Winter Outlook: How much snow can we expect?

By Jim Duncan - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Weather predictions beyond the next few days are, with rare exception, a gamble.  The following is intended to give you a general idea of expected weather patterns, and not a precise forecast.  A continued moderately strong La Nina, among other factors, plays into this outlook.

The winter ahead will be compared to last winter as a benchmark,  in order to give some perspective. This is useful since last winter remains so ingrained in our memories.  Compared to last winter…

Jet stream patterns overall should be less amplified, implying fewer deep southern storm tracks and shorter extreme cold-air outbreaks.  This does not mean we won't have any storms from the south, rather we will most likely have fewer, less snowy ones than in the winter of '09-'10.  A more west-to-east oriented prevailing jet will tend to favor more storms running from the Plains and Midwest.

Temperatures will be highly variable, as they usually are in the winter here, but when averaged at the end of the season may end up above normal.  Arctic air intrusions should be shorter-lived than last winter, i.e. they will still occur, but shouldn't last as long.  Temperatures may exhibit large swings from warm to cold, with milder periods persisting longer than cold ones.

Snow will fall…almost always does to some extent.  Again, using last winter for comparison, there is a high probability that we will  have much less total snowfall.  The huge totals (28″ RIC, & much higher west/north) we saw last winter would obviously be extremely difficult to achieve.  However, a few smaller snows could still keep snow-lovers out of a deep depression .   Our "average" annual snowfall for Richmond is about 12-13″, and I think we could end up close to that range, give or take a couple of inches.

Ice Storms were pretty non-eventful last winter, since most of our big winter storms brought snow or rain.  This winter could bring an increased chance of ice storms vs last year, with the potential for more western-oriented storm tracks favoring this.  Mixed-precip. systems occur with cold surface air and warmer air aloft, which in a typical winter happens here with decent frequency.  So, even if this is just a "normal"  Richmond winter, expect at least one or two ice storms.

Rain and precipitation totals overall show no clear signal of straying much above or below climatological averages. Whereas drought could very well get much worse south of Virginia, we should be just far enough north to benefit from some storm regularity based on expected jet-stream patterns.  On the whole,  rain, not snow or ice, will contribute the most to our winter precipitation totals .

In summary, this winter should be milder and much less snowy than last.  Even so, expect enough variety to keep things interesting.

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