• Chief Meteorologist Chris


Wondering how it looks like winter will be across the foothills of Western North Carolina? Well here is our take on how we believe the winter will turn out. This winter outlook is for meteorological winter. Meteorological winter encases the months of December, January, and February.

Lets start out by looking at temperatures. We forecast the overall temperatures this Winter to average out to near normal in our area. There are going to be some big pattern swings this Winter it looks like and that will spell times of warmer weather and times of cooler weather. There is the potential for one or two arctic outbreaks too. There will likely be some times of warmer temps too. It is certainly not out of the realm of possibilities that we would go from the highs in the 60's one week to highs in the 30's the next. The first portion of meteorological winter looks to be warm even though we may get an early taste of winter in November with below normal temps. The first two weeks of December could be really nice and warm as long as we don't end up with a cold air damming event. Of course the fine details week to week will be ironed out a couple of days in advance and we are just talking about the 15,000 ft view in this outlook. We look at the Pacific North American Oscillation (PNA), the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), and of course the El Nino Southern Oscillation Index to develop a good portion of our winter outlook. There are other things that come into play such as early season snow cover across Siberia. Normally the better the snow cover is over Siberia in the months of September and October, the better chances we have at getting arctic outbreaks that spread deep into the South. This season's snow cover is looking very good in Eastern Siberia but is running below average Western Siberia.

So that is the temperatures. What about the precipitation? This winter we believe the precipitation will be above average. There are a couple of reasons for this. ENSO neutral years our area usually picks up on precipitation that averages out just above the normal mark. In meteorological winter our average precipitation is usually around the 12 inch mark. We think we will likely end up with a larger total than that because of the potential for big east coast nor'easter s. The sea surface temperatures also play a big role into this part of our forecast. Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic are running anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 degrees warmer than average. The same is said for the Gulf of Mexico. If we see a strong push of arctic air then we are talking about the potential for a couple of significant gulf storms. We left points from Atlanta Southwest near normal though because their average winter precipitation runs a little higher than ours, but we honestly may have underplayed it a little. We will see.

Ok so we have talked about precipitation and temperatures. Lets get into what most of you are here for, ice and snow outlooks. Below are the average icing events seen each winter. Icing events include freezing rain and sleet. On average our area gets 4 - 6 icing events each winter. Too high you may say, but it doesn't have to be a major ice storm or sleet storm. Any weather event that produces sleet or freezing rain that measures up to .01 of an inch is taken into consideration.

Compared to average here is our thinking below. We believe there is a higher chance to see icing events this year because we expect cold air damming to occur multiple times. As high pressure systems track to the north they funnel that low level sub freezing air down the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge.

So that is the ice outlook and now we will move to most peoples favorite, snow. Below is the average snowfall for a winter season in inches. Lenoir, Taylorsville, Morganton, Marion, and Hickory are all in the 6 - 8 inch range on average. Rutherfordton, Forest City, Shelby, Caser, Maiden, and the Town of Catawba average seeing 4 - 6 inches per winter. Our areas up along the Blue Ridge though normally see 8 - 12 inches of snow per winter. Did you know that there has never been one winter without measurable snowfall across any of our cities? That is right, year since weather records have been kept our area always picks up on atleast .01 inch of snow.

We are forecasting higher than normal snowfall across our area this winter. Below is our graphic. For Jonas Ridge, Little Switzerland, and Blowing Rock we expect a lot of Northwest flow snowfall this year as fronts swing through. We have outlooked that area for the well above average snowfall. Down the slope into the areas along and North of I-40 and West of Hwy 64 we have outlooked in the above average snowfall. Then finally for the rest of our areas down to Charlotte we are thinking slightly above average snowfall. Now living in the South for anytime you know that we can quickly outrun our winter's average snowfall in one event. That certainly is possible and I wouldn't rule that out. Just remember though, anything we get in November or March is icing on the cake. We are simply looking at the three month span that is meteorological winter.

So there it is! Your 2019 -2020 Foothills Action Network Winter Outlook. Please feel free to drop any questions you may have and we will get around to answering them.

-Chief Meteorologist Chris White


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