Warm Winter Does Not Equal Warm Summer

With the very mild winter and very warm start to spring the questions about this summer continue to pour in. The typical question or comment usually goes something like this, “if its this warm now can’t imagine what it will be like this summer”. The only problem with this train of thought is that there is no direct connection whatsoever from winter temperatures to summer temperatures.

The Jetstream during the winter months is driven by completely different mechanisms in our climate than the winter time Jetstream. In reality the Jetstream retreats north during the summer and really never plays a huge role in our weather in the Carolinas. The main driving forth is the sub-tropical high off the east coast of the U.S.This is called the “Bermuda high”  which depending on the position can mean a hot dry summer or a mild and wet summer.

During the winter months the Jetstream location plays a huge role in our weather. Both the polar jet stream and the subtropical Jetstream. This winter the polar Jetstream remained well to our north effectively cutting off all cold air into the lower 48s states including the Carolinas. This created the 15th warmest winter on record in Charlotte this past winter. So it was mild but there were actually 14 winters that were even warmer here in Charlotte since 1878. A few of those warmer winters occurred back in the late 1990s. When you look back at the top 5 warmest winters and top 5 warmest summers in Charlotte. You’ll find there is no correlation at all.


So now we are almost done with March and this month is about to become the 3rd warmest March on record in Charlotte. The questions arise again does the warm Spring=Warm Summer? The simple answer is no. This is only one month and April could end up being very cool along with May. Which by then March will be a distance memory. Below I posted all the warmest and coldest seasons on record in Charlotte. Notice how there is never a direct correlation between one warm season leading to another. In fact notice how the in some cases the opposite was true. The warmest winter on record in Charlotte was 1889-90 the previous summer of 1889 was the 5th coolest on record in Charlotte.


CHARLOTTE, NC 1878 Dec 2011
WINTER 52.8 1889/90 37.1 1976/77
51.3 1931/32 37.5 1904/05
49.6 1879/80 37.6 1962/63
49.1 1948/49 38.0 1935/36
49.0 1956/57 38.1 1917/18
SPRING 64.5 1991 56.5 1971
64.0 1945 56.6 1961
63.6 1955 56.9 1960
63.3 1908 57.4 2005
63.2 1946 1983
57.5 1892
SUMMER 81.5 1993 74.5 1884
81.1 2010 74.9 1967
80.8 1986 75.0 1974
80.5 1987 75.1 1972
80.4 1943 1976
75.4 1889
FALL 66.9 1931 56.4 1976
66.1 1941 57.9 1917
65.2 1919 58.2 1880
64.7 1921 58.3 1967
1985 58.7 1937
64.6 1961
  • Preston Jacobsen

    Great write up Brad. Getting the same questions over in our neck of the woods (SW NC Mtns).

  • Nice piece. That said, it looks like a warm summer is the prediction:

    • wxbrad

      Brian, I agree this will be a slightly above average summer but like all things it’s relative. The anomalies this summer will be far less than the warm anomalies from this winter. Probably looking at .5-1° above compared to the 3-4° above we saw this winter.