Storm Team 2021-’22 Winter Outlook

Winter Outlook 2021

Here are the main talking points for the Storm Team 2021-22 Winter Outlook:

Key Factors-

-Development of 2nd Winter La Nina in a row

-Very wet October

-Hot summer leading into very warm early Fall

-Warm Lake Ontario

This leads us to the Winter Outlook of 2021-’22 in Central New York with above normal temperatures and near to slightly above normal snowfall.

If you want more details, here is a deeper dive into our Winter Outlook reasoning:

What We Looked At-

The talk when it comes to the Winter Outlook, this go-around has been dominated by the talk of La Nina

That is cooler than normal surface water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. That tends to lead to a jet stream pattern that cuts across the middle of the United States and into the Northeast, potentially an active setup for Central New York.

Not only is there going to be a La Nina this winter but it will be the second of back-to-back La Ninas so that seems to be a good place to start. Since records have been kept at the Syracuse airport there have been nine such stretches so that is a good sample size.

However, that alone may not be all that helpful.

There is a wide range of winter snowfalls in the second of back-to-back La Nina winters. Within those nine winters, we had a high of 191.9” of snow in the Winter of 2000-’01 and a low of 50.6” in 2011-’12. The good news for snow lovers is that 7 out of 9 back-to-back La Nina winters had at least 105” of snow.

To help our search further, we keyed in on a couple of other recent weather patterns going here in Syracuse this year and compared them to similar years in the past. We call these past years ‘analog’ years.

We know that October 2021 ended up as our 3rd wettest on record with more than 7 inches of rain. From past Winter Outlooks, you may remember us talking about a correlation between a very wet October in Syracuse and plenty of snow in the following winters.

When you take the Octobers with more than 6 inches of rain there seems to be a compelling case for at least a more ‘normal’ snowfall this winter. 80% of the winters those years (8 out of 10) had at least 100” of snow and 70% (7 out of 10 years) had at least 130”!

Also of note, a majority of the wet Octobers in the past were also transitioning into La Nina patterns like we see this year.

To narrow things down some more, we again took the very wet October years and picked out the years that had very warm summers followed by warm early autumn (September/October) just like what we’ve been through. This gets us three ‘analog’ winters that best fit all those criteria:

To throw in a wild card, we also have a very warm Lake Ontario. For only the fourth time since satellite records have been kept of the lake’s temperature, Lake Ontario’s average temperature was at least 62 degrees in late October (October 20th to be specific). These records go back to 1995.

Of course, lake effect snowfall is at the mercy of not only how warm the lake is but also which way the wind blows. Still, the potential is there to enhance our snowfall this winter because of the lake. 

So based on all these factors we are going with a Winter Outlook with above normal temperatures with slightly above-normal snowfall.

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