Chances for Winter Weather Waning, but Not Over


As February wanes, many of us are looking forward to spring, and Applied Climatologist with the State Climate Office of North Carolina, Corey Davis says February has been a smorgasbord of temperatures and weather activity:

“Well, looking back over the last two weeks, we’ve really run the gamut.  We started out where we had our coldest days of the year, on the 13th, then on Valentine’s Day.  And that pretty quickly gave way to some wintery weather, they had some snow out in the mountains and in the western part of the state, then some sleet and ice.  And then the next day, that transitioned into some storms that came through.  So, we had that storm event, and of course, the one earlier this week where we had some tornados and some tornado warnings all across the state.  So, as far as that goes, it’s been very, very active this February, and temperatures have been really variable.”

Regarding this week’s very spring-like severe weather event, Davis says that can be attributed to El Nino:

“We’re definitely seeing the effects of El Nino this winter.  A lot of times when these big storms come through, that’s classic in an El Nino year, pretty much in the Carolina’s and into Florida.  Especially as you get into the warmer parts of the year, and into the spring months, you can see those big storm events.  It happens to be a little earlier than we usually see this year.  But, that just speaks to how really strong this El Nino is, that it could bring all that Gulf moisture up, have a really strong jet stream, and that basically fueled the strong surface low pressure system that brought the severe weather.”

And as much as we’d like to think that this week’s spring storms marks the end of winter, Davis says in a strong El Nino year, that’s not a given:

“It’s tough to say whether winter is over yet, when we look back to similar winters to this year that had strong El Nino winter events.  There was 1982-83 and there was actually a late March snow event that year that brought several inches of snow in central and eastern North Carolina.  That winter they even had a late snow event in late April, where the mountains got some snow, and there was a trace to about half an inch reported across the Piedmont.

We don’t want to close the book on winter just yet, climatologically speaking, once we get past the first week of March it gets more difficult to get big snow events because we tend to be warmer for longer, have a little more heating, and as we’ve seen this winter just one or two degrees temperature wise can mean the difference between snow, or freezing rain, or rain. So, in that sense, I’d say we’re in the last two weeks of really good chances of wintery weather, but historically we’ve seen some rare events that have happened outside that window.”

Farmers would really like to see the weather dry out some, and Davis says it’s probably not going to happen in March:

“We’re looking out over the next month or two, we’ll keep that wetter pattern through March, possibly through the spring, especially in the eastern part of the state.  As we get into the summer there’s a lot more uncertainty, because patterns like El Nino don’t’ have that strong of an effect on our weather especially if we’re in a neutral pattern, where there’s not a real strong El Nino signal.

So, over the summer, there’s more uncertainty there, it’s hard to say which way our pattern will swing as far as wet versus dry conditions.  Certainly we’ll have more warm conditions, so we’ll see more evaporation during that time.”

Climatologist still predict that the current El Nino pattern will transition to neutral close to summer time.

Applied Climatologist with the North Carolina Climate Office, Corey Davis.

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.