Winter Outlook: Just How "2020" Will It Be?

If it's November 1st, it must mean it's time to take a look at our magic crystal ball and see what our Winter may have in store for our region. Real talk though... it's more like a magic 8 ball anymore these days. Look - I LOVE doing these long-range outlooks but as I say every year: It's important to take them with a very tiny grain of salt. Look at what happened last year. Talk about a complete and utter disaster. I was SO sure we'd see north of 20" of snow. Instead? Well... THIS is what we ended up with.

I'd say we missed the mark, by a little, right? Our average is 17". I was shocked to see such an abysmal year. The least amount I've seen in all the time I've been doing this job? 7.1" in 2017. Never under an inch. Last year was SO bad, we ended up on a list no snow-lover ever wants to be on: The Bottom 5 Least Snowy Winters:

Anyway... enough looking backwards. It's a different year with a different pattern. Time to look AHEAD. To do that though, I think it's important to start at the very beginning.


Last year, we had an El Nino. Well... sort of. It was a Madoki El Nino with the warm water in the Pacific ocean displaced. It was a warm Winter overall. The dreaded Southeast ridge formed and never backed out. We had but a couple light wintry weather events. Typically El Nino years bring more snow to the region.


This year? We've got La Nina. That occurs when cooler than average temperatures appear along the Equatorial Pacific. It took shape in the late Spring and has only intensified overtime. La Nina is also the reason our hurricane season was so active this year.


Not every La Nina is created equal. The positioning of the coolest water plays a big role into how the pattern ultimately develops over the Winter. If it happens to go more east-based, cooler weather can shift into the northeast. See the deep blue popping out in the middle of the map? THAT is your La Nina. We also watch the water temps in the Gulf of Alaska and in the Indian ocean. Think of it as a giant MOVING puzzle that we are constantly trying to find pieces for.

The OVERALL pattern based on averages for La Nina years is to bring cool and active weather to the Northwest and throughout the northern tier of the country into the Great Lakes. This happens because high pressure sets up south of Alaska pushing the jet north and then diving down into the the west and mid-west states. The coldest air is usually bottled up west of the lakes. With these patterns the southeast ridge (high pressure off the southeast US) usually sets up bringing warmer than average weather for everyone say south of the mason-dixon line.

The Mid-Atlantic can oftentimes becomes a "battle zone" for storminess. We CAN get some decent snowstorms. Obviously all the conditions need to line up just the right way, but they can happen. Snowstorms that do come about are usually more complex and have multiple pieces of energy coming together. January 5th, 2018 is a good example. That was really the last "big" storm we saw here in New Jersey. Crazy...right? That year featured a weak La Nina.

Sooooo.... What am I looking at in terms of snowfall for THIS season? Drumroll please!

More than last year! It's a pretty easy forecast. Everyone across the board will see more than last year. I am 110% confident in that. Now... the bar IS set VERY low so that isn't *really* a prognostication. I'm hesitant because of what happened last year. A bit jaded I guess I could say. The methodology we've used many times over to predict the future based on what has happened in the past with "x, y and z" in place isn't the best practice these days. The oceans are warmer overall. We've got more moisture in the air and less arctic sea ice. That means we are establishing new normals. We are learning as we go and I'm not a fan of that.


It's easy to just throw numbers out there. Snow-lovers get excited...snow-haters get upset. I'm comfortable with the idea that "we will get more than last year" and leaving it at that. Now, if I WERE to put some numbers on a map? I think that map would look something like this:

Just to repeat: Our average is about 17" in South Jersey. That number increases the farther north and west you go and decreases as you approach the shore. This year I think we stay below 17". A logical best guess would be 10-15" for the mainland, 5-10" along the coast and over a foot on the other side of Philadelphia.


This is a BIG change from the map I issued last year. I think these numbers are obtainable. ONE good storm like that 2018 blizzard and you're looking at easily achieving that forecast. I think 1 or 2 larger storms with perhaps 4-5 nuisance events are likely. Just because I believe temperatures will be slightly warmer than average, that does not mean it WON'T snow. The two don't have to go hand in hand.


So to recap:

I would rate this Winter a 2 out of 5 snowblower Winter. Shouldn't be anything crazy... BUT it IS 2020 after all.


I try to be as honest as possible. Long range forecasting is completely different than trying to grasp the 4-7 day forecast. I wish I could tell you precisely what will play out but I can't. If I could chances are I'd be a multi-billionaire by now as I'd know all the numbers for the big jackpots! Regardless of WHAT happens, you can count on me to be here through every storm to walk you through it.


Need your HVAC unit serviced? Give my friend Bob McAllister a call! He and his team of pros can get the job done better than anyone else. You deserve ComfortNow! 609-400-1005.




0 comments