A colder winter, good news for snow lovers
It’s time for WRAL meteorologists to forecast snow and winter, and the news is good for snow lovers this year!
This winter, for the first time in four years, we are seeing an El Niño pattern.
How much snow will NC get this year?
We’ve been in a La Niña pattern for the past three winters, so “this is an exciting development this year,” WRAL meteorologist Kat Campbell said.
The El Niño phenomenon is characterized by warmer than average sea surface temperatures.
“During El Niño, the northern branch of the jet stream stays mostly in Canada, keeping the air north of us cool,” explained WRAL meteorologist Amy Wilmoth. “Meanwhile, we have an active subtropical jet stream over the southern United States. It’s fed by warm, moist air over the Pacific Ocean, so we expect some drought-fighting rain to fall over the southern half of the country.”
Whether El Niño is weak or strong can be determined by looking at three-month average ocean surface temperatures. An index of 1.5 to 2 degrees is considered strong, and anything above 2 degrees is considered very strong, according to WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner.
“This year will likely fall into the strong category, and a strong El Niño often brings more snow,” Gardner said. “This is good news for snow lovers.”
Since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects a strong El Niño to occur this winter, the WRAL Severe Weather Center compared previous strong El Niño years and their impact on winter weather in the Triangle.
Since 1957, the Triangle has experienced only six winters with strong El Niño:
Five of those years saw snowfall totals of seven inches or higher. The last strong El Niño year was 2010, when snow reached 7.2 inches.
Of course, temperatures also play a crucial role in when or if snow falls.
If we look at the six strong El Niño years, December temperatures were slightly above normal. Temperatures during January and February were slightly below normal.
NC snow forecast 2023
So, what can we expect for the winter months of 2023-2024? It looks so good for snow lovers! WRAL meteorologists are predicting slightly below normal temperatures this winter.
Could these cold temperatures bring some snow? The answer is yes!
The average winter snowfall at Raleigh-Durham International Airport is 5.2 inches. We expect to get more this year.
“Based on historical data, and the fact that we will likely have an active subtropical jet stream and a slightly colder than normal winter, WRAL’s forecast is for slightly higher than normal snowfall,” WRAL meteorologist Mike Mayes said. “We will see 5 to 7 inches of snow, with most of the snow likely to fall in January.”
Mike Mize takes your questions and breaks down the winter weather forecast for 2023.
Here’s a look at some of North Carolina’s biggest recent snowfalls.
Check out these helpful links to be ready when the snow arrives: