La Niña Weather Pattern Dominates US Winter Forecast

Posted: October 4, 2021 11:22 am

What Meteorologists Are Forecasting for Winter in Your Area

Like the winter of 2020, this year’s season is going to be under the influence of a typical La Niña pattern. However, forecasters are predicting that this year’s La Niña may be milder than usual, making it likely that other weather elements can sneak into the overall driving pattern. Here is what to expect in every region of the US as we head into the winter months.

Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies

A La Niña weather pattern generally brings wet and stormy conditions to the Pacific Northwest. The weather may be less intense this year because of the weaker characteristics of the pattern. While it may be weaker this year when compared to the 2020 La Niña pattern, forecasters are still predicting a wet winter for much of this corner of the country. This is good news for ski resorts in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains.

When it comes to Denver, the Mile High City is unlikely to see the heavy snowfall that it experienced last year. The city is forecast to see close to an average amount of snow for the year, in the range of 55 total inches over the course of the season.

The 2010 polar vortex is expected to be weaker than last year. This will mean that the bitter cold air of the Arctic may make an appearance earlier than usual. This early arrival of cold air will be accompanied by more precipitation, helping to finally put out the wildfires that have plagued this region of the country over the last several months.

The arrival of wet conditions will also help to alleviate the drought that has infiltrated much of this area. According to the US Drought Monitor, the majority of the Northwest and northern Rockies region has been under either extreme or exceptional drought conditions.

In addition to providing immediate relief to get the fires under control, the rain and snow will also have impacts into 2022. The amount of moisture that falls in the next few months will affect the 2022 wildfire season as well as the amount of much-needed water in many of the area’s biggest reservoirs.



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While the Pacific Northwest will be preparing to see significant precipitation early in the season, it will take longer for this rain to hit the Southwest. It will take some time for the rain to pick up in the southern part of the western half of the US. This may allow some of the worst fires to continue to smolder in parts of the Southwest and Southern California through the end of the year. It also will give the opportunity for new fires to ignite.

During a usual La Niña year, the precipitation does not hit California with as much frequency as it comes down in Oregon and Washington. However, this year’s weaker weather pattern may translate to more rain for California during the latter part of the winter. Although the predicted amount of rain will not bring long-term relief to the ongoing drought, it could provide a bit of a short-term respite from the dry conditions.


Over on the East Coast, this is setting up to be a cold winter that hits earlier than usual. The first blasts of bitterly cold air may hit as early as November. This includes the possibility of early rounds of snow, particularly for the interior parts of the Appalachians stretching up through the Great Lakes. While last year’s temperatures hovered around normal, the average temperature may be up to three degrees below average.

Although the coastal areas, including New York City and Boston, are predicted to see early cold and snow, it will not be as significant as the inland areas. January will likely be the worst month when it comes to heavy snow and cold snaps impacting travel and other parts of life. The usual “January thaw” will likely hold off until February.

After a break in the weather in February, experts are predicting that one last blast of winter will affect the Northeast heading into early March. In addition to the threat of nor’easters, the end of the winter may also bring one last visit from the polar vortex, sending Arctic air spilling into the region to close out the season.

Cities that are predicted to see slightly more snow than usual include Philadelphia and Boston. Meanwhile, farther to the south, the nation’s capital of Washington, DC, may see yet another year of snowfall measuring below the normal amount of 15.6 inches total.

Southeast and Southern Plains

It will be a mild start to the winter for the Southeast and the Southern Plains, including Texas, the Gulf Coast, and into Florida. Residents should enjoy this nice weather while it lasts. The year 2022 is predicted to get off to a cold start as the weather pattern shifts dramatically.

Like 2021, it will not be unexpected for a bitterly cold blanket of temperatures to take over the region in late January and early February. Although this cold will certainly cause some disruptions, it will likely not be as significant as last year’s historic cold snap that led to at least 200 deaths.

Areas that are on tap to see the coldest of this weather include eastern Texas, eastern Oklahoma, and most of Arkansas. Moving to the east, the biggest weather story is forecast to be the heavy rain and snow. Severe thunderstorms may be the norm for much of the lower Mississippi and Tennessee valleys.

The mildest conditions are predicted for the Atlantic coastal areas of the Southeast, including Miami, Charleston, and Wilmington. This region is forecast to see below-normal levels of precipitation and warmer temperatures throughout the winter.

Great Lakes and Northern Plains


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The Great Lakes and Northern Plains will also be in line for a winter that may feel colder than usual paired with frequent snowstorms. Precipitation amounts are forecast to be above average for the majority of this region, including snow that falls earlier in the season than some may be used to experiencing.

The incidence of lake-effect snow is predicted to be more frequent in the winter of 2021. While this weather pattern will begin in November, it will really get going in early 2022. This will combine with the usual blasts of Arctic air that drops down from Canada.

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