(WJHL) – The Winter of 2023-24 could be an interesting winter thanks to a change in the weather pattern known as El Niño.
El Niño is a warming of the Equatorial Pacific Ocean.
That warming pattern causes a shift in the jet stream, which can bring wetter conditions and flooding to the southern U.S. and warmer and drier conditions across the northern part of the country.
The Winter of 1997-’98 was an El Niño year, the strongest El Niño on record at the time.
Northeast Tennessee experienced deadly flooding due to a surge of warm, moist air from the Gulf Coast.
At the same time, Roan Mountain had over a foot of snow on the ground at the top of the mountain. The snow melted quickly as warm air and heavy rains moved in, sending flood waters crashing down the Doe River into Elizabethton. Seven people died in the flooding.
The strong southern branch of the jet stream can increase lift and shear in the atmosphere at times, which can lead to an increase in winter tornadoes across the southeast – including Tennessee.
Strong El Niño conditions are forecast for this winter.
Let’s look at three strong El Niño’s of the past: The Winter of 1982-83 produced 21.9 inches of snow in the Tri-Cities, while the Winter of 2015-16 produced 18.4 inches of snow. I do want to point out that during the strong El Niño of 1997-’98, the Tri-City area recorded heavy snow during the month of January 1998; however, that data was not officially recorded by the National Weather Service from the Tri-Cities Airport.
Here is Mark Reynolds’s Winter Weather Forecast:
I am predicting that we will see an increase in snowfall this year. The Tri-Cities averages 9.2 inches of snow during the winter season.
I also think this might be the winter that we look south to watch for the potential for a few big storms to bring accumulating snow to our region. That being said, if we’re on the wrong side of the storm in the warm air, we will see heavy rains and warm temperatures.
Given our current dry weather pattern and the variables with the snowfall over the last strong El Niño years mentioned earlier, I am leaning more towards a normal snow season. I am forecasting 6-9 inches of snow for this upcoming winter; however, if we get a few strong southern storm systems, and they move in the right direction with the cold air, we could double that average snowfall.
My other concern is the potential for severe weather at times from December to late March with the potential for locally heavy rainfall. Don’t be surprised to see a few warm periods with the possibility for record highs this winter as well.