Winter Weather Outlook 2016-17 for Carolinas: Warmer, drier and less snow


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What will the winter weather be this year? This becomes the big question on everyone’s mind as we slide into the winter months. Here’s what you can expect for the 2016-2017 winter season:

1. Less Snow than a typical year

2. Temps will be slightly warmer than usual

3. Overall, just a drier than average winter

The best way to start a winter weather forecasts for our area is too look at an average year. Typically we see very little in the way of snow and ice across the Piedmont, but totals can go up significantly as you head northwest to the Mountains. Average yearly snowfall totals range from around 5-10 inches in the Piedmont to upwards of 24+ inches in the Mountains. 

Moon and Mars

The other part of a winter forecast is our temperatures from December to February. With the extreme elevation change across the area, our temperatures will also be quite different from east to west.  For the winter months, we usually have average high temperatures in the 50s for most places. However, depending on the location our average high temperatures could range from the 60s over the Sandhills to the 30s and 40s across the Mountains. 


So how is our winter looking in comparison to a typical year?

Currently we are in a weak La Nina year. La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific off the South American coast.  


During these cold episodes of a La Niña year, you expect the usual patterns we see over the Pacific Ocean to become disrupted. These changes in the atmospheric circulation and tropical precipitation can have a big impact on the upcoming weather events. In regions with abnormally cold water we tend to see suppressed cloudiness and rainfall, especially during the winter and spring month in the Northern Hemisphere. However, rainfall is typically enhanced over the warmer waters near Indonesia, Malaysia and northern Australia.


How does this impact us?

With this type of pattern, the southern United States often sees drier conditions and warmer temperatures through the winter months. The northwest usually ends up with a much colder and wetter winter, which could ultimately lead to more snowfall for the upper northwest.


For the upcoming winter, less than normal precipitation is expected for most of the southern half of the US. The upper northwest and parts of the Great Lakes could see slightly above average precipitation this winter. All other locations are projected to have a normal winter season. Since we are looking at a drier winter in the Carolinas, you can also expect to have below normal snow and ice totals.


Temperatures this winter are expected to be right at or above average for the entire US.  Most of the unusually warm weather will be across the southwest, but the above normal temperatures could extend all the way up to Washington. All of the southeast and much of the eastern seaboard will also be slightly above normal for the upcoming winter.


One variable that has to be taken in to account is a random or unexpected storm that could come through at any time over the winter months. Why could this be an issue, you ask? It could bring heavy rain, dump a significant amount of snow, allow a much colder air mass to settle into the region, or just change the pattern all together. Any of these situations could easily bust the winter weather forecast.

Stay tuned for what’s to come!!

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