Rusty Lord’s 2021-22 Winter Outlook

Senior Chief Rusty Lord makes his predictions for the coming winter.
Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 8:39 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2021 at 8:54 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - After the snowy winter of last season and the brutal cold end to it, people are looking for a little relief in this upcoming winter. I’ll let you know just how I see this season playing out and talk a little bit about how I came to the conclusion. One key driver of ocean currents and subsequently weather patterns is the variation of temperatures in the ocean waters of the Pacific Ocean near the equator. That is known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.

Last year was what is called a La Niña meaning ocean waters were cooler than average in that region of the Pacific (the opposite would be El Niño meaning waters are warmer).

La Nina
La Nina(La Nina Zone)

Forecast models for sea surface temperature say we’re heading towards the start of another La Niña this season as well. Note the model average here showing the coldest sea surface temperatures occurring in the December time frame before moderating rather quickly the rest of the season. This low point is a little later than last season’s coldest sea surface temperatures which occurred in late October & early November. I’m not certain that means too much but I do think this La Niña will act differently in our area.

ENSO Forecast
ENSO Forecast(WOWT)

So we’re now talking about back to back La Niña seasons. What does that mean for us? Well if you look back in recent history at back to back La Niñas, you are able to see some patterns and tendencies. Here’s the last 5 winters we’ve had back to back moderate to strong La Niñas:

1995-96 & 96-97

1998-99 & 99-00

2007-08 & 08-09

2010-11 & 11-12

2016-17 & 17-18

The most glaring thing that stands out is when you look at seasonal snowfall totals. Not only was last year’s 48″ of snow quite and outlier for back to back La Niñas but it was an outlier for La Niñas as a whole. I think it’s safe to say the odds favor us staying well shy of that total this season. Also of note is how low the snowfall is for the 2nd season of the back to back. Almost all were below average with one right at average. 3 of the 5 showed significant decreases from season 1 to 2. Overall the typical La Niña pattern doesn’t lend to a lot of snow producing seasons.

La Nina Snowfall
La Nina Snowfall(WOWT)

Some of these seasons stood out a bit more than others and were leaned on a little more heavily when putting together my outlook for the season.

Now let’s talk a bit more about how temperatures are looking this upcoming season. Overall I’m leaning heavily on a warmer than average winter this season. There will obviously be cold snaps, every winter has them, but in the overall big picture warmer than average will likely be the case for the Omaha metro and surrounding area.

Breaking it down month by month we can see a few months where the odds lean towards warmer or colder. I think December will likely be our coldest month with the pattern sending colder air masses diving south and a more frequent pace with deeper diving cold. January will likely start to moderate toward average with the coldest air sliding east. And in a big contrast to last year I see February being much warmer than average here and significantly warmer than last year, likely bringing a quicker end to winter than we have seen in quite a while.

As I mentioned previously, the odds lean rather strongly toward lower than average snowfall in our area this upcoming season. I’d say the best odds favor our seasonal snowfall falling in the 18″ to 26″ range, well below the average of 26″ to 32″ that the metro typically sees.

Snowfall Odds
Snowfall Odds(WOWT)

Warmer with much less snow than last year. That will make some happy but likely irk a few as well. Overall, here’s the summary of how I see winter playing out. Now we sit back and watch!


Watch the Q&A with Rusty & Clay

Rusty Lord shares his predictions for the upcoming winter.

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