Before we begin, here are the past six winter outlooks for snowfall. We’ve also calculated temperatures as well. We take pride in our outlooks and will be the first to admit when they’re wrong. While it takes weeks to put together this outlook, NO seasonal outlook will be ‘peaches ‘n cream.” We use the data that is available to give our best shot at what we could see. As we all know, Mother Nature likes to throw wrenches in the forecast.
If you take the top grade for only deducting points when our snow forecast was BELOW, we’ve done quite well, except for a few times. We did add a bottom grade to combine snow busts too low AND too high — just to be fair (very few care if they end up with much more than excepted, unless you are not a winter lover…) Last winter was a good winter, except for Hampton Roads. In 2016-17, the entire snow forecast went down the drain. Having 5 (or 4 1/2) winter outlooks out of 6 verify in the snowfall department is pretty good. Temperatures were issues at times. Last winter, we were actually a bit warmer than forecast, and 2016-17 was basically a blow torch. However, the rest of the winters were very close to what was forecast.
Earlier this month, we posted our preliminary thoughts for the 2019-2020 winter… However, nothing has really changed. We are still confident that this winter will be the coldest since 2013-14 or 2009-10.
MONTH BY MONTH PREDICTIONS
In December, we think it will be “up and down” — which is not a bad thing for snow lovers. I’d rather see it a little above average vs. too cold. Remember, deep cold can push storm tracks well south. We should see one or two light to moderate snow events.
NOTE: Hampton Roads Area could see more rain/mixed events in December and wintry events may be focused across I-95 / west.
In January, the cold really starts to come in. With blocking, warmer ocean temperatures and a somewhat subtropical jet stream, this should give one or two moderate to significant snow events.
WILDCARD MONTH: FEBRUARY: This month looks to be the coldest. Once again, too much cold can push storm tracks well south. If the “core” of the cold can ease up during the last two weeks of the month, then the potential is there for a few snow storms.
March could be quite active with several wintry events. Some will likely be mixed (especially after March 15), but early month, the sun angle should not be too much of a concern. A lot of long rage forecasts suggest that we DO NOT see an early Spring.
NOTE: Hampton Roads Area could see more rain/mixed events in March
EURASIAN SNOW COVER
Mid-October, there was a “lull” in snow cover extent, which is actually quite normal. It has started ramping back up again, and many models show more systems for the end of October. We are expecting the Siberian snow cover to match or exceed October 2009. That winter was brutally cold and snowy, which is what we are predicting.
DROUGHT WILL BE A MEMORY SOON…
We were so dry in August and September, burn bans went into effect across many counties across Southwest and Central Virginia. In October, we’ve had several rain events that have helped the drought. We still have a ways to go, but I would say we are 50 percent better compared to this time last month. With more systems coming in from the Gulf of Mexico and Tennessee River Valley, it’s fair to say that the drought will become a thing of the past as we head into November and should be history by Christmas.
SOLAR CYCLE SUNSPOT ACTIVITY
You can’t just look at Siberian snow cover to judge what the winter will be like. Solar sunspot activity can play a big role in the winter.
Our last “severe” winter was back in 2009-10. If you look at the graph below, you can see that 2009-10 reached the minimum solar cycle. Solar sunspot activity plays a huge rule in patterns across the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, many severe winters occurred during minimum solar cycles and favors stormy and cold weather across the Eastern United States, due to ridging in Greenland. Many severe winters during the mid 1960’s, late 1970’s, mid 1980’s, mid 1990’s, and 2009-10, all occurred when the solar cycle reached it’s minimum.
As of October 7, we are projected to reach the minimum solar cycle, the lowest since 2009 and 2010.
This following map is courtesy of L. Koontz, Glen Allen Wx. Center and data from Southeast Regional Climate Center.
Richmond averages about 10 inches, and Norfolk runs about 5 1/2 inches. In D.C., snowfall average is anywhere from about 15 inches at Reagan National to 20 inches at Dulles International. In the mountains, snowfall amounts go as high as 30 inches or more, especially in the Bluefield area and Highland County.
2019-20 SNOWFALL PREDICTION
If our outlook is right, many locations could double their seasonal snowfall average.
In D.C., we are forecasting 24 to 32 inches, (lower southeast, highest west) which is anywhere from 10 to 15 inches above the seasonal average. Across these areas and points west, we think at least 75 percent of storms will be in the form of snow. That means areas west into the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley will be quite snowy, too.
We’re taking a bit of a chance across Southern Virginia, but with storm systems tracking across the south and cold air in place, these areas should do quite well.
You can read our Preliminary Winter Outlook, posted earlier this month. It includes all the information about blocking, sea surface temperatures, and all the factors that go into the outlook.