RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Even though it’s just now fall, we’re already talking about winter.
That is because North Carolina is under a El Niño advisory — with a strong possibility it lasts through winter.
So what does this mean for winter here at home?
First, let’s talk about El Niño.
It’s the warm phase of a global climate pattern when the easterly trade winds are weak and ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific are warmer than average.
The El Nino pattern helps modify the jet stream — which is a big driver for our weather.
During an El Nino winter the Polar Jet Stream typically stays amplified over the Pacific Northwest — keeping the northwestern US warmer than average and the South where we live wetter and cooler than average.
So when we hear wetter and cooler than average — maybe your mind thinks snow. But don’t get your hopes up just yet.
Since 1950 — the average snowfall in the Triangle is 6.4 inches — but our average snow during El Niño winters is 6.7 inches — only slightly higher than the normal average.
Our most recent El Niño winter dropped nearly nine inches of snow in December 2018 — but the El Nino winter before that dropped less than an inch and a half of snow in 2016.
In terms of temperatures — our average winter temperature since 1950 is 42.3 degrees — but during El Nino winters that average temperature drops — again only slightly — to 41.7 degrees.
All this to say — while we can’t make exact predictions on snowfall amounts or temperatures — if we go with our averages — an El Niño winter for us means we’ll likely be slightly cooler than average but it doesn’t necessarily mean we will have more or less snow.
As El Nino continues to develop and we get closer to winter — of course, the CBS 17 Weather Team will keep you updated.