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Central Virginia’s 2021/2022 winter outlook

La Niña returns for the second straight winter
Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 11:59 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2021 at 3:20 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Central Virginia’s winter outlook for 2021/2022 may not be good news for snow lovers, but all hope for snow is not lost either.

Before we dive into the winter outlook, a caveat that seasonal forecasting is much more challenging (i.e. typically less accurate) than a short term forecast. There are many factors which can cause actual winter conditions to be different than the seasonal forecast a few months prior.

One of the primary factors we look at to determine our winter outlook is the phase of “ENSO”, which refers to whether there is currently a La Niña, El Niño, or neither.

La Niña has returned for the second straight winter, which means this upcoming winter could look similar to last year across Central Virginia.

Typically, a La Niña winter results in warmer temperatures and less snow in Richmond than an El Niño winter or an ENSO neutral winter (one without La Niña or El Niño).

A La Nina typically results in a warmer than average winter with below average snowfall.
A La Nina typically results in a warmer than average winter with below average snowfall.(National Weather Service Wakefield/Larry Brown)

Snow lovers should not completely despair, because there are a few examples of a snowier than average winter, even in a La Niña year. There is not a huge difference in terms of snowfall between La Niña vs El Niño winters. As shown in the bar graph above, there are some La Niña winters which received more snow than an El Niño winter.

The “average” seasonal snowfall in RVA over the last 30 years is 8.8 inches.

Average seasonal snowfall in RVA over the last 30 years is 8.8 inches per winter.
Average seasonal snowfall in RVA over the last 30 years is 8.8 inches per winter.(National Weather Service Wakefield/Larry Brown)

The official forecast from the Climate Prediction Center is for a warmer than average winter, The CPC forecast is for an equal chance of a drier than average or wetter than average winter in terms of precipitation.

The climate outlook for the upcoming winter shows warmer than average temperatures across...
The climate outlook for the upcoming winter shows warmer than average temperatures across Virginia.(NOAA)

A big thank you to National Weather Service Wakefield’s Climate Program Leader Larry Brown for sharing these statistics with us at NBC12.

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