Are we in for a cold, snowy winter? That depends

A pedestrian leans into blowing snow on Oxford Street.

Roanoke Times weather guru Kevin Myatt’s winter weather outlook is out and he foresees a “colder, snowier winter than last year, but not an excessively cold, snowy one.”

He’s guessing the first snow of at least one inch to hit us around Dec. 17 on or near Blacksburg and Dec. 24 for Roanoke, “simply because these are the historic averages.”

He adds:

Overall, I expect this to be a near to slightly above normal winter in temperature, but one with a few sharp Arctic outbreaks of several days to a couple weeks. I expect neither prolonged runaway warmth nor prolonged extreme cold, but a couple days over 70 and a couple with lows in the single digits will probably occur. It will also probably tend to be a little drier than normal.

Expect occasional windy cold fronts — starting with this weekend — and a slightly higher risk of a widespread ice storm, which we’re really overdue for, historically. A widespread foot-plus type snowstorm is unlikely this winter, but there may be a couple of the 4-inch-plus variety.

This will be the coldest, snowiest December we’ve had in seven years. But considering Roanoke has had only 3/10 of an inch of snow total in December in the six previous years, that’s really not a difficult bar to top.

Myatt bases his forecast largely on a weak La Nina this season, unlike the stronger one that gave us such a warm winter in 2016-17.

“I think it is quite likely this will be a colder, snowier winter than last year, but probably not an excessively cold, snowy one,” he writes.

Myatt bases his prediction on his analysis of the National Weather Service’s “winter outlook” released last month.  Some felt that outlook predicted a lot of 70 degree days and practically no snow for this coming winter.

That, however, is not what the weather service is saying, he concludes.

The National Weather Service projects our winter in the New River Valle and Roanoke with a 33-40 percent chance of having a warmer than normal winter.

That means a projection that is less than 50 percent.

Says Myatt:

This may seem like the weather service is just throwing up its hands and saying “we don’t know,” but what it is really expressing is there is no data that can differentiate between the likelihood for different levels of precipitation.

Even the woolly worms that predict rough winters by turning black, can’t make up their minds.  This year, their colors range widely.

In the end, long-range weather forecasting is, by and large, guesswork.  Myatt, a self-professed weather geek, is often more accurate than all the computer and over-educated “meteorologists” in the National Weather Service.

In the end, what we get is a best guess.


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© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse