Are we headed for a snowy winter on the Plains?

It is no secret that we are heading into an El Niño winter for the first time in awhile. Historically, El Niño has been linked to above-average snowfall on the Plains, which may just spark some excitement for snow enthusiasts.

However, it’s crucial to remember that this is by no means a guarantee because the weather does what the weather wants, especially on seasonal timelines.

The folks at NOAA took a look a historical data with a fresh analysis using the ECMWF ERA5 reanalysis dataset (image above). Their findings show that, during El Niño winters, the southern half of the U.S. typically sees increased snowfall, particularly in higher and colder elevations in the West. On the other hand, areas to the north, including the Great Lakes, interior New England, and the northern Rockies, tend to experience a reduction in snowfall.

For moderate-to-strong El Niño events, like the one expected this winter, these patterns become more pronounced. However, it’s essential to note the variation from one winter to another, as a few heavy snowfall winters can skew perceptions. Additionally, long-term trends show a general decline in snowfall across most of the contiguous U.S., though this doesn’t rule out the possibility of significant snowstorms at all.

Moving ahead out of winter and into Spring, El Niños can sometimes lead to busier storm seasons, but there is quite a bit of variation on that. For now? The dreams of a white Christmas are statistically more alive than usual this year. ? #snow