Winter is coming... no really, the new season starts Tuesday

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Happy Monday and welcome to another edition of Beyond the Forecast!

Meteorologists like myself and the rest of Your Local Weather Authority consider December 1 the start of winter. However, the traditional or astronomical first day of winter comes later in the month: on December 21. That day is also known as the winter solstice!

This year, winter will officially begin at 10:58 a.m. Tuesday. The sun’s rays will be pointed directly at the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere.

We’re ringing in the new season with relatively “normal” winter temperatures. Look for morning lows in the 20s and afternoon highs in the 40s and 50s. A storm system that will soak the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida will send us extra cloud cover, but I doubt we get much in the way of rain.

(Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

The winter solstice is also known as the shortest day of the year! We’ll only have a little more than nine and a half hours of total daylight Tuesday.

(Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

Our sunsets have already started getting later, that trend began earlier this month. Sunrises will continue to get later until early January.

We’ll be gaining daylight over the next few months, but the trend will be slow to start. We only gain about twenty minutes of daylight by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but the rate at which we gain daylight will increase by Valentine’s Day and the first day of spring.

(Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

We have a list of guidelines for you to reference as we deal with the cold, snow and ice of winter in Southwest and Central Virginia.

I think the most important takeaway here is that forecasting for this area during the wintertime is VERY difficult. A temperature inversion or elevated warm layer in the atmosphere is all that it takes for snow to turn into sleet and/or freezing rain. We’ll do the best we can, but just remember that meteorology is an imperfect science.

(Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

You still have the chance to sign up to win a Yukon fire pit that would certainly come in handy during the cold winter months! All you have to do is be a WSLS Insider and guess when the first significant (1″ or more) snowfall will happen in Roanoke.

Here are the weather team’s guesses to get you started!

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Unfortunately for snow lovers, this week is not looking favorable for wintry precipitation. In fact, we’ll be warming up by Christmas Day! I’m tracking how close we’ll be to record highs in today’s forecast article.

You can always get specific forecast details for your zone, whether it’s the Roanoke Valley, Southside, the Highlands or elsewhere around Southwest and Central Virginia, anytime at Know your zone!

In case you missed it, we’re posting great weather and science content on Here are a few links from the past week to check out:

If you prefer your weather information delivered by social media, you can follow Your Local Weather Authority on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also keep up with me on social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, follow along!

-- Justin McKee

About the Author:

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.