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Baghdad sees rare snow; our winter remains wimpy

Places like El Paso, Albuquerque and even Baghdad have seen snow, while our winter remains dormant.

Iraqi children play in the snow in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan) (Ali Abdul Hassan, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ROANOKE, Va. – For about the second time in a century, Baghdad has seen snow. The northern mountains of the country tend to see snow more frequently, though. There have been unofficial reports floating around that Iraq’s capital received 1-2″ this past week.

Comparing snow from here to Baghdad, Iraq

If true, that would come out to be about as much (if not more) snow than we’ve seen in Roanoke, Lynchburg and Southside this winter.

I reached out to Ammar Karim, a journalist with AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE. According to his Twitter account, he’s been covering Iraq for nearly 20 years. He’s allowed 10 News to share the video he took of what some Iraqi children have never witnessed before.

For Karim, he expressed his child-like enjoyment by sending me a selfie while holding a snowball.

Closer to home, a large portion of the Lower 48 has seen more snow than we have this winter (shaded in blue below).

Areas with more snow than us in the U.S.

Some other interesting places that are outdoing us in the snow department include Albuquerque, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.

Comparing snowfall in the U.S.

Surprisingly, we’ve seen more snow than Philadelphia which has only picked up 0.3″ so far this winter.

So why is it that we seem to be in a snow hole?

Part of it has to do with something called the North Atlantic Oscillation. This combines the effect of two features in the atmosphere; the Icelandic Low and the Azores High.

• The stronger the wind is between these systems, the more the cold air gets bottled up north. This is called the positive phase of the NAO.

• The weaker the wind is between the two, the more the cold air can leak down into the Southeastern U.S. This is called the negative phase of the NAO.

The chart below shows how often we’ve been in the positive phase of the NAO. This is a big part of why this winter has been one of the warmest on record in our area so far.

North Atlantic Oscillation since mid October

At the moment, there are no signs of a significant drop in NAO phase. It’s unlikely that we see measurable snow within the next 7-10 days, outside of the west-facing slopes in West Virginia Friday morning.

About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.