Triangle winter forecast looks warmer with only average snow amounts

Weather Stories

2019 has already been a wild weather year.

A dozen tornadoes hit the state on April 19, Dorian landed in North Carolina in early September and the temperature hit 100° in early October.

Winter is now nearly upon us and now everyone wants to know will it be as wild.

CBS 17 chief meteorologist Wes Hohenstein and the rest of the storm team will break down what exactly you can expect this winter for central North Carolina:

Thanks to several factors, CBS 17 chief meteorologist Wes Hohenstein and the rest of the CBS 17 Storm Team predict warmer than average temperatures this winter will likely lead to only average amounts of snow in central North Carolina. The average amount of snow we see each winter over the past 30 years is 5.1” at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

One thing we don’t expect to have this winter is El Nino or La Nina. This year the changing Pacific Ocean waters that cause El Nino & La Nina is expected to be neutral and will likely not have a big impact on our temperature or precipitation outcome.

Neutral or NO El Nino or La Nina years have actually produced less snow in central North Carolina since 1950. Temperatures or overall precipitation aren’t impacted that much in neutral years either.

While El Nino or La Nina may not have an impact on our winter, one thing that could is ice. 

Arctic sea ice and snow in Siberia, Russia have been linked to providing cold air down the east coast, including North Carolina.

This past October saw the 7th largest snowpack in Siberia in the last 52 years. This extra snow can disrupt the Polar Vortex and allow colder air to move from the north pole into the U.S. this winter.

The same Polar Vortex disruption and shot of colder air can be induced with smaller amounts of Arctic Sea ice around the North Pole.

Right now, the amount of sea ice is very low, giving us another marker that we could see cold air shots this winter. It should be noted though that both these snow and ice markers only have small impacts on our winter pattern.

One thing that had a big impact this year, record heat. May was the 3rd warmest, July was the 9th warmest, September was the 6th warmest and October was the 5th warmest in Central North Carolina.

We are also on our way to one of the warmest years on record across the globe and we have seen warming in our area each winter over the past several decades. When you factor in that warming with the fact that central NC usually finds itself on the rain/snow line, it’s going to be harder and harder to get snow to fall in our area, instead of rain.

So, even with shots of cold air coming from the poles, will it be cold enough to turn rain to snow.

Given everything above, we are likely looking at a winter with a good mix of warm and cold spells, but overall warmer than average temperatures.

Precipitation amounts will be right about average and any extra shots of cold air from the poles may not be as cold as needed thanks to long term warming and blockbuster amounts of snow look unlikely. The end result will be a winter with several cold, rainy days and overall average snowfall amounts.

One thing we know for sure, we have never had a snow-free winter in central North Carolina.

In the last ten years, Wake County Public Schools have not made it through a winter without canceling school at least one day due to winter weather.

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