CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Winter 2016-2017 will be driven by a few things but none bigger than the weak La Nina that has developed in the equatorial Pacific. This cooling of the waters in the central Pacific usually means a mild and dry winter for the Carolinas. You can see the primary steering currents of storms stay north along with the cold air.
Now this doesn’t mean we will not get some snow and cold. It just means the majority of this winter will be mild and dry. You can see how our snow and ice average stacks up in La Nina winters. Throw in the fact that we are already in a drought it seems hard pressed that we will end this dry pattern anytime this winter.
I certainly don’t expect this winter to be as warm as last winter, but overall, I think we will be near average to slightly-above average for temperatures this winter. If we are going to see cooler temperatures, it’s likely going to be in the mountains or further north into the Ohio Valley.
One thing that could be a huge wild card of cold is a blocking pattern that could develop. This is when a blocking high-pressure system parks over the North Atlantic ocean and forces cold air into the eastern U.S. There is an indicator that this might become more pronounced as the winter goes on. The main signal for this was the fourth-most October snowfall on record over in Russia. There is a very close correlation to snowfall early in the Autumn over there to blocking forming late in the winter for the Carolinas.
I find it hard to imagine we see a wet winter. The ongoing drought and the weak La Nina all point to below average rainfall. Even if we manage to get average rainfall, it will take a while to break this drought, and right now, that looks unlikely.
Snow and Ice
Even though it will be drier than average, it doesn’t mean we get less snow or ice. Remember in 138 years of record keeping in Charlotte, we have never gone a year without any snow or ice. This year, thanks to lots of dry cold fronts from the Ohio Valley, I expect there will be a chance of slightly above average snowfall or ice in the Mountains. This is because of Northwest Flow Snow when these fronts pass over the mountains. Also, because there will be cold air to our north and potential blocking pattern setting up late winter.
I think the potential for cold air damming events will increase and thus give the foothills and parts of the Piedmont opportunities for average to slightly above average snow and ice chances.
The bottom line
This will be a dry winter and temperatures will be near average mostly. I do think we could see a few Arctic blasts-- especially late in the winter. I see us getting slightly above average snow and ice but most of that coming from one to three bigger storms.
Copyright 2016 WCNC