MIKE: Unusual Start to Winter

Obviously, this winter has started completely opposite of last year, and not the way it was looking back in the Fall. So how strange is this start to winter?

Very little snow has fallen in South Bend so far this winter season.  Even the storms that do bring snow to parts of the Midwest seem to miss us, although our southern and eastern counties had a snowstorm several weeks ago with more than 6" in most areas from Rochester to Warsaw to LaGrange.  South Bend didn't even get a flake out of that one.

So far, we have had only 3.9" of snow officially at the South Bend Regional Airport.  But how unusual is that, really?  Well, it turns out that if we get no new accumulation through December 31st, this would be the 2nd "least snowy" start to winter since 1940!  The least amount of snow for the start of a winter through December 31st was in 1994 when only 2.4" fell.  In 1982, we had just 4.6", and in 2006, just 6.0" fell.  So what happened the rest of those winters?  The average total amount of snow in those entire winter seasons was 50", which is 16.6" below normal.  So if the rest of this winter goes like those, then we would expect to end up with less snow than normal.

However, before you get too excited...or too bummed, those were all El Nino winters, with warm water in the central Pacific Ocean.  Right now, we have a La Nina,  or colder than normal water in the Pacific, the exact opposite of El Nino.  So, basically we are now in "uncharted territory."  La Nina winters are not typically like this one so far.  While we can never be sure of anything when forecasting the future, I still believe that most factors point to this winter turning around at some point...probably in the early to middle part of January.  If that happens, that would mean that the "colder than normal" air would come when the normal's are the coldest.  In other words, it could suddenly turn brutally cold, and the lake-effect snow machine could really start to crank out the snow.

We have to realize that 62% of the time we have a white Christmas...meaning that 38% of the time, or at least one of every three years, we do NOT have a white Christmas.  So no snow for this Christmas is not that unusual.  The amount of snow so far, though, is very unusual.  Statistically speaking, we should still get a lot of snow the rest of the winter.  But, statistics don't always work out the way you think.  And, it seems like sometimes Mother Nature just has to let us know who is really in charge!  :)

You can see my Long-Term Thursday forecasts for the next 30 or 90 days every Thursday on the air and on my Facebook page (Meteorologist Mike Hoffman).  The winter has not started out the way I thought it would, but I'll continue to work to get the rest of the winter correct, or at least close to it!


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