By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer

BOSTON (CBS) – Here is your forecast for this coming winter in New England – periods of cold with some snow at times.

Ok, ok, so I didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know.

More details you say?

Well I figured I would start with the obvious, the two things that are absolute, guaranteed locks for any winter in New England. Even in our most mild, snow-less winters, Mother Nature has never thrown a complete shutout. Our two lamest winters; 1936-37 (9 inches of snow) and 2011-12 (9.3”) still have SOME snow and cold. Contrast that with some of our wildest winters; 2014-15 (110.6”) and 1995-96 (107.6”) and you’ve got quite a wide range of outcomes!

So what’s the deal this winter? Well, it’s complicated.

The last several years, our weather team has been able to forecast the winter temperatures and snowfall fairly well. Believe it or not, there are A LOT of atmospheric factors that come into play in forecasting a winter season (a boatload of science!).

wx special la nina ocean Winter Weather Forecast: Plenty Of Snow, Maybe Ice Storms, January Thaw

(WBZ-TV graphic)

From the ocean temperatures off of South America, to the wind speeds around the Arctic Circle and literally everything in-between comes into play. I’m not going to get into all the nitty gritty geeky stuff here (I’ll leave that to Eric Fisher and Barry Burbank), but needless to say, we take dozens of things into account when forecasting a season’s worth of weather, especially WINTER!

Factors Favor A Challenging Winter Across New England | The Science Behind The WBZ-TV Winter Weather Forecast

Anyhow, the point here is that some years are much easier to forecast that others. Take two years ago for instance. A strong and obvious El Nino was established and it was clear that it was going to overwhelm and dictate the forecast for the winter. Last year, we had a weak La Nina, but even more so there was a large and rather unusual amount of cooler than average water in the Pacific Ocean, streaming nearly from Asia to our West Coast.  These were all signs that our winter was going to be driven by a strong and unrelenting “Pacific jet stream.” Last winter was indeed dominated by Pacific air flooding the country, making it much milder than average (for the most part).

2017 typical la nina pattern Winter Weather Forecast: Plenty Of Snow, Maybe Ice Storms, January Thaw

(WBZ-TV graphic)

This year’s forecast is by far the most difficult winter seasonal forecast we have had in several years.

Nothing is lining up.

Mother Nature isn’t just throwing straight fastballs, but instead she’s throwing every pitch in her arsenal. This is causing much confusion and internal debate within our team and all those scientists trying to forecast the next several months here and across the country. Let’s just say it’s a lot easier to swing and miss in a winter like this one than the last few.

Ok, I hear you, saying “spare me the drama, give me the darn forecast!”

Here’s what we’re thinking:

1) This is likely to be a “front loaded winter.”

Unlike the last few years, the cold and snow should arrive on time.

wx special front loaded cold Winter Weather Forecast: Plenty Of Snow, Maybe Ice Storms, January Thaw

(WBZ-TV graphic)

In fact, the cold has already arrived in November and I would be surprised if we didn’t see some decent snow accumulation by Christmas in parts of our area.

wx special month temps Winter Weather Forecast: Plenty Of Snow, Maybe Ice Storms, January Thaw

(WBZ-TV graphic)

December should be fairly cold and seasonal, if not actually below average for temperatures.

2) There should be plenty of snow for most of New England.

What do I mean by that? Well first off, central and northern New England are likely to have a great snow year (for skiing, etc.).

Closer to home, I would expect near to above average snow amounts north and west of Boston and certainly north and west of I-495. Closer to Boston, Worcester and the coastline, things get tougher to call.

wx special storm tracks2 Winter Weather Forecast: Plenty Of Snow, Maybe Ice Storms, January Thaw

(WBZ-TV graphic)

La Nina winters (like this one) often introduce rain-snow lines and perhaps even ice storms into the equation. So one or two storms flipping to rain or ice in Boston vs. being all snow will likely mean the difference between an above average snow season (+45 inches) or a near to below average season (30-to-40”). Either way, it should be a fairly “active” winter, with numerous storms, perhaps a few big ones.

Simply put, not an easy winter.

3) Early indications (and also another La Nina trait) are for a cold start in December/early January with moderating temperatures thereafter.

I wouldn’t at all be surprised by a lengthy January thaw followed by a fairly mild February overall. That doesn’t mean we won’t get any snow in this time frame, but any real frigid stuff would likely be short-lived. March is also likely to be less harsh than last year.

Like I said – periods of cold with some snow at times!

I mean if you’ve lived in New England long enough, you know the drill. Our weather can turn on a dime and every winter season has it’s challenges, so this one will be no different. We’ll be with you the whole way, on WBZ-TV and CBSBoston.com as well as all those usual social media spots. We are always here to take your questions, share your pain and hopefully get you through another New England winter happy and healthy.

Let it snow!

Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ

Comments (3)
  1. There is no consensus when Barry says Mar will be a bumper cold and snow month. That means not frontloaded. Eric says first one inch snow 20th Dec so hardly frontloaded and a contradiction. MJO is currently working against snow and cold. This could be through the first third of Jan or end in mid Dec

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