Welcome back to the Mid-Atlantic Daily Snow! We are a couple of weeks away from the season beginning so let’s go over a season outlook. This year we have a La Niña, which has some influence on our region and brings the possibility of snowier conditions in the northern and western Mid-Atlantic. Read on to see what this winter might bring to your area…
What is in store for this winter? The big question on everyone's mind and the conversation you hear at the grocery store. Everyone has their own opinion on a winter outlook that can be based on science or personal opinion from that ‘feeling’ they have. I for one am a skeptic of having an accurate winter snowfall forecast, but rather consider the possibilities of above and below normal conditions.
Long-term weather predictions are inherently difficult to make and inaccurate. It is possible to predict weather patterns a couple of months in advance, but for myself to predict the weather in February - April is difficult, to say the least. Despite that, large-scale oscillations around the Earth, such as El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) can have effects on our region. This allows forecasters to use past weather conditions to predict the future. If it happened in the past, there are good odds that it will happen again in the future!
This year we have a La Niña, which has statistically meant a wetter winter around the Great Lakes and warmer/dryer along the coast. The storm track is more likely to stay over the region, which means snow to the north (northern Mid-Atlantic) and mix/rain to the south (southern/eastern Mid-Atlantic). A big emphasis here is ‘more likely’. That does not mean this is 100% going to happen but rather needs to be considered from a statistical mindset.
What is unique about this La Niña is that it is the third in a row making it a triple-dip La Nina, three-peat, or my favorite the three-bean salad. Whatever name you chose to call this year's La Niña, it has only happened 3 times in observed weather history. This means we can glean into some more statistics to see what the winter might be like for the Mid-Atlantic.
- A triple-dip La Niña has been shown to be cooler and wetter than average for the northern half of the Mid-Atlantic with nearly average precipitation and slightly warmer conditions for the southern half
- These odds are from a pretty small sample size, but the statistics point toward above-average snowfall around the Great Lakes and below-average snowfall for the southern half of the region
Let’s look at the season snow averages from all of the La Niña's we have had in the past.
The lower the number, the stronger the La Niña. The blue dots are above-average, the white dots are average, and the orange dots are below-average snowfall.
These snow conditions included all La Niña's in observed history and what snow fell that winter compared to average. This does not include the last two winters, which have been around average for the region.
At the end of the day, this winter looks to be average snowfall-wise. This will depend on the sub-region you are in. For example, the northern and western Mid-Atlantic has better odds to see above-average snow, while the southern and eastern Mid-Atlantic have better odds to see below-average snow. Here are some key points for this winter:
- Storms will likely be warm this year with a lot of mixed precipitation events
- Lake effect snow will likely fall throughout the season because the Great Lakes will not freeze over
- Coastal storms are always a possibility and have a neutral favorability this year
- Temperatures will likely stay warmer than average but there will still be cold air outbreaks
All in all the winter forecast is pretty good for resorts, especially north and west. Another reality that needs to be considered is that winters are more likely to be warmer as the climate continues to warm. We have seen this over the last decade with above-average temperatures during the winter and less snow overall.
Extremes can and will happen, which are nearly impossible to predict. One of my favorite terms for these differences in extremes is the ‘whiplash’ effect. This is when we see extreme weather (warm vs cold, wet vs dry) events that follow each other, which are more likely as the climate changes. There will be extreme events this season that might be big snows, big rains, warm temperatures, and or cold temperatures.
The best way to stay updated on the winter outlook will be to keep checking the Mid-Atlantic Daily Snow and the extended forecast. Planning your ski trip is all about timing. I will be using the most up to data and forecast out 10 days and sometimes more in advance. The season is right around the corner and the next daily snow will be Monday with snow in the forecast.
Follow the East Coast OpenSnow Twitter account, which covers all things ski and ride from Virginia to Maine @FindEastSnow. We will keep you updated this season on when and where the best conditions are!
We also have the new Forecast Anywhere tool.
You can now get a forecast for any location (on land) across the globe, and you can save any of these "Custom Locations" as a favorite. Any "Custom Location" also comes with estimated 24-hour snowfall. This means that you can set a "Custom Location" for your favorite backcountry spot and get estimated snowfall and estimated snowfall history.
To set your first "Custom Location", make sure that you are using the latest version of our iOS or Android apps (this works on our website, too!), then go to the Map tab, tap any spot on the map, and you're on the way to creating your first "Custom Location". You can learn more about Forecast Anywhere in this short how-to article.
This means that you can view our weather forecast data for your favorite backcountry ski location, camping destination, your backyard, grandma's house, or anywhere in the world! The last note is that "Custom Locations" are private and no other OpenSnow users will be able to see the "Custom Locations" that you create.
Please check out this new feature and let us know what you think!