ROANOKE, Va. – The brutal cold spell we had around Christmas was a wasted opportunity for most snow lovers. In fact, most of the winter has been so far.
Our current snow drought is something we haven’t seen lasting through mid-January since 2016.
During that winter, however, we picked up one-to-two feet of snow after mid-January. That’s not too out of the ordinary: on average, 62% of our winter snowfall comes after mid-January.
The difference between the winter of 2016 and the current winter is the phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation. We’re still in a La Niña, which is when the waters off the coast of Peru are colder than normal.
These ocean patterns alter the storm track across the Continental U.S., favoring the northern and western U.S. for more storminess while often leaving the Eastern U.S. warmer than average.
Locally, 74% of La Niña winters feature below-average snowfall.
Meanwhile on the West Coast, the central Sierra Nevada is far exceeding its normal amount of snow. Relentless storminess on the West Coast has dumped more than 22 feet of snow on UC-Berkeley’s station in the mountains. That’s as much snow as Roanoke has seen in the last 18 years.
We still have plenty of winter to go, so it’s not time to throw in the snow-less white towel just yet.
Any snow we see Friday will mostly be geared toward the west-facing slopes, which will be good for local ski resorts.