years similar to the one we’re having now, when we can hardly buy a snowflake in the first half of winter? I went through those years and found some winters that continued the disappointment and other winters that more than compensated.

When you average it all out, we see 8-12″ of snow in the February and March that follow a snow drought like we’re seeing now.

Average snow seen after winters similar to current
Average snow seen after winters similar to current

THE CURRENT PATTERN

So, is there any sign of hope on the horizon for our winter weather fanatics? There’s no obvious sign at the moment, but the pattern around January 30-February 2 should be watched.

Forecast data shows a trough (dip) in the upper-level air pattern, which is indicative of a wet and stormy pattern. Any time you see that this time of year, you at least have to entertain the possibility of winter weather.

Upper Air Pattern - late January and early February
Upper Air Pattern - late January and early February

So, we have the active storm track. Do we have cold air to mesh with that? For that, we look toward something called the North Atlantic Oscillation. When the NAO is negative, it tends to favor colder/Arctic air in the eastern U.S. When the NAO is positive, it means that very cold air is bottled up north of here.

By looking at forecast data for the NAO, it does begin to dip. However, it doesn’t go into the negative phase.

Graphic produced by WeatherBell
Graphic produced by WeatherBell (WeatherBell)

Now, you don’t necessarily need Arctic air for snow to happen. For instance, the storm giving us rain Friday is dumping snow on parts of the upper Midwest that are only at 31-34°.

CONCLUSION

It ain’t over until it’s over. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but the snowiest month in six of the last ten years has been February. More immediately, we’ll watch the pattern closely for the end of the month and beginning of February and see if that reveals anything more promising.

Our winter forecast for 2019-2020 can be found here.


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