The winter forecast

Old Man Winter has invaded the Bluegrass State much earlier than normal this year. We’ve had record snows and cold across Kentucky in recent weeks. Can we expect more of the same as we roll into the actual winter season? Let’s find out with the winter forecast.

We seem to be in a period of colder-than-normal winters across our part of the world, and I don’t see that changing this winter. Many of the factors I look at on a global and local scale argue for a cold and snowy winter across Kentucky.


The current pattern we’re in is very similar to that of 1976. The winter of 1976-77 was legendary, with record-breaking cold and snow that covered the ground for many days. It’s important to remember that no two winters are the same, but similar patterns often feature reasonably similar results.

2000 is another fall that seems to have been similar to the one we are in now.


The first factor I look at is the state of the Pacific Ocean. The waters near the equator are beginning to warm, and we are moving into a weak to moderate El Niño.

WinterWeak El Niños tend to feature lower-than-normal temperatures across the eastern half of the country. They also can supply energy for an active southern jet stream. That active jet is already showing itself this fall, with big storms working in from the Deep South.

Another big factor continues to be the abnormally warm water off the West Coast and in the Gulf of Alaska. That warmer-than-normal water has been there since last winter, and that was one of the main drivers of the pattern last year.

That warm water helps promote a blocking high across western Canada and in Alaska.

Winter 2That forces the jet stream to then take a big dip across the eastern half of the country, with cold air flooding in from the north.

Winter 3One of the other factors is the huge buildup of fall snow cover across the Northern Hemisphere. Many studies suggest that a rapid and substantial buildup of October snow across Eurasia tends to promote blocking across the North Pole. That air then gets displaced and can find its way into the United States. We saw that several times last winter and have seen it already this November.


What does all that mean for our weather in Kentucky? Here’s a look at what I expect:

Winter 5As you can see, I expect January to have the coldest departures from normal. December is likely to feature a lot of back-and-forth with temperatures, and it should have some substantial cold shots to skew us below normal. February might start cold, but the harsh winter breaks around mid-month.

Temperatures are much easier to forecast than snowfall, but with an active southern jet stream colliding with a supply of cold coming in from the north, things can get busy. The call is for above-normal snowfall across the region. Here are some numbers:

Winter 6Last winter I made a bold prediction that Lexington would set a record low for the first time since February 1996. We did just that. What’s the bold prediction for this winter? This is the winter we finally get the “big one.” We haven’t had a widespread double digit snowstorm since the infamous “dusting” of February 1998. The pattern for this winter suggests that streak comes to a snowy end.

Happy winter and take care.

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