That may be changing this winter.
On October 12, some of the nation’s top climate and weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) presented their winter outlook for the United States, predicting that the recent string of record warm winters may be over.
“We’ve probably forgotten over the last three years what a normal winter is like,” said NOAA Administrator D. James Baker. “With La Niña and El Niño out of the way, normal winter weather has a chance to return to the U.S. this year,” he said.
For skiers, that translates to colder temperatures and more snow.
“As in most normal years, from New England to the Carolinas, cold weather will be part of your routine this winter,” said National Weather Service Director Jack Kelly.
“Americans must be careful this winter and prepare for a little bit of everything,” he cautioned. “We expect considerable swings in temperature and precipitation.”
In the Northeast, a polar jet stream and tropical jet stream will duel for supremacy, and the polar stream will win, predicts NOAA. This will bring a greater chance of snow along the spine of the Appalachians from New England to the Carolinas and points east, including Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
The Washington D.C. region could see average temperatures 4 degrees Fahrenheit colder than the last three winters. This will make a critical difference for ski resorts in snowmaking operations, where every degree counts. Over the past three years, snowmaking opportunities were limited by the warm weather.
In the Southeast, NOAA is predicting that temperatures will likely be warmer than normal but still cooler than the last three years. Precipitation is expected to be greater than normal. This “warmer” belt lies south of ski areas in the D.C. region.
Of course, weather is a finicky thing, and predictions don’t always pan out.
“As we enter a period without the strong influences of El Niño and La Niña, long-term seasonal outlooks become more challenging to produce,” said Baker. “We have made significant advances in our climate forecasting skills, but we have a lot of work to do,” he added.
Already, some local resorts have seen precipitation in the form of snow. Resorts such as Snowshoe Mountain Resort, Wisp, and Seven Springs received a dusting of snow earlier this week.