INDIANAPOLIS — It’s the most wonderful time of the year – for snow lovers, that is. Winter is right around the corner, and everyone wants to know if this is going to be a snowy season. The CBS4 Forecast First team has a preview of the upcoming winter.
Central Indiana averages around 26 inches of snow. But for the past seven winters we’ve been way off the mark. You have to go back to the winter of 2013-2014 to find an above average season. We received 52.2” of snow, for the snowiest winter snow ever.
Like last season, this winter the long range weather pattern will be influenced by La Nina. In this setup, we normally see an area of high pressure over the northern Pacific creating a strong ridge in the Jet Stream to our west. The Jet Stream is then forced to dive south over the Central Plains and track through the Ohio Valley. Usually this leads to a wetter-than-average winter. This COULD mean more snow or more rain, depending on temperatures.
Since 1950 La Nina winters have given us an average of 25 inches of snow. Some years much more and some years much less. For example, in the last 10 years 4 of our winters have been influenced by a La Nina pattern. But the snowfall has ranged from only 9.8” in those seasons to as much as 23.3”.
The top 4 snowiest winters consisted of all three large scale weather patterns: La Nina, El Nino and neutral. Therefore, a La Nina pattern doesn’t necessary guarantee more or less snow. We’re going to have to watch the individual storm tracks this winter to really determine how much snow we’ll see.
Here are the three main storm tracks for winter storms. Most common are Alberta Clippers, fast moving systems that originate over the Canadian Prairie. They bring quick blasts of arctic air with one to three inch snowfalls. Not enough to shut us down, but enough to cover the roads. Next are the panhandle lows. They come from the southwest and bring heavier, wetter snow, in the two to four inch range. Finally, we have the Gulf Coast Lows. Those weather systems tap into the Gulf of Mexico and are loaded with moisture. These can dump the heaviest, wettest snow, often bringing more than four inch accumulations and having a major impact on communities.
So here’s the prediction for this winter. The snow season will get off to a slow start with above average temperatures through early December limiting our chances for accumulating snow. But don’t be fooled by the slow start. This winter looks like it’s going to be an active season for snow.
Once the colder air settles in for late December through January and February expect more frequent accumulations. Also, we average more than three inches of snow in March, so don’t be surprised by late season snow well into the month.