November 25th, 2010
11:48 AM ET

This year's winter outlook: Extreme, again?

Last year's winter season dumped massive snowfalls and left people across the country trying to shovel their cars out.

Meteorological winter technically doesn’t start until December 1, but that didn’t stop two storms from spreading some snow across the Rockies and Upper Midwest this week. The second storm, which is making its way toward the Northeast on Thanksgiving Day, is ushering in an arctic blast of cold air behind the precipitation.

Cities in Montana hit record lows around 20 degrees below zero, and high temperatures on Thursday will be 10 to 20 degrees below average from California to the Great Lakes.

With this early start to winter, one can’t help but wonder what’s in store this year. Last year was record-breaking, with “Snowmaggedon” and “Snowpocalypse” making their way into our vocabulary. Although it’s always hard to say with certainty what an entire season will bring and whether we’ll see a repeat of last winter, some climate indicators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration make it easy to forecast what regions will see precipitation and temperatures that are out of the ordinary.

La Nina set in this year and is expected to strengthen over the next few months. If we look at what other La Nina events have bestowed on North America, we can say with some confidence:

The Northwest will be colder and wetter than average.

This includes rain and snow, but if the past week is any indication, the Northwest should be prepared for above-average snowfall. Seattle, Washington, has already set snowfall records this year and will probably continue to do so through February.

The Ohio Valley is looking at above-average precipitation and slightly above-average temperatures.

As a first estimate, this could mean less snow and more rain than usual. But if we look at similar events from the past, we see that the region stretching from the Great Lakes south to Arkansas could be looking at record snowfall events. After the snow, it’s likely that temperatures will rebound quickly, so flooding is also a concern. It’s hard to say exactly who will get the snow and when it will occur, but this outlook might warrant the purchase of a new snow shovel, and soon.

The Northeast will probably see near-average conditions this winter.

Although this outlook sounds promising, there have been plenty of “average” years that have walloped the Northeast with a couple big winter storms. Also, some climate models suggest that the Northeast will actually see below-average temperatures through December. In short, don’t let your guard down.

The South can expect below-average precipitation and above-average temperatures.

This forecast is actually terrible for drought conditions in the region. Although  the South was extremely lucky this year and withstood no hurricane landfalls, that also takes a toll on drought conditions. Without those tropical storms moving through the region, many of the reservoirs and lakes don’t get the replenishing that they need. It won’t come as a surprise if we see the Southern drought in the news again in 2011, much like we did in 2007.

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Filed under: U.S. • Weather
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. ken

    Global warming.....bah humbug

    November 26, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
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    February 8, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Thanawat

    Thanks Dani once again, God used you to knock it out of the Park. My Husband and I are very grateful for you. The Power of Focus, the steps you gave made it splime to achieve what God has call us to and to live our life by Design. I will see you at 1st Steps in St. Louis next week.

    April 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
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