We have seen relatively mild temperatures so far this fall with just a few cold snaps, but will this trend continue into the winter, and will this winter produce more snow than we received last year?
Before we can answer that question, we need to look at a multitude of weather variables and models that could have an impact on the weather for the Tri-Cities and surrounding areas.
This winter, we will continue with La Niña conditions, which we also experienced last winter.
La Niña can best be described as cooling of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator.
This change in temperatures impacts weather across the globe and can have a big impact on both the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons. More tropical storms and hurricanes occur in the Atlantic due to low wind shear and warmer water temperatures while the reverse is true in the eastern Pacific.
During La Niña conditions, we see a shift in the trade winds which allows for upwelling and cooler water temperatures in South America.
This cooling in turn causes a shift in the jet stream northward. That shift in the upper-level wind flow can then have an extensive impact on the weather across North America, including the Tri-Cities.
During a La Niña event, the Tri-Cities and surrounding areas usually experience above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation. That’s the forecast from NOAA again this year.
This year’s La Niña is expected to be in a moderate phase like last year lasting through the end of February.
The average snowfall for the Tri-Cities Airport is 9.2 inches.
If you look at snowfall for the Tri-Cities during moderate and strong La Niña events, you certainly see some extremes.
Let’s focus on the moderate La Niña years for the Tri-Cities. You see two years with close to average snowfall, one year with well below average snowfall and two years with well above average snowfall.
Last year I forecast 7 to 9 inches of snowfall during the winter season for the Tri-Cities and the Tri-Cities Airport actually recorded 10 inches for the season.
I also said we would hit single-digit low temperatures and a 70 degree reading during the winter. We hit 6 degrees in December and 76 degrees in late February.
Here is my 2021/2022 winter weather forecast for the Tri-Cities.
I am forecasting above-average temperatures for the Tri-Cities for the duration of the winter season with one or two 70 degree days before March.
I also see above-normal snowfall across the northern Plains, which could, in turn, drive cold air south into our area with strong storms that move into the Great Lakes. The northwest flow pattern could produce light bands of light snow across the area this winter under this set-up.
Given the current weather pattern, and what we have experienced over the last two months, I think precipitation will be average with the possibility for a few severe weather events across the Tennessee Valley north to the southern Ohio Valley this winter.
Now for my snowfall prediction for the upcoming winter season. I am predicting 11 to 13″ of snow for the Tri-Cities. Remember, the average snowfall for the Tri-Cities is 9.2 inches.
Realize, that if we get a storm system that moves up the east coast while cold air is moving southeast and the moisture is there, we could still have the opportunity for a heavy snowfall this year, which would also give us above average snowfall.
Also, if we continue to see the upper-level low pattern we have seen this fall, light snow showers and cold temperatures are possible for a few days.
I certainly think that parts of Southwest Virginia and eastern Kentucky could see average, if not, slightly above average snowfall totals for the season. I think the Smoky Mountains, the highest elevations of Northeast Tennessee and western North Carolina, could also see average, if not slightly above average, snowfall totals this winter season.
Most forecasters expect the La Niña pattern to go neutral in April and through the spring season. The concern then would be an active severe weather season for spring, March to May including the possibility for tornadoes and damaging winds across the Tennessee Valley and throughout the Southeast and even parts of the southern Ohio Valley.