This year, the La Niña phenomenon will bring unusually cool ocean water temperatures in the tropical Pacific. As a result, the D.C. region will see the opposite of the 2009-2010 Snowmageddon winter, when unusually warm ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific brought a record 56 inches of snow.
“This winter is more likely to be more like last winter was in regards to forcing from La Niña, so I would expect heavier snowfall totals to be north of the D.C. area, possibly even north of Philly and New York,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA.
In the Mid-Atlantic, the changing locations of high and low pressure centers over the Arctic and North Atlantic play the biggest role in what kind of winter we'll have.
Those pressure changes determine if cold air gets trapped in the polar regions or moves into the mid-latitudes where we'd be more likely to get a significant snowfall -- that's called the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation.
“Last winter we saw the negative phase for the first six to eight weeks. February was much different than the early part of the winter... just today we can't forecast what to expect this winter with that particular phenomenon,” Halpert said.
Based on current conditions, my winter forecast has temperatures near to slightly below average and between 10 and 15 inches of snow.
Closest to the sweet spot came Mamchi Jarady, who estimated 15 inches of snow, and Dianne Eposi, who went for 12 inches. A special mention for most specific prediction goes to David Hallock, who wrote "on or about January 12, we will get 14 inches! the most snow for the year. School will be out for ten days..." he mused.
- A near-average winter snowfall is expected this year