CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte has a weird relationship with winter weather.

It’s a city that only averages about 4 inches of snow per year, but for some reason, people freak out at the sight of it. It might be the weird fact that even though we average such a small amount, we have never gone a whole year without seeing at least a trace of snow.

Charlotte's snowfall has trended down over the last 30 years, but has remained steady between three and four inches since the 1970s.

That’s 139 years and counting with at least some snow no matter how little it was.

La Niña

This year we'll begin another winter season with a weak La Niña very similar to last year. The La Niña pattern typically means a mild and dry winter around here. Even though in the weaker version there can be more wild swings. Remember La Liña is cooler than average water in the equatorial Pacific.

The La Niña pattern typically means a mild and dry winter around here. Even though in the weaker version there can be more wild swings. 

The phase of El Niño versus La Niña is a pretty big deal when you look at our snowfall in the winter.

I looked back at the past four weak La Niña’s for analog years for this upcoming winter. Using those years you can see we most likely are in store for a mild winter. They only reveal a pretty dry winter as well. This all lines up perfectly with what you would expect in a La Niña winter.

The typical La Niña pattern for a winter for the U.S. looks like this with dry and mild in the south. Then cool and wet in the northern Plains to the Pacific Northwest. One thing to keep an eye on is the “battle zone” of the two jet streams over the Ohio Valley. That can be an area that can bring bigger storms and swings in the pattern especially late winter.

Fall snow in Siberia

Snowfall in Siberia is running slightly below average this year.

One thing I have been looking at the past couple of years is the October snowfall in Siberia. Studies over the past 10 years or so have shown a correlation with above average snowfall over Siberia in October to colder than average winters in the Eastern U.S. This year the snow is running slightly below average.

Temperature Forecast Winter 2017-2018

Temperatures across the Carolinas are expected to be slightly above average this winter, continuing the trend of mild and dry winter patterns.

With the weak La Niña, the lack of snow in Siberia and with recent trends I can’t find any reason to think the mild and dry winter pattern will break this winter. I expect most of the Carolinas to be slightly above average. I don’t see it as warm as last year, but the overall winter will be above average. The one area I could see near average temperatures would be the mountains. Only because the storm battle zone in the Ohio Valley could bring more clouds and maybe more chances of cooler temperatures.

Brad Panovich expects the Carolinas to be below average for snow and ice outside of the mountains this winter, but the mountains could be in for snow. 

Snow and Ice Forecast 2017-2018

Just because it’s going to be mild doesn’t always mean we won’t see snow or ice. I still expect us to be below average for snow and ice outside of the mountains. The mountains though because of the wild swings and potential for storms in the Ohio Valley working their way a little further south could mean a better chance for some snow there. I don’t expect a blockbuster season, but the ski resorts should do better than they have the past two seasons.

Bottom Line

The trend in snowfall in the area has been down for the past 30 years. I don’t see anything that will change that this season, but the one thing about a weak pattern like this is you can get wild swings. Those wild swings typically mean you still get the cold air and moisture to sync up a few times, even between warm spells. So with the wild swings, especially late in the season, I still see us getting three or four winter events.

Which will bring us some snow or ice. The ice is always something to watch for in this mild pattern. The nature of a mild pattern means when we do get cold it is usually shallow in nature and with warm air to the south that can mean ice. So be watchful for that. Also of note, La Niña winters are also known for their severe weather outbreaks. So be on guard for a winter severe weather outbreak.