NOAA Updates Winter 2021-22 Forecast

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(WVNS) — On October 21, NOAA updated their winter forecasts for the country, showing warmer than average conditions expected for many. For West Virginia, similar to last year’s forecast, slightly warmer and slightly wetter conditions are expected through the months of December, January and February. This comes as La Niña conditions are expected to be present again across the Pacific Ocean.

La Niña

La Niña is the counterpart to El Niño. During this phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a notable cooling of the Pacific Ocean along the equator is observed. Due to the large area this cooling covers, global weather patterns can be influenced, especially across the United States, leading to predictable patterns depending on the season.

This is what a La Nina looks like: Cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures along the equator are indicative of La Nina in the tropical Pacific Ocean in September 2021. (NOAA Climate.gov)

Across the United States, La Niña generally results in warmer than average conditions along the Southeast and Gulf coasts, with cooler than average conditions across much of the Pacific Northwest. When compared to the NOAA’s winter forecast, you can see the resemblance between the expected conditions.

The same goes for the precipitation forecast, NOAA’s winter forecast and normal La Niña conditions line up for the most part. Wetter than normal conditions appear along the Pacific Northwest and into the Midwest, while drier than normal conditions show up across the desert Southwest and parts of the Gulf coast.

A La Niña phase of ENSO isn’t the only consideration taken into the forecast, though it does play a large role. Other things forecasters will look at are Arctic sea ice coverage, both current and projected, autumnal snows in Siberia, and seasonal and sub-seasonal climate models that predict medium to long-range trends. If you want to know more about these other influences on the forecast, reach out to StormTracker 59 Meteorologist Liam Healy at lhealy@wvnstv.com.

What does it mean for West Virginia?

The burning questions every year are: What is the winter going to be like? Is it going to be a cold one? How much snow should we expect? The list goes on and on, so to make a note before going any further, we’re only looking at trends and have broad answers. Specifics will get handled day-by-day in our 10 Day forecast once winter actually gets here!

Starting off, let’s look at temperatures. It won’t rain, snow, or something in between every day but temperatures will be a constant force throughout the winter months. Overall trends are leaning towards us being slightly above average. Be careful not to read that as it will be a mild winter, cold shots will still come and go through the winter months. Those are inescapable, unless you’re planning to move to Miami. A great example is last year’s winter, during which both December and February had highs in the 60s and lows in the single digits, in the same month!

For precipitation, we’re right on the border of equal chances for above or below-average precipitation and slightly above average. For now, we’ll lean towards a slightly wetter winter, since we had a pretty similar set-up last year when Raleigh county recorded its eleventh wettest winter. With chances for a warmer than normal winter showing up, generally, that means precipitation will trend towards more rain versus snow during the winter months. Again, don’t read that as it will rain all winter. Snow will still fall when our cold shots line up with incoming storms. It just might not stick around long.

Remember, Winter is still a few months off, and we still have to make it through Fall before we get too far ahead of ourselves. The StormTracker 59 team will continue to monitor trends and signals as we get closer to the start of the season. For now, prepare ahead of time, as you would any other year, as you don’t want to get caught off guard when the first flakes enter our forecast soon enough.

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