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NOAA releases less-than-ideal outlook for snow-lovers this winter

La Niña most often leads to less snow in this part of the U.S.

NOAA's Winter Outlook - 2021 to 2022

ROANOKE, Va. – We are now two months away from the official start of winter.

While long-range forecasting lacks the skill of day-to-day forecasting, experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have begun forecasting trends for the upcoming cold season.

Your Local Weather Authority will issue its more hyperlocal winter forecast on Tuesday, November 16 at 6 p.m.


NOAA’S Winter Forecast 2021-2022

For the eastern portion United States, snow-lovers may be disappointed. NOAA’s forecast resembles drier weather in the Southeast with the most wet weather favoring areas that typically see snow feed off the Great Lakes.

NOAA's precipitation outlook for the Winter of 2021-2022

That’s not to say we won’t see any snow, but the trend - according to NOAA - is for a warmer winter across much of the U.S. That’s especially the case across the Southeast. NOAA even noted that this is similar to what they forecasted last winter.

NOAA's temperature outlook for the winter of 2021-2022

Forecast Ingredients

One of the key components to any seasonal forecast in this part of the world is the El Niño Southern Oscillation (a.k.a. ENSO). This refers to ocean waters off the coast of Perú, which oftentimes influence the storm track across the continental U.S.

There are three phases to ENSO - i) El Niño, ii) La Niña and iii) Neutral.

This winter, the ENSO is forecast to be in its La Niña phase. This is when the ocean waters in the equatorial Pacific are cooler than average. This most often leads to a less active jet stream in the Eastern U.S.

La Niña impacts on the eastern U.S. and Atlantic basin

You typically see this lead to a more active Atlantic tropical season and a less active winter in the Eastern U.S.


Possible Local Tie

Your Local Weather Authority keeps tabs on these trends as well, more specifically for our area. Through our own research, we’ve found that 74% of La Niña winters yield below-average snowfall.

Snow trends for each phase of ENSO in southwest and central Virginia

That’s not the only component to a winter forecast, however. There are other ingredients that range from climatological data to energy used in the tropics to snow cover up north.

We will continue to sift through all this data, and we will have our winter forecast out very soon!


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.