After last winter's record breaking snowfall, I know we're all anxious, and probably a bit nervous heading into the winter months. My thoughts? Don't be.
Before last year's winter fiasco even began, the National Weather Service in Sterling, VA held a Winter Weather Workshop (December 15, 2009 to be exact) about how El Nino patterns set us up for the perfect winter storm. That also happened to be my first blog - which was published between the two major snow storms. The combination of increased energy and moisture flowing off the equatorial Pacific to the southern US and cold air setting up shop in the Mid-Atlantic put us in prime position to see some major snowfall. And we did.
The key component that put us in prime snow condition last year is gone. We're now in a moderate to strong La Nina pattern, which brings cooler than average temperatures to the equatorial Pacific, less moisture through to the souther US, and storm tracks that tend to be too far west to produce snowfall in the Valley - limiting our chances of moisture laden raging winter storm. You can't count everything out, but a repeat of last winter is not in store.
NOAA placed the Shenandoah Valley & eastern Appalachians in equal chances (for both precipitation and temperature) of above or below average. Not too helpful, but that's because many of the patterns which help determine winter storm threats cannot be forecast on a seasonal basis - but rather a weekly basis.
Keep in mind that there has been no documented 25"+ snowfall season during a La Nina phase in the DC Metro Area. Average snowfall in Harrisonburg is about 25 inches. Nothing to shake a stick at, but less than half of what we piled up last year.
My gut feelings on snow have a pretty good accuracy rate (within 1-2" with last year's snow) and this winter I'm feeling about 15 inches total (less than ONE of the snowstorms last year, haha). I think we may get a cold spell here or there but remain rather dry. When we do see the winter precipitation, I think we'll have a moderate snowstorm (5-9") and a few little ones. In addition, a decent ice storm my be brewing for the winter.
Like I said, this is all coming from my gut - but I tend to agree with NOAA that this winter won't be too out of the ordinary when it comes to precipitation and temperatures. It may be just what we need after last year's record breaking snowfall. WHSV will be here to take you through Winter 2010 - 2011 - be sure to stay tuned!