How Bad Will This Winter Be?
Well you may think the early snow could be an indication but it actually has nothing to do with how severe or mild the winter will be.
Forecasting is a daily challenege so how can we forecast months in advance?
Well for those situations we look at the large scale weather patterns, like El Nino and La Nina. La Nina is in place for the second year in a row this year, and it could be even stronger than last year.
La Nina is the opposite of El Nino meaning there is cooler than average Pacific Ocean temps off the west coast of South America, and that alters the ocean currents. Looking at the graphic below this is what La Nina could do to parts of the US this year.
Well you can tell that we don't exactly fall into one of the shaded areas.
What would affect the Valley more than anything this year would actually be a lesser known pattern called the Arctic Oscillation.
So what is the Arctic Oscillation? Well it's another weather pattern but what makes it different from El Nino and La Nina is that it can pretty much change on a week to week basis, making the weather much more volitle and harder to predict. So one phase is the negative phase which is below:
This is where the Arctic high is stronger than normal and the COLD air moves down into the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
If that meets with any moisture, well then we'll have winter weather.
The opposite, positive phase has a weaker arctic high, and the cold air streams more to the upper notheast.
Storms tend to take a much more northern track. That also allows more mild conditions from the south to take over the Mid-Atlantic.
So with that in mind, the weather team feels we will see about an average winter. Meaning temperatures in Dec, Jan, and Feb are typically in the 30s. November highs average in the 40s.
However, February tends to be the coldest and snowiest month on average.
Average snow can vary from 14" to 18" for a season. That could mean we could see ten or so snow storms with low snow totals, OR one to two big storms with snowfall ranging over 6"-7".
For the 2010-2011 season snowfall at our station was 11".
I think we'll see an average winter but I would expect some colder days than last year, and I don't think we'll get away with the little snow we saw last year. I would expect snow totals to be higher.
So we'll check back in when spring comes around and see how we do!