Winter Forecast: Not Mild, But Wild for Eastern U.S.

By By Meghan Evans, meteorologist
November 19, 2012, 4:35:42 AM EST

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NOTE: This forecast was published in October 2012 and has since been updated; see our full-length 2012-2013 Winter Forecast update for the latest information.

Every year, issues a U.S. winter forecast, highlighting predictions of temperature and precipitation trends. Last year, winter was unusually warm for much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation.


To see the number of snow days forecast for the U.S. compared to normal, click here.

Big snow events may return to a portion of the I-95 corridor of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic as well as the central and southern Appalachians this winter, while wet weather is predicted for the Gulf Coast and Southeast.

Parts of the Midwest could fall short of normal snowfall again this year with the main storm track to the south.

Farther west, dry conditions are forecast to persist in the Northwest, leading to growing drought concerns.

A breakdown of the Winter 2012-2013 forecast can be found below.

Jump to: Above-Normal Snow for Northeast, Appalachians | Growing Drought Concerns in the Northwest | Some Drought Relief for the Southern Plains, Texas | Snowy Early, Cold in the Rockies | Some Wet, Snowy Weather for Southern California

Above-Normal Snow for Northeast, Appalachians
Above-normal snowfall is predicted for the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and central and southern Appalachians, spanning western Massachusetts to northern portions of Georgia and Alabama, this winter.

"I-95 this year in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic will have more snow than they did last year. However, as far as above-normal snowfall goes, from New York City on south and west has a better shot with more mixed rain and snow systems in New England," AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.


Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Charlotte are among other cities that may receive more snow than usual.

A couple of larger storms could unleash the above-normal snowfall in the major cities, as the winter setup should allow big storms to form off the East Coast. The best chance for the big snowstorms will arrive during the middle to latter part of the season, including January and February.

Normal Seasonal Snowfall for the Northeast

Normal Snowfall
New York City
25.3 inches
22.6 inches
20.5 inches
Washington, D.C.
14.7 inches

Temperatures may start out slightly above to near normal, but as the season progresses and some snow accumulates, it will turn colder than normal during February.

While the coldest air is expected to bypass New England, bringing more mixed rain and snow events, Boston and Portland may get near-normal snow amounts this winter. Back to Top

Wet, Severe Threat for Gulf Coast, Southeast
With a frequent storm track anticipated across the South, it will be a wet winter for portions of the Gulf Coast and the Southeast.

"Above-normal precipitation, rainfall, for the South, you got to watch out in South Texas, places like San Antonio and Brownsville that could get into the act once in a while. But I'm more concerned as you get farther east along the north-central Gulf Coast states. Tallahassee, maybe Atlanta, getting into that mix as well," Pastelok explained.

Rain may hold temperatures down for the season with departures of 1-2 degrees below normal. Besides rainy weather and cooler air, the threat for episodes of severe storms will also exist.

"Severe weather is going to be a problem again this winter season. Last year, it was the second half of the winter season and more widespread. I think this year it's going to be early on, late November and December, and more confined to the north-central Gulf Coast states, northern Florida and parts of the Southeast," Pastelok added.

Potent storms formed by the clashing of cooler air to the north and milder air farther south will act as the trigger for the severe weather, which could produce tornadoes, high winds and flash flooding.

While it will remain fairly mild for the most part in central and southern portions of Florida, cold air may drill into the citrus crop areas at times behind big storms.

"There will be threats of frost with temperatures in the 30s in the citrus growing areas this year; however, the odds of a damaging freeze are much lower," AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Dale Mohler said. "The window for frost is usually from late December through early February." A strong freeze that can damage citrus would require temperatures to drop to 28 degrees or lower for more than two hours. Back to Top

Below-Normal Snow for Midwest; Normal Lake-Effect Snow for Great Lakes
Following a dry and mild winter last year, portions of the Midwest is forecast to receive below-normal snowfall this winter.

"Across the Upper Midwest, cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, I think, are going to miss out on the big systems down to the south as far as snowfall goes. I think they are going to have to rely on more clipper systems coming down out of the north and west," Pastelok said.

Omaha, Green Bay and St. Louis are other cities that may get less snow than normal.

Normal Seasonal Snowfall for the Midwest

Normal Snowfall
43.0 inches
37.0 inches
54.4 inches
St. Louis
17.9 inches

Clipper systems are quick-moving systems that drop down from Alberta, Canada. They often have very little moisture associated with them, so they are not big snow producers.

The lower-than-normal snowfall in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest will result in spotty snow cover which in turn will help to keep temperatures milder than normal, according to AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston. However, temperature departures are not expected to be as extreme as last winter.

Meanwhile, near-normal snow is predicted for the typical Great Lakes snow belts. The warmer-than-normal water of the Great Lakes will set the stage for the lake-effect snow machine to turn on as any cold waves arrive. Back to Top

Growing Drought Concerns in the Northwest
There are growing concerns of building drought conditions in the Northwest as dry weather is expected to continue straight through the winter season.

"I have big concerns about the Northwest as far as drought goes," Pastelok emphasized. "We have already set up the stage here at the start of fall with wildfires and drought conditions. With the exception of a break with some rain and snow during October and early November, it will be drier than normal through the winter season and maybe even longer as we head toward spring."


This winter, the storm track is forecast to be well to the south in the West, most likely into Southern California, while drier air spreads from western Canada into the Northwest.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, moderate and severe drought conditions are already gripping much of Montana, portions of Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Oregon. Spokane, Wash., Pendleton, Ore., and Boise, Idaho, have all received 10 percent or less of the normal August and September rainfall.

Numerous wildfires have been fueled by dry vegetation in the Northwest, including massive blazes such as the Wenatchee Complex and Barker Canyon Complex burning in Washington state, the Mustang and Kinyon Road fires in Idaho and the Long Draw and Holloway fires in Oregon.

The fire season may be extended due to the worsening drought conditions. Back to Top

Some Drought Relief for the Southern Plains, Texas
While drought conditions may deepen in the Northwest, some beneficial rain is predicted for the drought-stricken southern Plains and western Texas this winter.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that extreme to exceptional drought conditions are gripping Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, eastern Colorado and western Texas.

"As far as relief from the drought, parts of the southern Plains and West Texas, especially, I think most of the systems early on hit the Southwest and fall apart coming into the east. Later into the winter season, I think we could start to pick up some rainfall, especially in West Texas, and that could lead into the spring season as well," Pastelok said.

The brunt of needed rain is forecast for the latter part of the winter season, especially during February. Back to Top

Snowy Early, Cold in the Rockies
An active start to winter is expected in the central and southern Rockies with above-normal snowfall forecast for much of the region.

"We do expect above-normal snowfall for places like Albuquerque and just south of Salt Lake City. Denver will probably be near normal," Pastelok added.

By the middle to latter part of the season, the active storm track and thus snowstorms should ease. However, a secondary peak in snow is normal for the Rockies late in the winter into the spring, so the region will not be entirely free of snow through late February and March.

With significant snowpack established this winter, temperatures will be held below normal. Back to Top

Some Wet, Snowy Weather for Southern California
Following a major snow drought in California last year, some good news is in store both for the water supply and for skiers in the Golden State.

"Rain and [mountain] snow in California this coming season, I believe, will be near normal for the most part. A little bit more in the southern half than the northern half is expected," Pastelok said.

A moist flow of air from the subtropical jet stream will supply the fuel for winter storms. Back to Top

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