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Forecasting A Winter Season (Part Four) FINAL NUMBERS!

This is the fourth and last installment of the Winter Weather Preview, the substance of which first aired on our half-hour special Thanksgiving Day. Stay tuned for a future airing on WSAZ. Taking questions and comments below!

This is the final installment in our series on the upcoming winter season.

To catch everyone up to speed, here are the previous posts:

Forecasting A Winter Season (Part Three)

Forecasting A Winter Season (Part Two)

Forecasting A Winter Season (Part One)

...So now we've finally come down to the numbers. First, we'll discuss the projected temperature profile of the winter.

(Click on the image for a larger pop-up)

The warmer than normal temperatures projected for the Ohio Valley are in line with El Nino climatology, even though the current expectation is for a light El Nino or Neutral conditions. As you get to the WV mountains, typically that region is nearly insulated from ENSO links (meaning El Nino and La Nina does not have a high influence in this area, as the mountain terrain have a higher impact). The lower-than-average temperatures projected from the southern KY mountains up through the Kanawha valley hills and on into those WV mountains is due in part to an expected higher than average snowpack, which will reflect back more heat and keep things cool.

That is demonstrated in the image below:

The forecast is for a near-average to lower than average season in the famous "donut-hole" River-Cities area, but a rapidly escalating snowfall forecast when elevation is involved. In fact, the mountains will have a higher-than-average snowfall season. The mountains can catch a snowy piece of all the main storm tracks expected this year, while the lowlands have to get things just right. I know there are plenty of places at elevation that are already a good chunk of the way to these numbers thanks to Hurricane Sandy, but it's important to note that the resolution of these contours cannot possible accomodate every blip and bounce in terrain. This means that some particular ridge right on the border of one of these contours can get extra, while a valley right inside can get less.

The big winners this year are similar to other years, but they're going to have a better year than average (Snowshoe opening before Thanksgiving is a good sign of this). The Kumbrabow forest and Canaan Valley areas can also have good years, approaching or perhaps even exceeding 200" of snow this year.

Wild Cards And Things To Watch For...

The folks in the lower elevations that like snow may be grumbling a little bit, but here are a few things you have going in your favor:

1. The abnormally low arctic ice content. This year has set a record in modern times (we've only been measuring by satellite since 1979). This exposes more water to swirling arctic winds, which then push an enhanced amount of cold moisture southward. We've already seen some anomalous plunges in the jet stream in the fall (a sign to look for with this scenario), and if we get another to scare up a future storm, that can easily add a chunk to your totals in the lowlands.

2. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). As explained in the 1st part of our Winter Weather series on the weather blog, the NAO is a rather fickle phenomenon whose predictability loses skill beyond a few weeks. If/When the NAO turns into a "negative phase", expect the thumb to be on the scale in favor of a snowier scene.

If you have any questions or comments, please indicate them below. I will try to get to as many as I can. I'll also try to refer to the contents of these winter weather blog posts wherever appropriate as we go on in the winter season. :-)

-B

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