Winter forecast full of fluctuating temps

slyttle@charlotteobserver.comDecember 1, 2013 

  • Some winter forecasts Meteorological winter began Sunday and runs through February. It differs from the traditional winter, which begins Dec. 21 and runs through March 20. Here are some predictions from long-range forecasters (Charlotte’s average annual snowfall is about 5 inches): Ray Russell of Ray’s Weather, a N.C. mountain weather website: Slightly less snow than average, with temperatures slightly warmer than average. Brad Panovich, WCNC: Milder and wetter than average. Panovich predicts the prevailing storm track will be across the Ohio Valley, which would keep the Carolinas on the milder side of storms. Accu Weather: Warm in December, with below-average snowfall overall for winter. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center: A tossup on whether temperatures will be warmer or cooler than average, but a good chance of conditions being drier than average.

Temperatures could approach 70 degrees in Charlotte later this week, but some forecasters are watching a weather system that could bring sleet or freezing rain to parts of the Carolinas around Dec. 8 or 9.

That could be an indication of what type of winter we’ll experience in the Charlotte region, say meteorologists who dabble in the uncertain world of long-range forecasts.

The meteorological winter began Sunday, running from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28, and the consensus among long-range forecasts is the lack of a strong signal about what to expect during the cold season in the Carolinas.

Experts say there is no strong El Niño or La Niña condition and that we’ll be in a neutral ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) pattern. That is a reference to ocean water temperatures and the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean, a factor that meteorologists say can have a big impact on weather in the continental United States.

Last winter, which produced only a single snowfall, also was neutral ENSO.

With no strong indicator, many meteorologists think the upcoming winter will produce fluctuating temperatures, with warm spells followed by brief cold snaps.

We’re off to a cold start this winter season. November produced three record-low temperatures and even a bit of snow. But that will change this week.

High temperatures are expected to be in the lower 60s Wednesday and in the middle and upper 60s Thursday and Friday. Then a cold front pushed southward by strong Canadian high pressure is predicted to cross the area by Saturday.

Danny Grant of the National Weather Service office in Greer said the much-colder temperatures late next weekend could be accompanied by frozen precipitation.

Pennsylvania-based Accu Weather is predicting a mild start to winter in the Southeast, with a warm December. Long-range meteorologist Paul Pastelok said temperatures could run several degrees above average this month in the Carolinas and elsewhere in the Southeast.

Lyttle: 704-358-6107

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