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NBC12 winter weather outlook 2021-2022

Looks a lot like last year
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:21 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A seasonal forecast is the least fun one to make because even though our skill is better than it used to be, the long-term forecast is never going to be as good as a seven-day forecast.

Winter forecasts start by looking at our ENSO phase, which stands for El Niño–Southern Oscillation. This year is a La Nina winter for the second straight year, with clear signs for mid-Atlantic winters.

OVERALL, WE EXPECT THE UPCOMING WINTER TO LOOK SIMILAR TO LAST YEAR with LESS snow than our average of 8.8″

Dr. Stephanie Spera, a professor of geography and environment at the University of Richmond, says, “It’s a La Niña this year. It’s a ‘Virginia is going to be drier and warmer then what you would normally expect.’ If you want snow, you might not get it.”

If La Niña holds, it could be one of those years with very few hard freezes. Keep in mind, in Richmond, the average low temperatures in winter over the past 30 years hovers just below the freezing mark. Any slight nudge above average, like in a La Niña year, could bring a significant change, potentially pushing the rain/snow line farther west and changing snowstorms to rain or ice.

And it’s not just La Niña, Dr. Spera says, “Over the past 30 years, Richmond has averaged only 8.8″ snow per year. That’s the lowest 30 year average since the late 1800s. It’s snowing less, and I think everyone in Richmond who’s been here a while will absolutely say that I think people are realizing that winters are starting much later and ending much earlier. We’re seeing bugs out here for longer.”

With winters 2 to 4° warmer than in the early 1900s, it is harder to snow.

But in a La Nina year, plus a warming climate, it can and likely will still snow. But the odds of a dry, fluffy, classic snowstorm aren’t that high this year. But snow fans don’t give up yet - there are several recent examples of La Niña years producing big snow totals and colder than average temperatures, but not many.

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