Winter outlook released: Will we see snow in central North Carolina?


It may only be October, but winter is right around the corner. And if the Christmas decor in the department stores doesn’t get you in the winter spirit, the Climate Prediction Center is here to help.

On Thursday, the Climate Prediction Center released its outlook for the 2021-2022 winter season, which is defined as December, January, and February. The outlook shows the expected overall pattern for the whole country with respect to temperature and precipitation.

Santa probably won’t need his heavy winter suit this year, and many of us can keep them packed up in the closet. The southern tier of the U.S. and the East Coast will likely experience warmer-than-average temperatures this winter. So for us here in central North Carolina, that translates to a warmer winter.

If you want to find colder temperatures, you’ll have to head out to the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Plains.

The outlook also takes a look at the chance of seeing a wetter or drier winter.

The Southeast is favored to have drier-than-average conditions this winter. Northern and western parts of North Carolina have an equal chance for below-, near- or above-average precipitation this winter. Much of the southeastern part of North Carolina is forecast to be drier-than-average.

Areas like the Great Lakes and parts of the Ohio Valley are likely to see a wetter winter.

The main culprit behind this outlook is La Niña. Remember that La Niña is the cooler phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation. La Niña is when the sea surface temperatures are cooler than average in the tropical Pacific.

Although the Pacific Ocean may seem far away, what happens there does influence our weather here at home.

La Niña usually has the greatest impact in the winter, from December to February.

Image: NOAA

Now for the big question, will we see a snowy winter here in central North Carolina?

With a seasonal forecast calling for warmer temperatures and a drier winter, the short answer is no.

For snow, you need cold air and moisture to meet up at the right time. The general ingredients don’t seem to be there to make that white winter.

We may see some snow, but overall it doesn’t look to be a big winter for snow. When we are talking about La Niña during the winter, our chances of big snow are much lower.

El Niño winters shown on the left, La Niña winters shown on the right

But for my snow lovers out there, don’t give up hope just yet.

This outlook is a long-range forecast and looks at the overall pattern of the season. Despite a warmer and drier outlook this winter, the right ingredients can still come together for cold spells and yes, even snow.

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