The National Weather Service’s parent organization…NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)…issued their winter outlook Thursday.
For our area, it indicates a wetter than normal winter. We’re in the “near-normal” temperature bracket…but don’t be surprised if cooler than normal temperatures overspread the Southeast.
Weather-wise, an El Niño is underway…that’s an unusual warming of ocean water in the equatorial Pacific, especially the eastern Pacific. This throws off weather patterns, and in a typical El Niño year we would expect cooler and wetter than average conditions across the South. This includes the Carolinas and northeast Georgia.
Will this mean more snow here? It could.
GSP averages about 4.7″ of snow per year. In El Niño winters, the average is 6.2″. In strong El Niño years (we’ve got one now) the average is 9″!
Keep in mind, “strong years” is a rather small sample size (only six recorded winters), with a spread between 3″ and 17″. This makes it tough to draw a conclusion as to if the strong El Niños make that much more of a difference in snow potential. It could still be all or nothing as far as more snow.
The potential is there for a more active weather pattern, with a greater than average number of storm systems crossing the South. This increases the precipitation….clouds and rain alone would act to decrease our average temperature.
If we see enough pushes of Arctic air to meet up with the moisture, we get higher snow chances. On face value, that might be seen as tough to do when the northern states are painted in “above-average” temperatures for winter. But that’s just an average…it’s the extremes that we need to watch for…and all it takes is a couple cold shots to get snow or ice.
There are other weather features, one is the Arctic Oscillation, that will play a larger role then El Niño in terms of whether we see regular episodes of very cold air moving in. And we just can’t make that determination this far out.
That still does not indicate a White Christmas. Odds of that are pretty low in ANY year.