Rusty Lord’s 2020-2021 Winter Outlook

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 8:05 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 29, 2020 at 8:06 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s that time of the year when I take a look at what we can expect for the upcoming winter months and after a little taste of it to round out October, it’s likely top of mind. First a look at how last winter played out. We ended up drier and warmer than average with all 3 months showing warming that average temps.

Last Season Numbers
Last Season Numbers(WOWT)

So what about 2020-2021? Well NOAA released their winter outlook for the entire country back in mid-October and it lines up pretty well with how a La Nina year would shape up.

NOAA Winter Temps
NOAA Winter Temps(WOWT)
NOAA Winter Precipitation
NOAA Winter Precipitation(WOWT)

As you can see, it doesn’t really say too much about our area so it’s time to dive in a little deeper and see what La Nina means for us. What about the definition of La Nina? It refers to cooler than average waters in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. Varying strengths can produce varying weather patterns but it is a key driver of how the overall weather pattern shapes up over the northern hemisphere. Here’s how sea surface temperatures look this week in the Pacific Ocean.

La Nina Map
La Nina Map(WOWT)

Temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean correspond to what classifies as a weak La Nina at the moment but it is forecast to strengthen into a moderate La Nina heading it winter as ocean waters cool even more. When looking at previous winters that have featured a moderate La Nina, a bit of a pattern sets up across the country and becomes a bit more discernible in our area too. There are several other factors that go into figuring out how winter may set up too. When looking at it as a whole, the winters of 1995-96, 2005-06 and 2007-08 stick out quite a bit as winters that could be very similar to our upcoming winter. One thing is fairly certain though, the jet stream will likely have a pretty consistent track all winter sending any systems and bouts of cold air at us from the northwest.

La Nina Jet Stream
La Nina Jet Stream(WOWT)

Here are the headlines and highlights of how I see this coming winter playing out (December into early March).

Winter Outlook Headlines
Winter Outlook Headlines(WOWT)

TEMPERATURES: I expected it to be slight warmer than average as a whole during this stretch. It may not be that noticeable through as this pattern lends to MANY dramatic temperature swings with some happening over very short periods of time. Don’t be surprised if we bounce back and forth between the 40s and 50s and negative morning lows over 3 to 5 day periods several times this coming winter. January has the greatest chance of being the worst month for that. That also lends to several very windy days as well. I expect the wind to be very much a factor the vast majority of the winter, especially in an active month like January appears to be.

SNOWFALL: This seems to garner the most attention when discussing the severity of a coming winter. I expect this coming season to be near or just below average with our snowfall. The average in the area ranges from 26″ to 32″ and I would expect to be closer to the lower end of that range this season. Heavier snows are likely north and northeast of us the majority of the winter but that won’t be the case with every storm system.

Seasonal Snowfall Odds
Seasonal Snowfall Odds(WOWT)

Here’s a month by month breakdown of how I think the winter will play out:

Month by Month
Month by Month(WOWT)

DECEMBER: Likely to start fairly mild but end colder heading into January. Average snowfall looks good right now but some early season rain could impact the totals a bit.

JANUARY: This will likely be the coldest month of the winter or at the very least the first half of it will be. Expect many extreme temperature swings with several rounds of cold air this month. The warm spike ahead of each cold blast could be very noticeable and enjoyable for a day or so. With the temperature swings come several windy days too. I expect this to be the month with the most snowfall as well.

FEBRUARY: We’ll likely see the coldest of the air shift east and get to enjoy perhaps a bit milder weather and temperatures closer to average. Fewer rapid temperature swings too. Slightly cooler than average as a whole though with less than average snowfall.

MARCH: One more noticeable cold blast with measureable snow early in the month. Then quickly moderating temperatures hopefully bringing an end to winter sooner than last year.

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