Chief Meteorologist Mark Reynolds’ Winter 2020/2021 Winter Weather Outlook

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We certainly have seen our share of weather during 2020, but now forecasters are turning their attention to what the winter of 2020/2021 will bring.

We have experienced some mild weather during late November, but conditions have turned cold again this month. Many of you are now asking whether or not we stay cold, turn mild and if we will see a lot of snow for the upcoming winter season.

To answer that question, we need to look at several weather variables again this year that could impact weather across the Tri-Cities and surrounding areas.

We continue to be in a La Niña pattern which began in late spring. La Niña is a cooler of the Equatorial east Pacific Ocean waters which results in a shift in the jet stream to the north. That shift in the upper level wind flow transports moisture into the Pacific Northwest where above normal precipitation is expected. As the jet stream lifts north into Canada it can at times team up with very cold air from the Arctic. That cold, moist flow of air then moves south across the northern plains and the Great lakes which can result in above average snowfall for that area. The bad news, with the shift in the flow of air so far north, drought conditions are likely across the southwest and the southern plains.

What does La Niña mean for the Tri-Cities?  

During a La Niña period, we usually experience above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation.  

There have been events with little snow with a strong La Niña, but notice an increase in the snow totals during a moderate la Nina event. The reason is due in part to a dip in the jet stream. The jet stream teamed up with moisture from the Gulf Coast resulting in a few winter snows in our area. I can see that happening again this year. Please note, there were some years where snowfall was not officially recorded at the Tri-Cities Airport

Last year I forecast 10 to 12 inches of snow for the Tri-Cities and we were in a neutral phase of El Niño and La Niña.  We actually had 4.9 inches of snow from November to march last winter.

Here is my 2020/2021 winter weather outlook for the Tri-Cities.

 I am forecasting at least three cold snaps from the middle of December to early April. These cold snaps will be brief; however, I think two of these might actually bring us single digit low temperatures for the Tri-Cities.

I am also forecasting above average temperatures for the winter season with the possibility for a few record highs. Don’t be surprised if we see one of two 70 degrees readings this upcoming winter season.

Precipitation will be below average with the exception of that southern storm. And if we get that southern storm, that might increase precipitation and snowfall. If a low pressure system develops in the Gulf Coast or the deep south and that moisture meets up with the cold air, that could mean an accumulating snow for the Tri-Cities.

Snow lovers, this might not be what you are looking for.  I am predicting at least 7 to 9 inches of snow for the Tri-Cities.  Again, the average snowfall for the Tri-Cities is 13.3 inches. Remember, if we do get a southern snow storm, those snow totals will increase.

I do see snow across the highest elevations where some of the highest peaks in North Carolina could see about 60 inches of snow for the season. Southeast Kentucky and southwest Virginia could experience 12 to 16 inches of snow this winter.

I do think that parts of the Ark-La-Tex and northern Mississippi, northern Alabama and north Georgia could experience one if not two ice events from this December to early March. Don’t be surprised to see a couple of rounds of severe weather through the lower Mississippi Valley this winter.  That would also include the possibility for tornadoes and damaging winds. We too may have a few thunderstorms during the winter season and a couple of high mountain wind events.

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