New Winter Forecast Revealed: How Will El Niño Affect MD Weather?


A brief snowfall Wednesday in Maryland signaled the start of winter. A stock photo of snowboots in a light dusting is shown above. (Peggy Bayard/Patch)

Patch manager Deb Belt originally posted this story.

MARYLAND — Sharply falling temperatures last week across Maryland marked the arrival of meteorological winter on Dec. 1, but the state then returned to mild conditions. So when can we expect sleet, snow and freezing rain? It could come this week.

It's a balmy start to the holiday season, with highs in the 50s on Monday and upper 40s on Tuesday in Maryland before rain mixes with snow Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Overnight lows will drop into the 30s most of the week, with daily highs returning to the low 60s by the weekend.

Brief snow showers fell in parts of Maryland on Wednesday morning.

The NWS said there's another slight chance of snow showers on Thursday, mixing with rain after 10 a.m. The high will be around 49 degrees, and the chance of precipitation is about 20%.

An El Niño climate pattern influencing temperature should mean winter begins with average temperatures in Maryland before the odds of cooler temps and increased precipitation, a new forecast says.

The Weather Channel said in an updated outlook released Thursday that December could bring much warmer than average conditions across the central and western United States. Slightly cooler than average conditions are expected along the East Coast into Florida this month.

Maryland seems on track to have average precipitation fall in December, while parts of the Gulf Coast into the Carolinas are most likely to have wetter-than-average conditions. The Southeast typically has wetter-than-average winters during El Niño.

Related: El Niño Strengthening: How That Could Affect Snowfall In Maryland

The Climate Prediction Center says with 100 percent certainty the strengthening El Niño weather pattern will last through early winter, and with 90 percent certainty that it will last until spring. The agency, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, expects the El Niño pattern to bring warmer-than-normal conditions to Maryland this winter.

In most El Niño winters, Maryland has equal chances for below-, near-, or above-average seasonal mean temperatures from January to March. In moderate to strong El Niño winters, we normally see a 40-50 percent chance of temperatures leaning toward the above-average range.

A NOAA climate blog said in November, "The D.C. area historically sees above-average snowfall during El Niño winters."

The blog says past strong El Niño winters have brought 4 to 10 inches more in snowfall to the Maryland-DC-Virginia region. But anything can happen.

This year’s El Niño, which began developing in June, is the first in four years. Not all El Niños are the same, and that adds uncertainty to winter forecasts, according to The Weather Channel.

Right now, it looks like we can expect above average temperatures with equal chances of snow or rain in western Maryland, according to the private weather company’s outlook. Snowfall totals are expected to be slightly above average for the rest of the state.

In general, the forecast calls for warmer-than-average temperatures in the northern U.S. from the Great Lakes to western Canada to Alaska; drier-than-normal conditions in the Midwest and Ohio Valley; wetter conditions in the Southwest; and cooler-than-normal temperatures in the South and Southeast.

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