NOAA releases 2020-2021 winter forecast, expecting warmer temperatures in the South

The forecast calls for above average temperatures in the southern U.S.

ROANOKE, Va. – While forecasting long range has less skill than day-to-day forecasts, long range tropical and winter forecasts are highly coveted.

Your Local Weather Authority is in the process of making its forecast for the upcoming winter.

NOAA’s Forecast

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took their first stab at it Thursday, falling in line with our early thoughts for the season.

Experts at NOAA are forecasting warmer than average temperatures across the southern half of the United States.

Winter forecast from NOAA 2020-2021

We are in the middle of a more active zone for precipitation and drier weather in the Southeast, meaning an equal chance of below or above average precipitation.

NOAA winter precipitation forecast for 2020-2021

“With La Niña well established and expected to persist through the upcoming 2020 winter season, we anticipate the typical, cooler, wetter North, and warmer, drier South, as the most likely outcome of winter weather that the U.S. will experience this year,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

What the La Niña typically means

The main reason for a forecast like this has to do with the La Niña, which is described as cooler than average temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. More specifically, this pertains to a strip of ocean off the coast of Perú and close to the equator.

This typically leads to a less active storm track in the eastern U.S., which is a big part of why hurricanes have been able to thrive this season. There hasn’t been any harsh wind from neighboring storm systems to tear them up.

What a La Niña means

We reconstructed a map from the North Carolina Climate Office to show what a typical La Niña looks like across the U.S. during the winter months. The Rockies, Northern Plains and Great Lakes are typically favored for snowier winters.

What a La Niña typically means for our winter

Research done by Your Local Weather Authority indicates that 74% of La Niña winters produce below average snowfall in southwest and central Virginia. That’s not to say we’ll be snowless. In fact, one out of every four La Niña winters exceed expectations.

Winters since 1950 and their ENSO phase

Other factors such as sunspot activity, tropical activity and snow cover in Siberia will help us determine a more hyperlocal winter forecast in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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.

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