May the 4th be with you!
Has Winter Ended Before it Even Started?
This winter is 2/3rds of the way over meteorologically and it’s been a far cry from a “real” winter even by Carolina standards. The mild temperatures have been only one part of the equation. We have had warm winter temperatures like this and not in the too distant past. The odd part to me and just about every other snow lover is the lack of snow. Not only have we had no snow but we have lacked even a hint of winter weather. Either snow, ice or mixed precipitation.
Which is very odd considering that while Charlotte will never be mistaken for Buffalo, NY we always get at least a little snow. We only average about 4.3” of snow over the past 30 years while our all-time average is 5.7”. Our records go back 134 years in Charlotte and in that 134 year history we have never had 0.00” of snow. Seems shocking I know, but even in the mildest of winters we have gotten at least a trace and even that has only happened 11 times in 134 years. The last time was 2005-2006 but even that year we had 3 days where we got a Trace of snow. We saw a trace 3 times that year once in November, January and February. So this winter has been amazing with not only the warm temperatures but the lack of even a trace of snow or ice.
So far this winter I have seen more of these pictures of flowers than of snow or ice like last year. All of these were sent to me today January 30th, 2012.
So what’s going on and is winter really over?
The simple answer is the jetstream thanks to La Nina has bottled up all the cold air well to the north of the United States. Alaska is having one of the worst winters on record. So there is cold air it’s just staying north thanks to the record breaking positive phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation and Arctic Oscillation. Below you can see that since November until just recently we have had very positive phases of both the NAO and AO. Negative phases of these 2 means cold air comes south in the US from the arctic.
The results of the negative phases of the AO/NAO and the lack of blocking and warming of the stratosphere over the arctic. Has kept the cold air in Alaska and northern Canada. So the results here in Charlotte so far look like this.
So with these mild temperatures we have had the 8th warmest winter since 1939 and the 17th warmest since 1878. This winter is actually very similar to the winters of 1998-99, 2006-07 and 2007-08. Those were all very mild winters with strong La Nina’s. Yet even in those years we had some snow. In 1998-99 we had 1.9” of snow that fell in February and March. In 2006-07 we 1.0” of snow which fell in February and in 2007-08 we had 1.4” which fell in January. The one thing you notice is that even in mild winters we can get 1 or 2 storms which bring us snow or ice.
So what is February looking like?
Still looks like we could get some cold air albeit briefly and maybe at least one chance for snow. All of the long range modeling is hinting at a significant cool down the first 2 weeks of the February. Which maybe the last shot at any winter weather before it turns warm again and for good. The GFS model has a significant arctic outbreak heading south by the second week of February. The blue dashed line is the 540 line or rain/snow line way down in Mexico. Also notice the 1044 mb arctic high over the middle of the country. This would be extreme cold deep into the lower 48, but it’s just too early to know for sure if this will verify. Only time will tell if winter is over yet, but February and early March always have a few tricks up their sleeves in the Carolinas.