RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Sleds and snow shovels didn’t get a lot of use last winter in central North Carolina and they may stay on the shelf this winter, too.
Thanks to several factors going into this winter, below-average snow amounts and warmer than average temperatures are expected in central North Carolina, according to CBS 17 Chief Meteorologist Wes Hohenstein.
Last winter, only 1.6 inches of snow fell in the Triangle even though we had more than 17 inches of rain.
Another winter of La Niña conditions setting up across the U.S. plus overall long-term warming trends likely mean below-average snow totals for the third winter in a row.
The average amount of snow we see in the Triangle over the past 30 years is about 5 inches.
However, our all-time average snowfall since 1887 is about 7 inches, and in the last 10 years is only 4 inches.
That’s an obvious downward trend of snowfall while our average winter temperatures have been going up.
2021 hasn’t brought that many temperature extremes, outside of October being the 5th warmest on record, but the long-term warming trend the past 60 years is what should be concerning for anyone wanting snow.
Our average winter temperature in the 1960s was 39.0 degrees, that jumped up to 41.0 degrees in the 1970s and continue to rise to 43.5 degrees in the 1990s.
Now in the 2010s, our average winter temperatures have gone up to 44.5 degrees.
While that rise in temperatures doesn’t seem like much, when you consider that central North Carolina always seems to be on the rain/snow line when systems come through, getting warmer temperatures each year means that rain-snow line has a better chance of bringing us rain and now snow.
Atlantic Ocean temperatures are also getting higher over the past 100 plus years.
The ocean is only about 100 miles from the Triangle and plays a big role in our weather, so if the ocean and land are both warming, we are going to see less frozen precipitation.
Like last year, we are expecting La Niña conditions to continue and maybe at a stronger pace. La Niña means the water in the Pacific Ocean near the equator is cooler and it usually means a warmer and drier winter in North Carolina.
However, since La Niña and El Niño were discovered in 1950, the amount of snow we get in central North Carolina is almost exactly the same no matter which weather pattern we are in.
There are a few other reports that have us leaning toward a drier and warmer winter, including the winter outlook from NOAA calling for warmer and drier conditions across the southeast this winter.
A recent long-term European computer model predicts warmer temperatures on the east coast in the next three months.
So, while we will get a few shots of cold air, warmer than average temperatures are coming again this winter.
Precipitation amounts will be below average and there likely won’t be enough cold air to turn that rain into snow.
So for the third winter in a row, we are expecting below-average snow amounts of less than 5 inches, but even that could be a stretch.
“Snow lovers don’t get too down. The Triangle has never had a snow-free winter. We’ve gotten as little as a trace many times, but never a goose egg,” said Hohenstein.
He went on to say, “the last two times we’ve had very busy hurricanes season, we didn’t get a lot of snow that winter.
“Last year was the busiest hurricane season on record and we only had 1.6 inches of snow. The 2nd busiest season on record in 2005 only had a trace of snow that winter and both were La Nina winters too.”